A few minutes ago word reached the major news media outlets that actress Natasha Richardson had died at the age of 45, a few days after suffering head injuries in a skiing accident. Though her movie appearances were generally in out-of-the-way, little-seen films – The Parent Trap and Maid In Manhattan being the major exceptions – she enjoyed considerable success on the stages of the West End and Broadway, most notably as Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of Cabaret, and won the sort of acclaim that proved her a worthy member of the Redgraves, the most respected acting clan in the English-speaking world. She will be missed.
The tragedy of Ms. Richardson’s last days has rather overshadowed the illness suffered by another prominent actor. Yesterday morning, Stacy Keach, less than a week into an 18-day stint playing the 37th president in the touring production of Frost/Nixon at LA’s Ahmanson Theatre, was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons. This evening it was announced that he has suffered a mild stroke which does not affect his movement or speech, and is making a steady recovery. It is not clear, however, whether Keach can return to the Ahmanson’s boards to complete his run or when or if he will rejoin the production for its remaining dates in Tempe, Arizona, San Antonio, Sacramento, and Dallas.
In the meantime, Keach’s understudy, Bob Ari, is taking over the role of RN. Ari has previous experience with the part; he was Frank Langella’s understudy in the original Broadway production of Frost/Nixon and, in the role of Bob Zelnick in the touring production, does a rather broad Nixon impression at one point in the play.
Having seen Keach portray RN at the Kennedy Center last year, I can assure TNN’s readers in the aforementioned four cities that I hope for his quick recovery, not least so that they have the chance to see his incisive and memorable portrayal in this role.