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Losing Natasha Richardson

Natasha A sad story came to a tragic end on Wednesday when Natasha Richardson, a luminous actress who came from a distinguished family of actors, died after what at first seemed to be a minor tumble on a Montreal ski slope two days earlier.

Richardson -- granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, niece of Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, sister of Nip/Tuck's Joely Richardson, wife of Liam Neeson and mother of two boys -- was 45, a woman with so much life and work ahead of her.  Her sudden passing is shattering for her family, a loss for anyone who had the pleasure of watching her work.

Richardson was rumored to be planning a return to Broadway in a revival of A Little Night Music next season.  She and her famous mother had done a benefit performance of the Stephen Sondheim musical in January, and that got the buzz going. 

I was fortunate enough to see three of the four New York shows in which Richardson starred:  1993's revival of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, the show that brought Neeson into her life; 1998's revival of Cabaret, which brought her a Tony Award for her portrayal of a beautiful, plucky, ruined Sally Bowles; and Patrick Marber's Closer in 1999.  She made movies too, of course, everything from the fluff of The Parent Trap and Maid in Manhattan to the intensity of Suddenly, Last Summer and Asylum.

But above all (at least in her working life), Richardson was third-generation theater royalty.  Watching her on a stage was illuminating, absorbing, special.  And forever memorable.

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John Felix

Let's not forget among Natasha Richardson's illustrious theatre forebears her grandmother, Rachel Kempson, known in private life as Lady Redgrave. An actress of subtlety and wit and what we like to call "English beauty," she is probably best known to us over here as Lady Manners in the mini-series The Jewel in the Crown and from the movie Tom Jones, but she was also an exceptional Shakespearean actress on the English stage. She died at a great age of a stroke only a few years ago, in her (now late) grand-daughter's house. Both are a great loss us all.

Ron Mangravite

John, thank you for your note. I really take heart from this kind of informative exchange, Chris' initial blog and your follow-up.

I wish we could all talk face-to-face about these matters, but having this blog is the next best thing, and it is a good thing. It is important for the theatre community, for any community, to mark its passages, its triumphs and its losses. The theatre, especially, is a community of tradition, of personal contact and memory handed down from one generation to the next.

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