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LuPone May Come Up Rose in Gypsy at Ravinia Festival

Patti LuPone, who recently appeared in the Ravinia Festival's production of Anyone Can Whistle and who will begin performances as Mrs. Lovett in the Sweeney Todd revival this fall, may soon take on one of the most towering female roles in musical theatre--that of monstrous stage mother Rose in Gypsy.

Along with Audra McDonald, LuPone has been the queen of the Ravinia Festival in the last five years, appearing in five concert productions of Stephen Sondheim shows--Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Desiree in A Little Night Music, Yvonne in Sunday in the Park with George, Fosca in Passion and most recently, Cora in Anyone Can Whistle. The latter was to have been the culminating show in the Chicago festival's 75th birthday tribute to Sondheim, but Welz Kauffman, president and CEO of Ravinia, recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that an extension would be likely due to the success of the shows.

On September 2nd, the Sun-Times reported that Lonny Price was contemplating a Ravinia production of Gypsy with LuPone as Rose, the stage mother who unconsciously and uncompromisingly lives out her show business dreams through her daughters June and Louise (with the latter becoming stripper Gypsy Rose Lee). LuPone has professed interest in playing Rose in the past, but a notorious dispute with Arthur Laurents, Gypsy's librettist, is said to have kept her from taking on the role in a major production. Sondheim, of course, was the lyricist of Gypsy, while Jule Styne wrote the music.

LuPone has been one of Broadway's foremost leading ladies since her star-making turn in 1979's Evita. The star, who graduated from Julliard and was a member of John Houseman's famed Acting Company in the '70s, has not appeared on Broadway since the 2001 revival of Noises Off. In the meantime, she has appeared in cabaret venues and concert productions at Ravinia, Encores! and elsewhere; she won raves for her performance in Encores' 2004 Can-Can. Other Broadway credits include The Old Neighborhood, Master Class, Anything Goes, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Oliver!, Working, The Three Sisters, The Robber Bridegroom and The Beggar's Opera. Additionally, she originated the role of Fantine in the London production of Les Miserables, starred as Norma Desmond in the 1993 West End production of Sunset Boulevard (her last appearance in a fully-staged musical), and played Genevieve in the original production of The Baker's Wife, which closed on the road but has attained cult status in years since. She won a 1980 Best Actress in a Musical Tony for her performance in the title role of Evita, and was also nominated for Anything Goes in 1988 and The Robber Bridegroom in 1976. LuPone is also a noted screen actress, having appeared in such films as Summer of Sam and State and Main.

Gypsy
is considered by most to be one of the greatest musicals ever written. The show opened at the Imperial Theatre on May 25th, 1959 and ran for 702 performances, garnering 8 Tony nominations (it was overshadowed by the more sugary The Sound of Music). Gypsy featured a star turn by Ethel Merman that has become legendary, and it also featured Sandra Church, Jack Klugman and Maria Karnilova. A number of revivals--in 1974 with Angela Lansbury, in 1989 with Tyne Daly and in 2003 with Bernadette Peters and directed by Sam Mendes--have all been successes.

Sweeney Todd, co-starring LuPone and frequent Ravinia presence Michael Cerveris, will begin previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 3rd and open on November 3rd.

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