Why Patti LuPone is an icon: From phone-snatching to not performing for Trump

Zoe Paskett
Snatch that: Patti LuPone is back in the West End in Marianne Elliot's Company: Getty Images for NARAS

There are few actors who have influenced the world of musical theatre as Patti LuPone has.

The Broadway legend has starred in Evita, Les Miserables, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd, but we’re lucky enough that she’s returned to the West End stage.

Despite having said she's done with musicals, she is now appearing as Joanne in Marianne Elliott’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company at the Gielgud Theatre alongside Rosalie Craig.

As well as being an on-stage icon, LuPone has never been afraid to speak her mind. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she reassured us that she has definitely not reconciled with Andrew Lloyd Webber, despite performing a tribute to him at this year's Grammys. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. It’s why we love her – here are a few more reasons.

When she snatched an audience member’s phone for texting

There’s an announcement at the start of every show, but some people still don’t get the message. During a performance of Shows for Days at the New York Lincoln Center in 2015, LuPone saw a woman in the second row texting. Taking matters into her own hands, she casually snatched the texter’s phone, not giving it back until the show ended.

She even reenacted this before the next night’s performance saying: “I hope you enjoy the show, we love doing it, we love having you as an audience and we do it for you and it’s always just two or three people that wreck it for all of us.” It’s Patti LuPone for goodness sake! She deserves your full attention.

When she stopped mid-song to chastise an audience member taking pictures

The phone snatch wasn’t the first time inconsiderate audience members had infuriated LuPone. While performing in Gypsy in 2009, she stopped in the middle of a song to tell someone to “stop taking pictures right now!” The rest of the audience greeted the interruption with cheers and applause as she shouted: “You heard the announcement. Who do you think you are?” You don't want to get on the wrong side of her.

When she got sick of performing in Les Miserables

LuPone appeared as Fantine in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Les Miserables in 1985. “It was a perfect part,” she said during a performance for PBS. “20 minutes on stage, sing a great song, die. Two hours off stage, come back as a ghost, taxi.” She said that, as much as she loved Les Mis, she did get sick of hearing the score night after night, so when the time came to return to the stage for the finale, she opted not to go and remained in her dressing room. By the time her co-stars realised she wasn’t in the wings, the scene had already begun.

Coming on late, she joked that she had no idea what Eponine had been singing, saying: “True to form, I had only read my part.”

When she said she would refuse to perform if Donald Trump was in the audience

*Warning: strong language*

Responding to an interviewer at a Tony Awards ceremony who asked why Donald Trump should see her show, LuPone said: “Well, I hope he doesn’t because I won’t perform if he does.” When the interviewer asked her why, she replied: “because I hate the m*****f*****, how’s that?”

When she didn’t hold back about Madonna

LuPone is known for her title role in the 1979 original production of Evita, which Madonna portrayed in the film adaptation. When a talk-show caller asked if she had ever discussed sharing the role with Madonna, LuPone said she thought the film was “a piece of s***” and that Madonna “couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag”. She did concede that “she’s a wonderful performer for what she does, but she is not an actress.” We love Madonna, but we love LuPone's honesty too.

Patti LuPone is in Company, which runs until December 22 at the Gielgud Theatre