Broadway's Leading Ladies: Donna Murphy

Kelly Ostazeski

Career highlights:

Donna Murphy was born on March 7, 1959 in Queens and was raised in New York and Massachusetts. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied with Stella Adler and at the Lee Strasburg Institute before dropping out after her sophomore year to audition.

 

She made her Broadway debut in They’re Playing Our Song as an understudy, then appeared off-Broadway in Francis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Birds of Paradise, and Privates on Parade. Her breakout roles were in the off-Broadway musicals Song of Singapore and Hello Again. She appears on the Hello Again cast recording.

 

In 1994 she was honored with the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her role as Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s Passion. She became lifelong friends with her co-star, Marin Mazzie. Murphy won her second Tony Award in 1996 for her role of Anna Leonowens in a revival of The King and I, opposite Lou Diamond Philips.

 

Murphy took a break from the Broadway stage and switched over to film and television, and appeared in Star Trek Insurrection as Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)’s love interest Anij, in The Nanny Diaries as Scarlett Johanssen’s mother, Spider Man 2 as Rosalie Octavius, and the iconic dance movie Center Stage as ballet teacher Juliette Simone.

 

She returned to the Broadway stage in 2003, where she appeared as Ruth Sherwood in the revival of Wonderful Town. This performance earned her a third Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk award. In 2007 she starred as Lotte Lenya opposite Michael Cerveris’s Kurt Weill, and received another Tony Nomination. She won the Drama Desk Award for playing Lenya, tying with Audra McDonald. She also appeared in the Encores! Production of Follies as Phyllis Rogers Stone. She performed Phyllis’s iconic song “Could I Leave You” at Stephen Sondheim’s birthday concert as well.

 

In 2011, Murphy appeared in The People in the Picture on Broadway, earning another Tony nomination. Also that year, she voiced the new Disney villain Mother Gothel in Tangled.  She has returned to voice Mother Gothel for the Tangled television series and for the video game Kingdom Hearts 3. The next year she appeared on stage in Central Park as the Witch in Into the Woods.

 

Murphy was cast in the PBS series Mercy Street, set during the Civil War. The show lasted for two seasons, ending in 2017.

 

In 2017 she returned to Broadway as Bette Midler’s alternate in the title role of Hello, Dolly! She played the role on Tuesday evenings and during Bette’s scheduled vacations. She left the production in January of 2018, and returned later as Bette’s alternate on Sunday matinees (and one Monday evening) for six more performances in the summer of 2018, playing her final show on August 20, 2018.

 

On October 22, 2018, the Abingdon Theatre Company honored Murphy and her career with a special gala and performance of the musical Closer Than Ever. She is set to appear in a new movie called Anastasia, about the Russian Grand Duchess, but unrelated to the Broadway musical or animated film. She reprised her role of Mother Gothel in the Disney video game Kingdom Hearts III.

 

Fun facts:

•         Murphy is the eldest of seven children

•         She was married to actor Shawn Elliott until his death in 2016. The two adopted a daughter from Guatemala. She is also the stepmother to Elliot’s two daughters.

•         Her television appearances include The Blacklist, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Murder One, What About Joan? (series regular), Ugly Betty, The Day Lincoln Was Shot (television movie), Royal Pains, and many more.

•         She won a Daytime Emmy Award for the television movie Someone Had to Be Benny, part of the series Life Stories: Families in Crisis.

•         Her other films include The Bourne Legacy, Dark Horse, No Pay Nudity, Higher Ground, World Trade Center, The Fountain, and The Astronaut’s Wife

 

Social media:

Facebook Page (Unverified): Donna Murphy (OfficialDonnaMurphyPage)

Twitter: @DMurphyOfficial
Instagram: @officialdonnamurphy

 

Songs to listen to:

“I Read” – Passion: Original Broadway Cast Recording
“Hello, Young Lovers” – The King and I: 1996 Broadway Revival Cast

“One Hundred Easy Ways” – Wonderful Town: 2003 Broadway Revival Cast

“Mother Knows Best” – Tangled

“Selective Memory” – The People in the Picture: Original Broadway Cast Recording