“What’s that, dear, I can’t hear you with the sound of you letting out a spoiled brat whine over having to do a job you were paid to do!” is what Dame Diana is obviously thinking in that picture.
Since mid-March, Lauren Ambrose was singing her vocal cords off as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on Broadway 8 times a week (Tuesday through Sunday with 2 shows on both Wednesday and Saturday). But producers announced earlier this week that starting this weekend, Lauren will take the Sunday matinee off to rest her voice and the role of Eliza will be played by her understudy Kerstin Anderson. Dame Diana Rigg, who is made of pure iron and plays the non-singing role of Henry Higgins’ mother in the production, isn’t happy about that change and let everyone know. The other big story here is that this is some Broadway drama that doesn’t involve thee legendary La LuPone for once.
In Michael Riedel’s column for The New York Post, he leaked an email that 79-year-old Dame Diana sent to the cast about 40-year-old Lauren taking Sundays off. First of all, Dame Diana thinks it’s highly uncouth that she learned about this change through the papers. Second of all, she thinks the change is a fuck you to audiences who bought a crazy-priced ticket to see Lauren Ambrose and the other leads:
“I learnt, courtesy of a newspaper, that our leading lady will not be appearing in future Sunday matinees. Now call me old-fashioned, which I unashamedly am, but I don’t think this development is fair to audiences. They have booked their seats in advance, paying an exorbitant price for them to see what they have been led to believe is the original cast. The very least we can do as actors is to acknowledge their presence as a privilege and take care never to abuse it. It is time managements put their audiences first and insist on the old adage, slightly adapted by me, ‘The show must go on — with ALL principals.’”
Lauren has been on Broadway before, but this is the first time she’s done a musical on Broadway and had to sing for more than two hours. Sources say that Lauren is already worn out, and she also wants to spend more time with her husband and two kids. I’d love to see Dame Diana’s face contort into the “Is this bitch for real?” position after first hearing about that. Because Dame Diana has a daughter, but the child she’s most devoted to is the THI-TURR, honey!
André Bishop, the artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater who put the show up, said in a statement that belting out in an operatic range can mess with an actresses’ vocal cords, and even Julie Andrews herself, who was the original Eliza on Broadway, said that there were times when she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it to the end of the show.
Michael Riedel called up Dame Diana and she didn’t take back her email. Dame Diana said that Lauren is giving a “definitive performance” as Eliza and it’s “perfectly understandable” for her to want to spend more time with her family, but Diana is the kind of old guard actor who believes you should show up for work even if you’re dying of the consumption. You get your nurse to push your hospital bed onto the stage and you give the audience a show even as the Grim Reaper hugs you tight.
“I’m flying the old flag for a generation of actors who performed even when they were at death’s door. But I suppose it’s a tradition that has been lost. It’s the norm these days, so I guess I should just shut up.”
Dame Diana also told a story about when she was doing Medea on Broadway in 1994, she busted her vocal cord during rehearsals, but kept on going and never missed a show. Dame Diana is an OG of the theater, and I’m sure that backstage at Medea, she got her dresser to tattoo “The Show Must Go On, Bitches” on her back with a knitting needle and RIT dye.
This is probably going to make things awkward between Lauren and Dame Diana at work. And if Lauren so much as sneezes in her dressing room, Dame Diana is going to magically appear in full Eliza Doolittle costume and tell that amateur weakling to run on home and let a real thespian take over. And now I really want to see a 79-year-old Diana Rigg talk-sing Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? while in flower girl Eliza drag.
Pic: LCT/Joan Marcus