Friday, March 04, 2005

We've Lost Some Theatre Greats Recently, Huh?

42nd St. Moon Administrator, Annette, emailed me upon John Raitt's passing. Seems in a previous life as a journalist (!) Annette had gotten to interview the great Raitt. This was 10 years ago.

We tend to think of all things digital as eternal, but Annette is experiencing a common frustration...she has the interview on some disk in some format that simply doesn't exist anymore. She can't recover the data...what a bummer.

What I loved about Raitt's obit was the fact that after his big Broadway successes were a memory, and his one film starring role failed to lead to more, he just continued to work. He did national tours. He did summer stock. He was a working actor first, a star second.

I think Ossie Davis, on the other hand, may well have been an activist first, actor second. Sometimes I think Morgan Freeman has taken on the mantle of saintly, wise African-American figure, but he's doing it in the movies. Ossie did it in life. Not the least of his role model behavior was his lengthy marriage to fellow actor, Ruby Dee. They surely join Cronyn/Tandy and Newman/Woodward as examples that even show biz folks can build long-lasting relationships.

Then there's Jerry Orbach, the only of these great performers that I saw live, both in Chicago and 42nd St. Today's audiences knew him from Law & Order; the previous generation may remember his best as Baby's father in Dirty Dancing ("when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong.") I remember him first from my Fantastiks album.

All three of these guys were theatre stars first, and returned to the theatre again. I do wish Jerry had done one great role in his post TV stardom would have shown a whole new side to him to L&O fans. Can you imagine if he's subbed in for Billy Flynn in the current Chicago revival? Awesome!

It really came in threes this time: three great theatre leading men gone with just a few weeks of one another. I hope Annette finds her John Raitt interview or can convert it, but if she can't, suffice to say she said it was an honor to speak with him.

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