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Barbara Bryne, the British actress who portrayed mothers in the original Broadway productions of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods, has died. She was 94.
Bryne’s death Tuesday was announced by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The first of her more than 60 plays there was Arsenic and Old Lace in 1970, and she performed in 20-plus productions from 1998-2013, including a memorable turn in 1999 as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.
“Barbara was a cherished member of the Guthrie family,” theater reps said in a statement, “and we’re grateful she shared her artistry with us for so many seasons. Her legacy will live on at the Guthrie and in our hearts forever.”
The delightful Bryne was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 1982 for her off-off-Broadway performance as Kath in a revival of the Joe Orton-written Entertaining Mr. Sloane. Three years later, she starred with Rosemary Harris in a Broadway revival of Noël Coward’s family comedy Hay Fever.
She played George’s mom alongside Mandy Patinkin in Sunday in the Park With George in 1984-85 — they sang the wistful “Beautiful” together — and was Jack’s mom opposite Ben Wright and Bernadette Peters in Into the Woods, which premiered in 1987.
And at the Kennedy Center in 2002, she was another Sondheim matriarch, Madame Armfeldt, in A Little Night Music.
Born in London on April 1, 1929, Bryne trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and, starting in 1966, took on more than 30 roles at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada.
For television, Bryne portrayed the nosy neighbor Mrs. Gaffey on the 1981-83 NBC sitcom Love, Sidney, starring Tony Randall, and provided the voice of the gnome Urgl on the 1995-96 HBO animated series The Neverending Story.
Her film résumé included roles in Milos Forman‘s Amadeus — as Mozart’s mother-in-law — and James Ivory’s The Bostonians, both released in 1984.
Survivors include her daughter, Susan. Her husband of 65 years, Denny Spence, died in January 2018 at age 88.
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