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Broadway star Brent Carver who won a Tony in Kiss Of The Spider Woman dies at 68

Broadway star Brent Carver died Tuesday at the age of 68 in his hometown of Cranbrook, British Columbia.

He won a Tony for his touching portrayal of a jailed gay window-dresser in the 1993 Kander and Ebb musical Kiss Of The Spider Woman.

His family have released a statement announcing his death but did not publicize the cause, according to Deadline.

‘Our family is sharing news of Brent Carver’s passing on Aug 4 at home in Cranbrook, BC, his birthplace and favourite place on Earth,’ said the statement.

‘Blessed with many talents and a natural love of theatre, Brent was always known as a first-class performer, unique in the presentation of his craft, delighting audiences through film, TV, stage and concert performances.’ 

Alongside his career in musicals he was a prolific interpreter of Shakespeare, from playing in The Tempest with Anthony Hopkins in 1979 in Los Angeles, to playing Friar Laurence in Romeo And Juliet on Broadway in 2013 alongside Orlando Bloom. 

His screen career ranged from the 1979 TV movie Crossbar with Kim Cattrall to the 2002 historical drama Ararat starring Christopher Plummer and Charles Aznavour.

Brent worked with Christopher Plummer again in a 2004 Broadway production of King Lear, in which the Sound Of Music star played the title character. 

He also spent nine seasons playing the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, including in the lead role Tevye in a 2000 production of Fiddler On The Roof.

Born to a waitress and a logging truck driver, Brent has referred to Cranbrook as ‘a tough place to make a living but a great place to live.’

His mother was ‘fine’ and ‘fantastic’ and his father was ‘A beautiful man, vibrant, wonderful sense of humor,’ Brent told Playbill.

Brent grew up with six siblings who kept away from the entertainment industry as ‘They’re all sane,’ he drily told the Los Angeles Times.

As a child he performed in church choirs and school plays and then in the 1970s he made a profession of touring in Canada doing musical revues.

He got his big break in Toronto in the run of the 1977 play One-Night Stand, during which he had a young Martin Short and his wife for roommates.

Eventually Brent originated the role of Molina in Kiss Of The Spider Woman, which was based on a 1970s Manuel Puig novel of the same name.

Playing in Purchase, London and Toronto as well as on Broadway, Brent drew widespread acclaim for his charismatic and sensitive treatment of the role.

Molina is a gay window dresser who is jailed in a fictional Latin American dictatorship and falls in love with his homophobic cellmate.

He manages to cope with prison by developing an active fantasy life involving his favorite movie star Aurora, played by Broadway icon Chita Rivera. 

‘My heart is broken at the loss of my great friend and amazing artist #BrentCarver. I shall miss him more than I can say,’ tweeted Chita on hearing news of his death.

The book of Kiss Of The Spider Woman was written by Terrence McNally, who died this March of coronavirus complications at the age of 81.

A half-decade after Kiss Of The Spider Woman – for which he beat his old roommate Martin Short at the Tonys – Brent earned another nod in the musical Parade.

The show reunited him with Kiss Of The Spider Woman director Hal Prince and starred Brent as Leo Frank, who was lynched in 1915.

One of his splashier gigs was as Gandalf the Toronto production of the The Lord Of The Rings musical, which was scored in part by Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman.

Like most of the cast, Brent left the show before it moved to London where it became the biggest flop in the history of the West End. 

His portrayal of Edgar in King Lear opposite Christopher Plummer was influenced by watching his own father succumb to Alzheimer’s.

‘He was almost 79 and had had a struggle the last couple of years. This play speaks so much to that whole idea, in terms of aging, in terms of decision making, in terms of who’s the caregiver and who’s not the caregiver,’ Brent explained.

His family were supportive of his career and after they saw him in Kiss Of The Spider Woman he said: ‘They were very moved by the show.’

Brent shared: ‘They’re quite understanding. Even when they saw me in a pretty wild production of Tartuffe. It was set in the West and in one scene, I had to wear a pair of backless leather chaps with nothing on underneath. After that, they came backstage and said: “Yes, dear, that was fun.”‘

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