PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 9-15: Bidding Farewell to Two Showbiz Legends and Neverland is Found at ART

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15 Aug 2014

Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall

This week was marked by loss, as two performing legends left the stage forever. Neither were best known for their stage work, but each made a mark there.

Legend (and, unlike many others who have tried to wear that title, she deserved it) Lauren Bacall, who earned Tony Awards for her performances in the Broadway musicals Applause and Woman of the Year, died at her home in Manhattan Aug. 12 at the age of 89. The leggy, throaty actress was one of the last living emblems of Hollywood's golden years, her name forever linked with that of her first husband and ultimate co-star, Humphrey Bogart.

She was all of 19 when she made her film debut in 1944's "To Have and Have Not," a loose, noirish adaptation of Ernest Hemingway (by William Faulkner), directed by Howard Hawks, in which she starred opposite Bogart for the first time. The actor was nearly 25 years her senior, but they crackled together onscreen, the neophyte going toe to toe with the veteran actor in terms of poise, charm and magnetism. The two were soon an item, and in 1945 they wed and co-starred in three more films.

Her career waned in the 1960s, but she soon found an unlikely new home on Broadway, starring in two musicals tailored to her talents: Applause, Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's adaptation of the film "All About Eve"; and Woman of the Year, a John Kander and Fred Ebb show drawn from another old Hollywood film. She was embraced by critics and audiences and won Tony Awards for both performances.

Robin Williams came of professional age during Bacall's second career, in the 1970s, an era that saw the most successful comedians transcend the usual boundaries of their profession and became not just famous, but superstars and, eventually, respected legitimate actors.

Perhaps more than any other comedian of his generation, Robin Williams was known for his near limitless comic fluidity. Jokes, quips, references and impressions burst from his mouth like a seemingly unending string of firecrackers. When performing, he was rarely still, his arms windmilling, his eyes pinwheeling and his mouth caught in a wide, goofy grin, as if he was as amused as he was amusing. Fans, critics and colleagues alike often spoke of laughing more in his presence that in that of any other comedian.


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