The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Award Winner Vanessa Redgrave

Award-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave celebrates her birthday Jan. 30. To mark the occasion, the Playbill Vault looks back at her Broadway career.

Redgrave made her Broadway debut in the 1976 revival of Henrik Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea, about a woman who must choose between remaining in her marriage with a doctor or reuniting with her former fiancé, a sailor who has returned after a long absence. She performed the central role of Ellida opposite Pat Hingle as Dr. Wangel and John Heffernan as Professor Arnholm.

The production opened March 18, 1976, at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The show received accolades from the New York Times' Clive Barnes; he deemed it "an exquisitely styled staging" of the Ibsen play, "enriched with almost a texture of themes." Of the cast he wrote: "The actors, particularly Miss Redgrave, walking in beauty, work their way through this oddly modern psychodrama with sure-footed conviction." The play ran for 77 performances before closing May 23, 1976.

Read The Lady from the Sea Playbill here.

Her next Broadway role came in 1989's Orpheus Descending. This Tennessee Williams play concerns a woman unhappily running a dry-goods store while tending to her dying husband, and the reawakening she experiences when a mysterious drifter appears in town. The cast featured Redgrave as Lady, Kevin Anderson as Val, Anne Twomey as Carol and Tammy Grimes as Vee.

Frank Rich began his New York Times review by proclaiming the "fusion of Vanessa Redgrave and Tennessee Williams is an artistic explosion that was bound to happen." He praised the leading lady's performance, stating that the "flashes of gut-deep humor and pain sear the night as Miss Redgrave takes complete, perhaps eternal possession of the role of Lady Torrance." The production ran for 97 performances at the Neil Simon Theatre.

Read the Orpheus Descending Playbill here.

Following a 14-year absence from the Broadway stage, Redgrave starred in the 2003 revival of Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize winner Long Day's Journey Into Night. She played matriarch Mary Tyrone opposite Brian Dennehy as James Tyrone, Philip Seymour Hoffman as James Tyrone, Jr. and Robert Sean Leonard as Edmund Tyrone.

The revival opened May 6, 2003, at the Plymouth Theatre. Ben Brantley raved about the "fine, soul-piercing" production and praised Redgrave's performance. "As Mary Tyrone, the morphine-addicted mother in a family at war with itself," he wrote in his New York Times review, "this astonishing actress seems to inhabit every pore of the production, as if she were the fever in the blood of Eugene O'Neill's anguished masterpiece."

The production was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won three, including Best Revival of a Play and Best Actress in a Play for Redgrave.

Read the Long Day's Journey Into Night Playbill here.

After a Tony-nominated turn in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Redgrave appeared in the Broadway premiere of Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy. She played the title role alongside James Earl Jones as Hoke Coleburn.

The production opened Oct. 25, 2010, at the John Golden Theatre. Ben Brantley remarked that stage vets Redgrave and Jones gave "responsible, intelligent performances that are infused with two old pros' joy in the mastery of their craft."

The play enjoyed an extended Broadway engagement of 180 performances, and Redgrave received her third Tony Award nomination for her work. 

Read the Driving Miss Daisy Playbill here.