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'Spectacular' Natasha Richardson won the Tony Award for 'Cabaret'

March 18, 2009 | 12:07 pm

After Natasha Richardson's death from head trauma during a skiing accident, it's important to recall what a vital life she's had as a performer.

In 1998, Natasha Richardson won a Tony Award for lead actress in a musical for her appearance in the Roundabout Theatre Company's acclaimed production of "Cabaret." The show was helmed by Sam Mendes and co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall. This reimagined revival of "Cabaret" was staged in a cabaret setting at the Henry Miller Theatre. Among the praise for her performance,  the New York Times called Richardson "spectacular."

For her raw portrayal of an English singer caught up in the madness of Nazi Germany, Richardson first won the Drama Desk award. And then at the Tonys, she prevailed over a quartet of musical theater vets — Betty Buckley ("Triumph of Love"), Marin Mazzie ("Ragtime") and co-nominees Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner ("Side Show").

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Five years earlier, Natasha Richardson had earned a Tony nod for her Broadway debut in  the third rialto revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie." In the race for lead actress in a play, she competed against her aunt Lynn Redgrave, who paid tribute to Natasha's grandfather, Sir Michael Redgrave, in "Shakespeare for My Father." They and Jane Alexander ("The Sisters Rosensweig") lost to Alexander's co-star Madeline Kahn.

Richardson's soon-to-be husband Liam Neeson made his Broadway debut opposite her. He too was nominated for a Tony Award, losing to Ron Liebman for "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches." However, the play did win the Tony for best revival.

When Natasha Richardson emerged as a notable stage star in 1986 at age 23 with an appearance opposite her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, in Chekov 's "The Seagull," she won the London Drama Critics' Circle award as most promising newcomer.

Richardson also received kudos for her film work. She twice won the Evening Standard prize for best actress. Her first victory came in 1990 for roles in "The Comfort of Strangers" and "The Handmaid's Tale." And she prevailed again in 2005 for  "Asylum," which she also produced. In an interview with the awards' sponsoring newspaper, Richardson described the project about the wife of a psychiatrist who falls in love with a mental patient committed to an institution for killing his wife as " a small, dark, sexy film" adding, "I felt a connection with it like you feel when you fall in love."

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Photo: Paramount Classics

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