Elaine Stritch, a Broadway star of incomparable depth and versatility, died yesterday in her Birmingham, Michigan home at the age of eighty-nine.
She debuted on Broadway in 1946 with Loco, a play which closed after thirty-seven performances, but marking the beginning of a career which was to last for sixty seven years. Stritch received five Tony nominations – the first in 1956 for Bus Stop. In 2002, her solo show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, won her the Tony for Best Theatrical Event Tony Award and an Emmy when it was produced by HBO.
Among her many acclaimed stage performances were Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Private Lives, Showboat, Sail Away, A Delicate Balance, and Company. Noel Coward wrote Sail Away for her, and she became a principal interpreter of the works of Sondheim; “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” from Company became her signature song.
She retired from Broadway after her 2010 appearance in Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and from performing generally last year, with a farewell solo show, Elaine Stritch at the Carlyle: Movin’ Over and Out. Writing of her performance at the Carlyle in 2011, Stephen Holden of the NY Times described her: “the blazingly here-and-now Ms. Stritch gives the word “trouper,” a term of respect for stars who have trod the boards for decades, an almost mythological dimension.”
She took time from her Broadway and London appearances for films, among them “September, “Providence,” “Autumn in New York,” “Monster-in-Law” and “Romance and Cigarettes” and television: her roles in “Law and Order” and “3o Rock” each won her an Emmy.
“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me”, the documentary completed after her retirement, is a searingly candid look at her complicated off stage life.
“Stritch is more a force of nature than an elderly star, yet the documentary is dead honest depicting her complications from diabetes and memory loss, as well as other indecencies of old age,” Jayne Blanchard observed in this review. Stritch shows viewers a pre-show telegram from Stephen Sondheim for A Little Night Music, “I won’t be there so feel free to make up my lyrics Love, Steve.”
Julie Keyes, a friend of Stritch’s, said that the Broadway star would be buried next to her late husband, the actor and writer John Bay, in Chicago next week, according to CNN.