I was extremely saddened this morning to learn that legendary actor and humanitar-ian Paul Newman has died. The stage and film icon lost his battle with cancer on Friday.
Newman's Academy Award-winning career on the silver screen is very well known by audiences, who enjoyed his on-screen work beginning in 1956 with "Somebody Up There Likes Me" right through his Oscar nominated turn in "Road to Perdition" (2005).
But like so many great American actors of his time, Newman had his start on the Broadway stage. In fact, Newman received a 1953 Theatre World Award for his portrayal of Alan Seymour in William Inge's Picnic. After his 1964 turn in Baby Want a Kiss, Newman would be absent from the Great White Way until 2002, when he would return in his Tony-nominated role as the Stage Manager in the Rialto revival of Our Town.
Personally, I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have seen this giant among giants, both in that production -- where my front row seat gave me a unique perspective of this actor as he towered directly over me through much of the performance -- and in an early 2007 benefit entitled Come Be My Love...Love Spoken Here for the Westport Country Playhouse. At the time, I wrote:
At the time, I had no idea, of course, that this would likely be one of Newman's last public performances. In fact, looking back at my notes, I mentioned how "it’s a little heartbreaking to know that this night will never again be repeated for wider audiences."
Miraculously amassed for this one-time-only event, Joanna Gleason, Charles Grodin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eartha Kitt, Paul Newman, Chris Sarandon and Joanne Woodward offered their own unique, individual voices on the ecstasy and agony that arguably make love life’s ultimate affection. Wow!
To call this breathtaking would be a major understatement. With the megawatt cast’s refrains reverberating throughout the theatre, this audience member was left reeling as though Cupid had shot another arrow through his heart. Alternately laughing and misty-eyed, I couldn’t help but ponder just how truly blessed I am to have found the love of my life, my own true love.
Count me among the heartbroken that we've forever lost this great actor and philanthropist. But I will always cherish my opportunity to have reveled in his amazing presence, and continue to honor his contributions by giving to the Hole in the Wall Camps he helped create.
UPDATE (October 2, 2008, 7:25 p.m.) - As is customary whenever any Broadway great dies, Great White Way theatres will briefly go dark tomorrow in his memory.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here to donate to the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps founded by Paul Newman.