"I am devastated to disappoint anyone who came to see me in the play," said Dench in a statement two weeks ago, "but because of the circumstances I am unable to perform."
Dench also bowed out of the June 23 performance of the David Hare play, resulting in a mass exodus from the Barrymore Theatre, leaving the ushers to move the remaining theatregoers from the mezzanine into the orchestra.
Dench's understudy, Jennifer Harmon, performed the role of theatrical legend Esme Allen. Harmon, a member of APA-Phoenix Repertory for the last six years, has performed on Broadway in The School for Scandal, The Sisters Rosensweig, Rumors and Blithe Spirit. Off-Broadway credits include Sylvia, In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, Learned Ladies and Hot L Baltimore.
Dench won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her work in Amy's View. As Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love," Dench won a 1999 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other film work includes "M" in the most recent James Bond movies, Mistress Quickly in Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" and her Oscar nominated role as another queen (Victoria) in 1997's "Mrs. Brown." She has not been seen on Broadway since a 1958 U.S. tour with the Old Vic Theatre Company.
Dench was only the latest high-profile Broadway star to bow out in recent months. During the 1998-1999 season, both Nicole Kidman and Brian Dennehy became sick, causing the cancellation of several performances of, respectively, The Blue Room and Death of a Salesman. Ken Page has taken over for stroke-stricken Ron Taylor in It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, while Marian Seldes did the same for Irene Worth in Ring Round The Moon.
Ticket holders interested in obtaining a refund for missed performances may do so at the Barrymore Theatre or by returning tickets to P.O. Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108 0998. Include credit card information and billing address on credit card purchases.