I mourn the loss of this gentle giant, whom I had the great fortune of working with one amazing summer.
A towering human, one of classiest stage performers of all time, and a pro’s pro who had unbelievable comedic timing in the oddest of places.
In June 2007, I was managing Brian in the [underrated] Broadway revival of Inherit the Wind. A commanding role in a gripping and colossal play. For this production, 60+ audience members sat on stage as the courtroom gallery, with on-stage lockers for their personal belongings serving as scenery masking.
This was also the summer that Ratatouille opened. One fateful afternoon, in the middle of one Brian Dennehy’s dramatic cross-examinations as the attorney Matthew Brady, a bizarre echo of Brian’s voice appeared on stage left. After a few moments, the sound morphed from a reverberation into a similar sounding voice talking over Brian’s. At first, all backstage personnel thought a mic or speaker wire was crossed resulting in the mixed up sound. All systems were checked, nothing out of the ordinary. The sound wouldn’t stop. In fact, the bizarre dual Brian Dennehy repetition just kept going. The noise was finally pinpointed and located inside one of the personal lockers. A terrific effort by the stage crew was completed to stealthily open the locker only to discover the culprit — an interactive talking plush of Django, Brian’s beloved character from Ratatouille, that an audience member brought with them for him to autograph.
Without skipping a beat, Brian continued in character as the intimidating Matthew Brady, bellowing the well-timed ad lib: “Don’t make me repeat myself!” to the joy and amusement of the off-stage crew who understood what was happening. The scene rolled on and Brian continued.
I vowed to work with Brian again, but never with an on-stage audience & never with commercially licensed talking products of my company members.