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Valerie Harper sued for $2M; producer says she hid health concerns

Valerie Harper sued for $2M; producer says she hid health concerns
Valerie Harper, shown in 2010 playing Tallulah Bankhead in "Looped" on Broadway, has been sued for at least $2 million after dropping out of the show's national production in January 2013, about a month before the tour kicked off. She cited health reasons, and that March went public with a diagnosis of cancer in the membranes surrounding her brain. (Carol Rosegg / Associated Press)

Valerie Harper suddenly has more to worry about than surviving cancer: She's being sued for $2 million by the playwright-producer of the Broadway show "Looped," who has accused the actress of hiding her previous lung cancer diagnosis and her new symptoms when she signed on for the production's national tour in 2012.

Matthew Lombardo's lawsuit, first reported by TMZ, alleges that the actress and husband Tony Cacciotti "knowingly withheld the truth" about her health, leaving Lombardo in the lurch when she pulled out of the national tour in January 2013, about a month before it launched.

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It's reportedly a countersuit to a claim filed by the couple alleging Harper hadn't been paid for the balance of her contract after she dropped out.

Four days into "Looped" rehearsals, the show's director had urged Harper to see a doctor after her struggle with slurred words and the ability to remember her lines, according to the Wrap, which obtained the legal documents.

The actress revealed her diagnosis of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in March 2013.  "Lepto," as Harper calls it, affects the membranes surrounding the brain and in her case is a progression of the lung cancer she was diagnosed with in 2009. At the time she went public with lepto, she was given months to live, but more than a year later she has found herself "cautiously optimistic" in her fight.

Stefanie Powers wound up taking over the role of a late-career Tallulah Bankhead. In the suit, Lombardo said that Tovah Feldshuh — allegedly his first choice for the role, though he'd agreed to hire Harper — wasn't available when the "Rhoda" star quit. Harper had been a lead-actress Tony nominee in 2010 for her performance in the show when it was on Broadway.

That substitution allegedly resulted in poor ticket sales, so he's asking for "not less than $500,000" in damages, the Wrap said, plus at least $1.5 million in punitive damages.

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