This is happening a lot lately. One of the names above the title is missing, and creating a lot of disappointed audience members. Yesterday, at the matinee, it was Patti LuPone
's turn to be absent from the show. It was her first cancellation since the show started, so I was told by a member of the staff of the Nederlander Theater
. Of course, I had tickets for the matinee. Her understudy went on, a competent performer by the name of Donna Migliaccio
, and the show went on sans Patti. An Italian playing the very Jewish Helena Rubenstein? Does it work? Of course it did, but it was missing something. The show went on as usual from this side of the footlights, although I'm sure there were a few tense moments backstage. What the performance lacked was the chemistry. One star, the great Christine Ebersole
cannot do it alone. This is the kind of show which is divided evenly between the two stars, sometimes way too evenly, and when one is missing, the whole thing feels like an invalid on crutches. Never underestimate the star power of a veteran, some might even say, one of the immortal stars of Broadway.
Will I go back to see the show again, with both stars present? The folks at the Nederlander are encouraging this. They gave out vouchers to exchange our tickets for a later performance, while at the same time asking us to stay and see the show. The bottom line is that no theater likes empty seats, although there were many since some ticket holders opted to exchange tickets or get a refund. For the majority of theater goers it makes no sense to see this kind of show without the joint shine of the two bright stars.