R.I.P. Jan Maxwell

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Mister Tee
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Re: R.I.P. Jan Maxwell

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:29 pm

I only saw her on stage once -- in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party, back around the turn of the millennium. Her prime time in the spotlight unfortunately coincided with my difficult years (though I doubt anything would have got me to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, regardless). Her reputation was certainly stellar.

I never met the lady personally, but I see on my Facebook that numerous friends did, and their testimony echoes what BJ reports: she was a good and generous human being. This is seen as a huge loss to the theatre community.

The Original BJ
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R.I.P. Jan Maxwell

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:41 pm

I saw her on stage in Follies a few years back, and she was sublime -- had she not been competing against a candidate as formidable as Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess, I think her rendition of "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" would have snagged her the Tony she sadly never won.

I never crossed paths with her personally, but a ton of people in my circles worked with her over the years, and they've all described her as someone who was a great mentor to younger performers, and a woman with a wonderful sense of humor who knew how to make everyone around her laugh. What a loss.

Jan Maxwell, a Five-Time Tony Award Nominee, Dies at 61
By Ryan McPhee, Playbill
Feb 11, 2018

Maxwell was the beloved star of such Broadway productions as 2011’s Follies, The Royal Family, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Jan Maxwell, a five-time Tony-nominated actor whose performances spanned stage and screen, comedy and drama, died February 11 following a longtime battle with cancer. Her death was confirmed to Playbill by her son, William Maxwell-Lunney. She was 61.
Jan Maxwell in Follies. Jan Maxwell in Follies Joan Marcus

Ms. Maxwell made her Broadway debut as a replacement swing in 1989’s City of Angels, understudying and eventually assuming the dual roles of Alaura and Carla. She would go on to celebrate a 25-year career on the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional stage.

Her myriad accolades include five Tony nominations, with two in the same season: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2005), Coram Boy (2007), Lend Me a Tenor (2010), The Royal Family (2010), and Follies (2012). With the most recent, Ms. Maxwell became the fourth performer in Tony Awards history to be nominated in all four possible acting categories. She won Drama Desks for both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Royal Family.

Born November 20, 1956, in North Dakota to Ralph and Elizabeth Maxwell (a former district judge and lawyer, respectively), Ms. Maxwell credited a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire she attended at Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater when she was 16 as a career-defining experience.

While studying at Moorhead State University, she would perform in summer stock with the school’s Straw Hat Players. Her passion for performing drew her to frequent trips to New York under various pretenses. “One was pretending I was religious and joining the United Campus Ministry,” she told Playbill in a 2008 interview. “They were coming here for $50. I think I left them in a church in Brooklyn.” Just shy of graduating, Ms. Maxwell moved to New York full-time to pursue acting.

Her career on Broadway took off in her early 40s, when she starred as Kristine in the 1997 revival of A Doll’s House opposite Janet McTeer and Owen Teale. The 1998 revival of The Sound of Music (in which she played the baroness Elsa Schraeder), The Dinner Party, and Sixteen Wounded followed before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ms. Maxwell’s additional credits include To Be Or Not to Be on Broadway, regional productions of The Seagull and The King and I, and Off-Broadway’s House and Garden, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Victory: Choices in Reaction, Wings, The City of Conversation, and, in 2015, Scenes From an Execution. During the last, a Potomac Theatre Project production, she announced that she intended to retire from theatre.

“The kinds of roles I was being offered were just…I’d been the and done that, and I just didn’t want to do that anymore,” Ms. Maxwell told Time Out New York. “I think theater saves people’s lives and it’s wonderful. This is just a personal choice for me.”

She went on to appear on the small screen in the CBS comedy BrainDead, as well as episodes of Gotham and Madam Secretary. Her additional film and TV credits include I Am Michael, Billy & Billie, The Divide, and Law & Order, in which she played four different characters over nine years ("If you see me, you can turn it off... I did it," she once told Playbill).

Ms. Maxwell is survived by her husband, actor Robert Emmet Lunney, and their aforementioned son William.

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