No Big Whoop

An ailing Whoopi Goldberg leaves Charles Busch and Lypsinka to tough it out alone in an appropriately cursed staged reading of Legends!

BY Brandon Voss

March 30 2009 12:00 AM ET

The course of Legends! never did run smooth. A vehicle for two aging divas, James Kirkwood's play centers on a pair of rival Hollywood has-beens who are given an opportunity to star in a play together (also called Legends!) in order to revive their careers. A true case of life imitating art imitating life, the cattiness and bickering between the actresses playing the parts became as bad backstage as it was written on the page.

Originally presented as a pre-Broadway tour in 1986 starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin, it closed on the road before making it to New York. Best known as a Tony-winning bookwriter for A Chorus Line, Kirkwood documented the delicious details of the disaster in his book, Diary of a Mad Playwright: Perilous Adventures on the Road With Mary Martin and Carol Channing.

Another pre-Broadway national tour in 2007, this time starring former Dynasty costars Joan Collins and Linda Evans, also flamed out before reaching the Great White Way. Collins later aired out the dirty laundry of her off-stage battles with Evans in London's Daily Mail.

In a way, it would've been somewhat disappointing had last Monday's staged reading of the play at New York's Town Hall (a benefit for Friends in Deed — The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness) been drama-free. Here the lead roles of Sylvia Glenn and Leatrice Monsee would be played by drag legends Charles Busch and Lypsinka, with Whoopi Goldberg appearing as Aretha, the sassy maid. Lypsinka's male alter ego, John Epperson, had adapted the comedy for the reading, and Mark Waldrop (who helmed Bette Midler's 1999 Divine Millennium tour) was directing the event. I wouldn't have missed this for the world.

Tags: Theater

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