Don’t Cry for Me Provincetown

June 26, 2013 7:00 am0 commentsViews: 58
Ben Rimalower Photo: Christian Coulson

Ben Rimalower
Photo: Christian Coulson

Ben Rimalower Brings Patti Issues to the Crown and Anchor

by Steve Desroches

It was love at first sight.

While some small children in the late 1970s looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons or the once-a-year broadcast of The Wizard of Oz, Ben Rimalower loved commercials–but not just any commercials. As a small child in New York City Rimalower became obsessed with advertisements for the smash hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita. At the age of 5 his family moved to Los Angeles, just in time to catch the commercials for the musical about the controversial Argentine First Lady there. It was then that Rimalower became completely obsessed with the show’s star Patti LuPone.

“I was hypnotized with that commercial,” says Rimalower.

Now, at the age of 37, Rimalower’s affinity for LuPone has not waned. In fact, it’s intensified, as is evident by his critically acclaimed one-man-show Patti Issues, which plays at the Crown and Anchor this week. A gay man obsessed with Patti LuPone and musical theater? What’s next you may ask? The Pope will come out as Catholic and someone will find a bear turd in the woods? But Rimalower’s show is not a gooey, doe-eyed homage to a favorite gay icon, but rather a heartfelt revelation of how at 8 years old his own father came out as a gay man subsequently followed by a drug addiction, the tumult that followed, and how he drew inspiration from Patti LuPone to get through it all.

“I needed something as ferocious as Patti to help me,” says Rimalower. “Patti’s strength was helpful to me as to how to live through the challenges of life.”

LuPone is indeed known for her savage honesty, take no prisoners performance style, and a laser-focused commitment to excellence. Rimalower refers to John Housemen who wrote that Patti LuPone has “the smell of the gallows,” referring to her in-your-face Broadway chops. It’s that intensity that devoted fans of LuPone hang on to, especially gay fans who, in the face of homophobia and ostracism, can find inspiration in that kind of fierce bravery and confidence.

“She’s out for blood,” says Rimalower about LuPone’s artistry. “There’s a ferocity. There’s a reason she was cast as Evita, as Mrs. Lovett. I mean, cannibalism. In Gypsy she cannibalizes her children.”

Admitting that when it comes to LuPone his life has been on a surreal path guided by some sort of magnetic destiny. Rimalower says he eventually met Patti, worked with her, and developed a friendship. Primarily a director and producer, Patti Issues marked his first real foray into performance. Nervous to the point of anxious saturation, there was no room for added emotion when LuPone came to the second night of the show at the Duplex in New York City last year. Her famous outrageous laugh let Rimalower know all was well.

“Her cackle gave me a lot of info that it would all be alright,” says Rimalower. “It put me and the rest of the audience at ease.”

Indeed everything was “rainbow high” good. Patti Issues won a MAC Award for Best New York Debut by a Male and a Bistro Award for Best Solo Play, followed by an extended run in New York and tour dates in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, Fire Island, and an upcoming performance at the O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut.

While the accolades keep pouring in, there is the occasional request for a duel from different fan base camps. The creative arts are rife with competition, and as such so, too is the world of devotion to particular Broadway stars. On occasion, Rimalower receives challenging e-mails from fans of other musical theater legends, most commonly those of Bernadette Peters. While he adores Peters, and says he probably is even a bigger fan than those he hears from, his devotion to LuPone is unwavering. Her ability to do battle is what turns some people off, Rimalower admits. However, it is also what makes her special and upon meeting her she is everything that she presents in public. She’s genuine.

“No one can touch how people fulfill that sense of anticipation more than Patti LuPone,” says Rimalower. “Critics of her often can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Patti is in control. Patti will burn a bridge. Patti is just so richly human.”

This performance marks Rimalower’s Provincetown debut. His first time in town was last summer when he came to see LuPone’s concert at the Art House. And while his show is a cathartic expression of self-empowerment, the challenges facing LGBT families, overcoming addiction, and how someone’s creative work can supply endless inspiration and support, Rimalower is also aware that for some, this show may be their very first introduction to Patti LuPone.

“Isn’t that funny?” says Rimalower regarding the role he has in promoting LuPone’s legacy. “I take it gladly.”

Patti Issues plays at the Cabaret at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Tuesday, July 3 at 9 p.m., Wednesday, July 3, and Friday, July 5 at 10 p.m. The show returns on Sunday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to the Family Equality Council. Tickets are $20 and are available at the box office or online at www.onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430.