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Jan Maxwell, a Five-Time Tony Award Nominee, Dies at 61
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Jan Maxwell, a five-time Tony-nominated actor whose performances spanned stage and screen, comedy and drama, died February 11 following a longtime battle with cancer. Her death was confirmed to Playbill by her son, William Maxwell-Lunney. She was 61.Jan Maxwell in Follies Joan Marcus
Ms. Maxwell made her Broadway debut as a replacement swing in 1989’s City of Angels, understudying and eventually assuming the dual roles of Alaura and Carla. She would go on to celebrate a 25-year career on the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional stage.
Her myriad accolades include five Tony nominations, with two in the same season: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2005), Coram Boy (2007), Lend Me a Tenor (2010), The Royal Family (2010), and Follies (2012). With the most recent, Ms. Maxwell became the fourth performer in Tony Awards history to be nominated in all four possible acting categories. She won Drama Desks for both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Royal Family.
Two days after her Follies Tony nomination was announced, she reprised her performance as Phyllis Rogers Stone in Los Angeles when the production played Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre.
Born November 20, 1956, in North Dakota to Ralph and Elizabeth Maxwell (a former district judge and lawyer, respectively), Ms. Maxwell credited a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire she attended at Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater when she was 16 as a career-defining experience.
While studying at Moorhead State University, she would perform in summer stock with the school’s Straw Hat Players. Her passion for performing drew her to frequent trips to New York under various pretenses. “One was pretending I was religious and joining the United Campus Ministry,” she told Playbill in a 2008 interview. “They were coming here for $50. I think I left them in a church in Brooklyn.” Just shy of graduating, Ms. Maxwell moved to New York full-time to pursue acting.
Her career on Broadway took off in her early 40s, when she starred as Kristine in the 1997 revival of A Doll’s House opposite Janet McTeer and Owen Teale. The 1998 revival of The Sound of Music (in which she played the baroness Elsa Schraeder), The Dinner Party, and Sixteen Wounded followed before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Ms. Maxwell’s additional credits include To Be Or Not to Be on Broadway, regional productions of The Seagull and The King and I, and Off-Broadway’s House and Garden, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Victory: Choices in Reaction, Wings, The City of Conversation, and, in 2015, Scenes From an Execution. During the last, a Potomac Theatre Project production, she announced that she intended to retire from theatre.
“The kinds of roles I was being offered were just…I’d been the and done that, and I just didn’t want to do that anymore,” Ms. Maxwell told Time Out New York. “I think theater saves people’s lives and it’s wonderful. This is just a personal choice for me.”
She went on to appear on the small screen in the CBS comedy BrainDead, as well as episodes of Gotham and Madam Secretary. Her additional film and TV credits include I Am Michael, Billy & Billie, The Divide, and Law & Order, in which she played four different characters over nine years ("If you see me, you can turn it off... I did it," she once told Playbill).
Ms. Maxwell is survived by her husband, actor Robert Emmet Lunney, and their aforementioned son William.
- Obituaries Jan Maxwell, a Five-Time Tony Award Nominee, Dies at 61 By Ryan McPhee | 02/11/2018 Maxwell was the beloved star of such Broadway productions as 2011’s Follies, The Royal Family, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- Obituaries Steppenwolf Actor John Mahoney, a Tony Winner Known on Screen for Frasier, Dies at 77 By Ryan McPhee | 02/05/2018 Mr. Mahoney was an member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company for nearly 40 years.
- Obituaries Tony Award Nominee Louis Zorich Dies at 93 By Ryan McPhee | 02/01/2018 The stage and screen performer was known to most for his seven-year stint as Burt Buchman on Mad About You.
- Obituaries Stage and Screen Star Connie Sawyer, Hollywood’s Oldest Working Actor, Dies at 105 By Ryan McPhee | 02/01/2018 Ms. Sawyer went from Broadway to film with A Hole in the Head.
- Obituaries Broadway Historian and Documentary Film Maker Rick McKay Dies at 57 By Logan Culwell-Block | 01/30/2018 His film Broadway: The Golden Age won festival awards nationwide in 2003.
- Obituaries Oscar-Nominated Composer John Morris Dies at 91 By Olivia Clement | 01/29/2018 A frequent collaborator of Mel Brooks’, the composer worked on a number of films and musicals throughout his long career.
- Obituaries Emmy-Winning Stage and Screen Star Olivia Cole Dies at 75 By Andrew Gans | 01/25/2018 In addition to numerous Broadway credits, Cole won an Emmy Award for her work in the miniseries Roots.
- Obituaries Bradford Dillman, Star of Broadway’s Original Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Dies at 87 By Ryan McPhee | 01/19/2018 Dillman won a Golden Globe as “Most Promising Newcomer” in 1959.
- Obituaries John Barton, Co-Founder of Royal Shakespeare Company, Dies at 89 By Olivia Clement | 01/18/2018 The renowned British director passed away in London January 18.
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