Broadway Scene Stealers: The Women

By Ben Rimalower
22 Aug 2013

Kathleen Freeman
Photo by Craig Schwartz

7. Kathleen Freeman, The Full Monty

Like Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch and Eartha Kitt, the late Kathleen Freeman was a star (or perhaps established character actor is more accurate) well before her scene-stealing turn on Broadway as Jeanette Burmeister in The Full Monty in 2001. Over the course of her long career, Freeman may not have enjoyed the personal acclaim of the other women I've mentioned, but in a way she also is potentially disqualified as a scene stealer due to her familiar presence, maybe more so. Since her days as a featured player in Jerry Lewis movies, Freeman's imdb page scrolls on and on listing scores of bit parts in film and television for decades. Even if you didn't think you recognized Freeman, the sight of her onstage brought back muscle memory of laughter and almost as an involuntary reaction, your eyes charted her onstage, wanting more of that feeling. The Full Monty made her easy to follow, mostly sticking her in one corner of the stage at the piano (Jeanette accompanies the guys' striptease rehearsals), where her wisecracks and double-takes were effortlessly accessible. It was not a large part, but it was a large performance that permeated the experience of The Full Monty and lingered in the minds of audiences, critics and award nominators.