BWW Interview: LOVE CYCLE Creator Bill Burnett on Working with a Young Patti LuPone & More!
Earlier this month, BroadwayWorld uncovered a vintage video featuring Broadway legend Patti LuPone in "Love Cycle: A Soap Operetta", a 'mini-musical' made for PBS in 1984 which was never broadcast. The mini-musical also featured a full cast of up-and-coming stars of the 1980's, including: Walter Bobbie, Lonny Price, Martin Vidnovic, Priscilla Lopez and Ellen Foley. If you missed it the first time, catch the full operetta below!
With music and lyrics by Peggy Black and Bill Burnett and a book by David Misch, LuPone stars as 'Rachel' a ghost who appears out of a laundromat dryer in order to seek revenge on her husband, who had left her for another woman. "At last I'm free to pursue my dream of vengeance!" declares the 'Evita' star as she materializes before a group of stunned laundromat patrons.
BroadwayWorld recently chatted with creator Bill Burnett about the original vision for the series, how it was put together, and more. Check out the full interview below:
This piece is so wild! What inspired its creation?
David Misch was having quite a successful career in television and he and I were rock & roll musicians. We love musical theatre and thought we could bring those two approaches of entertainment together to do a series of musical theatre that would be like a repertory company. Our concept was- if you imagine the original company of 'Saturday Night Live', instead of doing comedy acts, doing little musicals. So you'd have Gilda Radner and John Belushi, etc., who would do an actual musical- not a satirical sketch, but a real musical. And how much fun it would be to see Gilda be the evil villain one week and a princess in the next.
So it was going to be a full series?
Yes, we pitched that idea to PBS and they liked it. It was really quite amazing the response that we got from the world of theatre. Marc Shaiman was our audition pianist and Patti LuPone and Priscilla Lopez were a part of it. All of these people were at the beginning of their careers comparatively, but Patti had already been in Evita and won a Tony award, and Priscilla had created the role of 'Morales' in A Chorus Line. Walter Bobbie was up and coming. Lonny Price had been in Merrily We Roll Along. It was pretty amazing! Just one after another, after another of these people wanting to be in this show!
I don't blame them, it's a really great idea!
We wanted to do successful musical theatre in short form like television with more of a pop rock influence. The sound and feel of that show has syntax of pop, rock, R&B, and folk rock while serving the needs of theatre. It follows the basic pattern of stating the theme, the 'I Want' song...
Were there other episodes in the works?
We wrote three of them and the others were just as good!
And the series would have featured the same cast of actors had it continued?
Yes, if the original idea would have flown, Lonny would have been the lead male in the next one and Priscilla would have been the lead female. Everyone would have shifted around. And ultimately, if the show had taken off it wouldn't have been all of our writing. It would have been more like 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'- more of an anthology series.
What were the other two episodes like?
The other was called 'I Love Lucia'. I was an opera singer that wanted to quit the opera and have a baby, but the director of the opera is her husband and he doesn't want her to quit because she is his meal ticket. It's very funny. Plus, there was an opera inside the show- 'The Judgment of Solomon.' The other one was called 'Doomsday in Court'. When we wrote them there was the whole thing with Lee Marvin and his paramour who was suing him for palimony. So this Bela Lugosi figure had been living with a woman who was demanding a large sum of money- it was a courtroom comedy.
It's a shame that the world never got to see them!
We still think that you could do a 90-minute Live Theatre piece with all three of them! The first act would be two shows with a brief interlude and the second act could include an extended version of one of them!
Do you have any memories from filming it with that amazing cast?
I remember Patti being nervous that she wouldn't be able to sing the rock & roll. But she was great! It was quite something for me to be alone in a room with Patti LuPone- I'm a guitarist and I'm not highly musically trained like musical theatre people. I do things more by ear.
Why do you think that it ultimately didn't get picked up?
The problem I think with the show is that there wasn't a clear concept of whether we should play it down and subtle like a typical sitcom or really raw. So we had Walter Bobbie with his great big whiskers, wearing a kilt, and talking in a ridiculous Scottish accent, and then Patti with this white makeup, and everyone else talking like they were normal people. It was a bit of a schitzy production in that way.
It would be amazing to see all of the pieces together on stage...
Yes! I would still be interested in doing the three-show night! Then a year and a half later we could swap them out for new shows. I think that would be a very uplifting concept!