Sep 11

Spotlight On: Donna Murphy

by Nicole M. Wright

If you were lucky this summer, you were able to snag a ticket to one of the hottest productions in town, Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theatre. This production by the Public Theater‘s Shakespeare in the Park series showcased some big stars, including original cast member Chip Zien as the Mysterious Man, movie star Amy Adams, and Denis O’Hare. While I enjoyed all of their performances, the one that really took my breath away was Donna Murphy’s portrayal of the Witch. It is rare that I use the word “perfect” to describe a performance, but her captivation, dedication, and pure talent made another adequate word hard to come by.

Previous to this production, I had seen Ms. Murphy in Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The People in the Picture, in which she was nominated for her fifth Tony Award (fun fact: all of her Tony nominations have been for the same category, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical). She made her Broadway debut in her early twenties as an understudy in They’re Playing Our Song, the first of her eight Broadway credits. Her first Tony nomination was also her first Tony win, originating the role of Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s Passion. She won for her second nomination as well, as schoolteacher Anna in the 1996 revival of The King and I. Here is a video of the show’s performance of “Shall We Dance?” at that year’s Tony Awards. Her two other Tony-nominated performances were for Wonderful Town and Lovemusik.

One of the fantastic things about Donna Murphy is that despite her theatrical powerhouse performances, she is not limited to the stage. She has made many television appearances and even won a Daytime Emmy Award fifteen years ago! A screen credit of her’s that got mentioned several times during her recent stage engagement was the role of Mother Gothel in Tangled. In this animated feature, Ms. Murphy is the voice of the “mother” figure to Rapunzel. In Into the Woods, Ms. Murphy portrayed the “mother” figure to Rapunzel. (Talk about typecasting.) Skip to 7:30 in this video to watch Donna Murphy record for the film.

Although she doesn’t have too many upcoming projects on the immediate horizon, Ms. Murphy makes an appearance in the pilot episode of the new CBS series Made in Jersey in which she portrays the supportive mother of leading character Martina (played by Janet Montgomery). You can catch the episode on September 28th at 9PM.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Ms. Murphy perform three times in the past two years. No matter the role, and whether originating a role or reviving one, she never fails to make her mark on a production. I would buy tickets to a show solely to experience her talent. Additionally, the several stage door experiences I’ve had with her have been nothing short of wonderful. I will leave you with a photo of one of my experiences meeting her this summer:

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