Kathleen Turner // Photo: Butcher Photography

Kathleen Turner Shines at Arena Stage Gala

When Kathleen Turner first came to New York as a wannabe actress, someone asked her if she could sing, but knowing there were little parts for a woman baritone, she replied “no.”

While the husky-voiced actress went on to an incredible, award-winning movie career, which included starring roles in such hits as Body HeatRomancing the Stone and Peggy Sue Got Married, (not to mention voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit), plus a theatre career that included Tony noms for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Turner secretly had a strong desire to sing.

So, while having lunch one day with Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, the question came out again about her singing – and this time Turner replied with affirmation. The response led to Smith casting her as the titular character in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2014, a show Turner describes “a play with singing,” rather than a musical.

This was just one of the stories Turner offered at the 2019 Arena Stage Gala, where she performed excerpts from her cabaret, Finding My Voice.

Turner is no stranger to the Arena Stage. In addition to her “singing debut,” she’s also graced the SW, DC theatre in Red Hot Patriot, The Year of Magical Thinking and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Backed by her music director Mark James on piano, Sean Harkness on guitar and Ritt Henn on bass, Turner dazzled on tunes such as “I Can’t Get You Out of My Heart,” “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home” and “Sweet Kentucky Ham.”

Before each song, she regaled the patrons with tales of her life, explaining how her dad was a foreign service officer who served as a diplomat for the State Department, and how her travels and life as a youngster led to her prolific career. She was funny and captivating throughout, proving every bit the movie star she still is.

At the Gala, Arena Stage honored Nina Totenberg, NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent, with this year’s Beth Newburger Schwartz Award in recognition of her ground-breaking reporting in the broadcast world and her continual support of the arts.

In accepting her award, Totenberg noted she was a long-time Arena Stage patron and has seen many productions over the years with her husband and friends, and looks forward to many more outstanding performances to come.

Lindsey Brittain Collins was also honored on the night, winning the Emerging Leader Award for her excellence as a young artist and her outstanding work in the community. An oil acrylic painter, Collins uses collage to express social issues of race, religion, sexuality and gender.

The Gala, which supports Arena Stage’s award-winning artistic productions and community engagement programs, was an enjoyable evening allowing theater lovers to get together, support the arts and experience Turner in an enjoyable, special performance.

For more information about this year’s Arena Stage Gala, visit www.arenastage.org.