Daniel McDonald, Broadway Musical Actor, Is Dead at 46

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Andrew Gans
16 Feb 2007

Daniel McDonald
Daniel McDonald

Daniel McDonald, the dashing young star of the Broadway musicals Steel Pier and High Society, died Feb. 15 from brain cancer. He was 46 and lived in New York City.

Mr. McDonald had a brief career in the late 1990s as a leading man in Broadway musical comedies. He made his Broadway debut in 1997 in John Kander and Fred Ebb's Depression-era musical about a dance marathon in Atlantic City. The show, directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Susan Stroman, received mixed reviews, but Mr. McDonald was praised for his winning portrayal of Bill Kelly, a daredevil pilot who was perhaps not of this world. "Mr. McDonald radiates affability," wrote Ben Brantley in The New York Times.

He received a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Musical. He also won a Drama Desk Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for his performance.

The following year he returned to Broadway in the stage version of the movie musical "High Society," which in turn had been based on Philip Barry's comedy The Philadelphia Story. Standing at six-feet-one, and equipped with a winning, breezy personality, and chiseled good looks, he was a natural for the Cary Grant role of rakish blueblood C.K. Dexter Haven. "[He] brings an antic, juvenile giddiness to the role played with such sly savoir-faire by Cary Grant," wrote Brantley. "He's a handsome fellow, right out of an Arrow shirt ad, and he has an appealing voice."

The show was plagued by backstage changes, and, after receiving poor reviews, closed after 144 performances.



In 2001, in an utter chage of pace, he starred as Valmont is a staging of Quartett, Heiner Müller's sexually charged "dramatic reverie" based on the novel, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," at The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre.

"I was completely intimidated," Mr. McDonald told Playbill.com at the time. "And that must be why I'm feeling so strong about this project. I should confront it."

He also played Michael Wiley in the 2002 national tour of Susan Stroman's Contact and returned to Broadway in 2004 for a stint playing Sam Carmichael in the long-running Broadway musical Mamma Mia!.

Steel Pier director Scott Ellis said in a Feb. 16 statement, "What made Daniel so special as a performer was what made him so special as a person. He had an incredible openness, honesty, integrity that made him remarkable both onstage and off." Susan Stroman, who choreographed Steel Pier, added, "Daniel was just at the beginning of what he could do as a performer. He was fearless and would take on any challenge. Dancing with the woman in the yellow dress or doing the fox trot in a 1930's dance marathon, Daniel did it all with the ease and charm of a classic leading man."

He made his first television appearance in 1984 and went on to act in such shows as "Law & Order," "Sex and the City," "Herman's Head," "Madigan Men" and "CSI Miami."

Mr. McDonald's final project was a recording of standards that featured two songs from Steel Pier with piano accompaniment by John Kander. It is due for release in April.

Born July 30, 1960, in Scranton, PA, Daniel McDonald was raised in Romulus, New York, the youngest of seven children. (Older brother Christopher McDonald is also an actor.) He studied with Paul Curtis of the American Mime Company, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and with Sanford Meisner on the island of Bequia, BWI. He was also a member of the Actors Studio.

It was during rehearsals of Steel Pier where Mr. McDonald met his wife, Italian actress and filmmaker Mujah Maraini-Melehi. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his two children — Fosco, age six, and Ondina, age three — as well as his parents, his five siblings and twenty-five nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held Feb. 24 at 10 AM at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the cancer charity Team Continuum at www.teamcontinuum.net.