Stefanie Powers and Valerie Harper share a deep connection. Just four years after they were both treated for lung cancer by the same surgeon, Powers has taken over the role of Tallulah Bankhead in the national tour of Looped from Harper, who revealed on March 6 that she has terminal brain cancer.
“I called [Harper] immediately,” Powers said when she received the offer and was told of Harper's condition. "I said to her, 'I feel that both of us are on stage every night.' It’ll feel that way as long as I’m doing this show.” Powers had seen Harper in Looped when it premiered on Broadway in 2010. The two actresses shared a bond after their similarly timed cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission, and Powers said the news of Harper’s new diagnosis “is very close to home."
With less than two weeks of rehearsal, a process she simply described as “harrowing,” Powers opened the national tour of Looped in Fort Lauderdale on February 26 to positive reviews and is currently performing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through March 17. The Hart to Hart Emmy nominee said she is still fine-tuning her performance and credited director Rob Ruggiero and playwright Matthew Lombardo as being “wonderfully supportive.”
While learning the demanding role in such a quick period was an obstacle for Powers, fears of her performance being compared to Harper’s, who was Tony-nominated in the role, did not occur to her. “I didn’t think about things that way. I didn’t have the luxury or the disadvantage of that. There was not enough time,” Powers said. “I kept hoping I was just keeping the part warm for her.”