Judy, Barbra, Liza. Bernadette, Julie, Patti…
The names of legendary divas roll off the tongue like a litany of saints and martyrs. But, ultimately, we all choose just one to whom we build our shrine.
Even as a child, accomplished writer and director Ben Rimalower prayed at the altar of belter-extraordinaire and dramatic dynamo Patti LuPone. Now, he’s woven together stories of coming of age as a LuPone lover (from being a fan to working with her as a colleague) in an acclaimed one-man show, Patti Issues. The play, though, is much more than just inside Broadway gossip. Emotionally cathartic as well as raucously funny, Patti Issues focuses on Rimalower’s relationship with his father — who “came out of the closet and embarked on a drug-fueled tear that left his family in tatters” — and how having a guardian diva can help all of us find our way home.
As he prepared for a new round of performances (beginning tonight at the Duplex), born-storyteller Rimalower took time out to chat with me about the moment he fell, his first time performing and what Patti said when she came to see the show…
Why Patti? What was the moment for you?
That’s basically what my show is about. The moments were in several degrees. I had a very intense experience of the Evita commercial when I was very little and we lived in New York.
And that really stayed with me. Even when we moved to California when I was five in 1981. Whenever the Evita tour would come through, which seemed to be a lot in the 80’s, they always used that same commercial. So I felt like Patti was haunting me. I talk about in the show how I was a little kid in New York and I saw some Broadway shows and I wanted to see Evita but I was told it was “too grown up” for me.