‘You couldn’t take your eyes off him’

Cana­dian theatre star Richard McMil­lan dead at age 65

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LAU­REN LA ROSE

TORONTO — Cel­e­brated Cana­dian theatre ac­tor Richard McMil­lan has died at the age of 65.

McMil­lan died on Sun­day in Toronto af­ter a long strug­gle with thy­roid can­cer.

Born on March 20, 1951, the ac­tor from the town of Beaver­ton, Ont., had a lengthy stage ca­reer on both sides of the At­lantic and was able to put his stamp on iconic char­ac­ters.

McMil­lan was the first ac­tor to por­tray the vil­lain­ous Scar in the Cana­dian pro­duc­tion of Dis­ney’s “The Lion King” staged at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

He also cre­ated the role of the wiz­ard Saru­man in the world pre­mière of the stage adap­ta­tion of “The Lord of the Rings,” and starred as Un­cle Arthur in the Cana­dian pre­mière of “War Horse.” Both were also staged at the Princess of Wales.

McMil­lan also ap­peared as Fa­ther O’Don­nell in An­drew Lloyd Web­ber’s “The Boys in the Pho­to­graph” at Toronto’s Royal Alexan­dra Theatre.

The ac­tor was per­haps best known for his work in Brian Mac­don­ald’s pro­duc­tions of Gil­bert and Sul­li­van light op­eras at the Strat­ford Festival, which were filmed for the CBC.

His por­trayal of Poo Bah in “The Mikado” took the ac­tor to Broad­way as well as the Old Vic Theatre in Lon­don.

McMil­lan spent 11 sea­sons at Strat­ford, which in­cluded roles in “King Lear,” “The Govern­ment In­spec­tor,” “Twelfth Night,” “Julius Cae­sar” and “As You Like It.”

McMil­lan also per­formed at the Shaw Festival, and in re­cent years ap­peared in pro­duc­tions at Toronto’s Tar­ragon Theatre, in­clud­ing “An En­emy of the Peo­ple” and “Moliere.”

“In the roles he took on, he was noted for pre­sent­ing fiercely pas­sion­ate char­ac­ters that he il­lu­mi­nated with com­pas­sion and, con­versely, he was a master of the clown — roles that were at once hu­mor­ous and sad,” Tar­ragon’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Richard Rose said in a state­ment on Tues­day.

“As an ac­tor, he un­der­stood the ab­surd and the con­tra­dic­tory. I don’t think I have ever seen any­one quite that sad on the stage, and for that the au­di­ences just loved him. You couldn’t take your eyes off him.”

McMil­lan re­ceived four Dora Ma­vor Moore Awards, a Gemini, and a Toronto Theatre Crit­ics Award over the course of his il­lus­tri­ous act­ing ca­reer.

He also had his share of TV and film roles in­clud­ing parts in “Shadow Builder,” “A Map of the World,” “The Day Af­ter To­mor­row” and “The Fountain.”

McMil­lan is sur­vived by his wife of 25 years, Anne Louise Ban­non, and his daugh­ter Mag­gie McDaugh­ter. Fu­neral ser­vices for McMil­lan will be held on Thurs­day at the Cor­pus Christi Catholic Church in Toronto. A me­mo­rial is slated to take place at the Tar­ragon Theatre on May 15.

All four Mirvish the­atres in Toronto will dim their lights at cur­tain time on Wed­nes­day in a dual trib­ute to McMil­lan and “Vinyl Cafe” host, broad­caster and au­thor Stu­art McLean, who died Feb. 15.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Richard McMil­lan starred in Woman In White in 2008 at Theatre Aquarius.

CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN, FILE PHOTO

Rick Roberts as Racine and Richard McMil­lan as Moliere, in a Tar­ragon Theatre pro­duc­tion of "Moliere."

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