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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Groovy Guy of the Month: Ben Rimalower

This month's Groovy Guy is Ben Rimalower, the author and star of the long-running, critically acclaimed Off-Broadway solo play, Patti Issues, which I was lucky enough to see last month when he performed it here in Chicago. If you're a Patti LuPone fan, a Broadway musical enthusiast and/or a gay man, go see this show - you'll enjoy it. And don't just take my word for it. Here are a few other rave reviews:

"Mr. Rimalower’s funny, tender reminiscence rides an infectious rainbow high" — The New York Times

"Endearing, drolly written, and performed with heaps of charisma" — The New Yorker

"The show's fantastic. It's really wonderful. I was moved. He's a very talented man and I'm so proud of him" — Patti LuPone

Well, if Patti herself loves you, then you must be doing something right. And Mr. Rimalower definitely is. Earlier this year he won a Special Bistro Award for Best Solo Play and a M.A.C. Award for Outstanding New York Debut (Male).

Ben is also a director (in 2004 he helmed an Off-Broadway concert presentation of Snoopy! The Musical starring Sutton Foster, Hunter Foster and Christian Borle), and he was once dubbed the "Midas of Cabaret" by The Advocate for directing so many solo shows for artists, including Alec Mapa, Cole Escola, Wendy Ho, Scott Nevins and Lance Horne. His Assistant Director credits include the 2001 Broadway production of A Class Act, the 2001 Emmy-winning PBS concert of Sweeney Todd (starring Ms. LuPone), and the 2002 Ravinia Festival production of A Little Night Music (also with Ms. LuPone). And in 2008, he co-produced Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records’ long-awaited recording of Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, which was digitally restored from archival tapes of her legendary 1980 performances.

I am delighted to have the fabulous Mr. Rimalower here on the Dish to answer a few questions about Patti and pop culture.

Tell me about the creation of Patti Issues. How did you come up with the idea of combining your diva worship of Ms. LuPone with your relationship with your biological father?
I started writing about Patti, but found that what came out was more about me. I knew right away that the final moment of this arc in my journey with Patti LuPone was seeing my father (who I hadn’t seen in 10 years and had been estranged from most of my childhood) at Gypsy on Broadway (sitting directly behind me, of all the coincidences!). The challenge was to tie the threads together so that made sense as the end of both stories.

What is your Top 10 list of favorite Patti LuPone songs?
I’ll do you one better. Here are my 10 favorite Patti songs that your readers can enjoy on YouTube (click on each title for the video):

1. "Meadowlark" (In concert in Nantucket, 1994)
2. "Rainbow High" (The Merv Griffin Show, 1980)
3. "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (2008 Tony Awards)
4. "Being Alive" (1992's Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall)
5. "A New Argentina" (1980 Tony Awards)
6. "The Worst Pies in London" (2001's Sweeney Todd in Concert)
7. "Buenos Aires" (1981 Tony Awards)
8. "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" (In Performance at the White House, 1990)
9. "I Dreamed a Dream" (The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, 1986)
10. "I Love Paris" (2004 Encores! concert of Can-Can)

If you could give out your own Tony award for a show and/or a performance that you saw in the last year, what and/or whom would receive it?
I would give Tonys to everyone involved in Scott Wittman’s brilliant Jukebox Jackie at LaMama, starring Justin Vivian Bond, Bridget Everett and Cole Escola.

My five favorite TV shows of all time are:
Here’s 10. I can't do just five. As it is, I’m sure I'm leaving out something major. This is painful!

Absolutely Fabulous
All in the Family
Mad Men
The Office
Sex and the City
The Simpsons
The Sopranos

Five of my favorite movies are:
Again, here’s 10. This is like Sophie’s Choice - which did not make my Top 10 because this is hard!

Gone with the Wind
The Wizard of Oz
All That Jazz
Annie Hall
The Breakfast Club
Revenge of the Nerds
American Beauty
Waiting for Guffman
The World According To Garp
Postcards from the Edge

If I were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, it would be:
Alexander Skarsgård. But I’m easy. I’m pretty into Bill Pullman, too.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Patti LuPone, Meryl Streep and Carrie Fisher.

What's next for Ben Rimalower?
Extending Patti Issues in New York (again), touring with it all over the world and writing my next solo show.

Thank you, Ben, for being such a groovy guy!

For more information about Mr. Rimalower, go to You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to catch Ben at NYC's Duplex and during his Patti Issues Rainbow Tour in Provincetown, Fire Island Pines and Boston (click here for a complete schedule and to purchase tickets).

Photos by Christian Coulson and Peter Kramer/Bravo/NBCU.

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