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In 1998, Natasha Richardson won a Tony for her role as Sally Bowles in a Sam Mendes-directed revival of Cabaret on Broadway. Many questioned whether she could actually perform the role, especially in the shadow of Liza Minnelli‘s iconic, Oscar-winning portrayal in the 1972 film. But she proved revelatory, as the reviews demonstrated:
“You would be foolish, first of all, to miss the extraordinary Ms. Richardson, the English stage and film actress last seen on Broadway in Anna Christie, who is here giving what promises to be the performance of the season. Her Sally Bowles is a dazzling example of how star power can be harnessed to create a devastating portrait of someone who is definitely not a star. You find yourself thinking less of Ms. Minnelli’s winning screwball gamine in the same part than of Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer.”
Ben Brantley in The New York Times
“This regal English actress seemed a questionable choice for Sally Bowles in the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret, yet she couldn’t have been more heartbreakingly right. Her dramatically adept portrait, tinged with genuine desperation and despair (even her purposely off-key musical numbers suggested a soul in crisis) earned her a Tony and widespread acceptance among New York’s hard-bitten musical theater stalwarts.”
Charles McNulty, The Los Angeles Times
“This dark, sleazy, brilliantly reimagined revival is so good, you’ll want to keep coming back to the cabaret…And as Sally Bowles, the spirited English singer torn between her career and a bisexual American writer (John Benjamin Hickey), Natasha Richardson projects a sweet vulnerability. She can’t belt like Liza Minnelli – and that makes her even more touching.”
William Stevenson in Entertainment Weekly
“As the desperate British floozy, Richardson may not croon the show’s legendary numbers with the voice of a goddess, but she is heavenly in every other way. Her heartbreaking, indelible performance makes one want more from the rest of the show.”
Sam Whitehead, Time Out New York
Below are two clips: one of Natasha singing “Maybe This Time” on stage in Cabaret, and the other of Natasha talking to Charlie Rose about the role back in 1998:
Cabaret colleagues Sam Mendes and Alan Cumming offer their tributes.(Contact Music)
Broadway plans to dim the lights for her.(The Stage)
Entertainment Weekly lists 17 key roles Natasha played.
Natasha died of an “epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head,” according to the New York City medical examiner.(E!)
Were medics turned away?(The Globe and Mail)
In happier news, Arctic Monkeys have covered Lady GaGa‘s “Poker Face.” What’s with Alex Turner‘s hair?
See more posts by Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.