Scoop! Broadway’s Robin de Jesus is Ben Rimalower in Patti Issues

In a surprise twist of casting, a two-time Tony nominee steps into the hit gay solo show Patti Issues at the Duplex.

From left: Ben Rimalower; Robin De Jesus

From left: Ben Rimalower; Robin De Jesus Photographs: (from left) Christian Coulson; Roberto Araujo

The show must go on!

Last August, director Ben Rimalower took to the stage at the Duplex in Patti Issues, an insightful solo memoir about his relationship with his troubled gay father and his lifelong obsession with Broadway strongwoman Patti LuPone. The show was supposed to run for just four performances. After rave reviews in TONY, the Times and elsewhere, however, it extended—and then extended again, and again, and again. 

Nearly a full year later, Rimalower is moving to new projects. Tonight is your very last chance to see him perform Patti Issues in New York City. (He’ll be taking it to Glasgow, Berlin and Boston in the weeks to come.) You can buy tickets to tonight’s show here

And now to the big news: A little birdie—okay, it was Ben, who is a friend—tells me Patti Issues will continue its run without him. Starting September 8, in a rather amazing stunt, the role of Ben Rimalower will be performed by none other than Robin de Jesus, best known for his scene-stealing sidekick roles in Broadway’s In the Heights and La Cage aux Folles, both of which earned him Tony nominations. (He is also appearing this fall in Lincoln Center Theater's Domesticated, opposite Laurie Metcalf and Jeff Goldblum.)

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” says Rimalower. “I’ve been Robin’s fan for years. He’s a wonderfully smart actor with tremendous heart, and he’s hysterically funny.” 

Cast changes, of course, are not uncommon in long-running shows. Broadway musicals usually turn over at least once a year—and some productions, like Chicago, cycle new actors in every few weeks or so. And works with explicitly autobiographical elements have been performed by people who are not their authors before: [title of show] and The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs come to mind, not to mention Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, the meta-cabaret set that Rimalower conceived and directed in 2006. 

But Patti Issues is different in kind from those shows: It is intensely personal, confessional and revealing. Can it work as well with someone playing Rimalower instead of being him?

De Jesus is looking forward to the challenge. Reached for comment, he wrote, “I'm ridonkulously excited!!! Ben's shoes will be hard to fill, therefore I intend to wear heels.”

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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