Tony Nominee Charles Kimbrough Passes Away at 86 | Playbill

Obituaries Tony Nominee Charles Kimbrough Passes Away at 86

Mr. Kimbrough originated the role of Harry in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company.

Tony nominee Charles Kimbrough, known for starring in TV's Murphy Brown and his appearances in the original Broadway productions of Stephen Sondheim's Company and Sunday in the Park with George, passed away January 11. He was 86.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mr. Kimbrough first lept to theatrical attention as a member of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre alongside his first wife Mary Jane Wilson; together, the pair appeared in celebrated productions of Georges Feydeau's Cat Among the Pigeons and Jules Feiffer's The White House Murder Case. A gentle man by nature, he quickly grew a reputation as a skilled actor of stately, often stuffy men who served as the straight foil in comedic settings.

Mr. Kimbrough made his Broadway debut in 1969 in John Guare's dual one act's Cop-Out and Home Fires. The very next year, he originated the role of recovering alcoholic Harry in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company, receiving a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor. In the production, he met the woman who would later become his second wife, Beth Howland, who originated the role of neurotic bride Amy.

Mr. Kimbrough quickly became a Broadway favorite following Company, appearing in the 1974 production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide, the plays Love for Love, The Rules of the Game, Same Time, Next Year, Secret Service, Boy Meets Girl, The Water Engine/Mr. Happiness, Hay Fever, Accent on Youth, and The Merchant of Venice. He originated the role of Charlie in the musical One Night Stand, which never reached opening night, before returning to the Sondheim fold as a member of the original Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George, originating the dual role of George's artistic peers Jules and Bob Greenberg. Mr. Kimbrough received a Drama Desk nomination for his performance in Sunday.

On screen, Mr. Kimbrough was Chef Boyardee in a series of commercials for the canned spaghetti and meatball product, the voice of mature gargoyle Victor in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and respected news anchor Jim Dial on sitcom Murphy Brown. Murphy Brown, which ran for 247 episodes over a 10-season span, received 17 Emmy awards, and Mr. Kimbrough was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1990. When Murphy Brown was revived in 2018, Mr. Kimbrough returned for a multi-episode arc.

In 2012, Mr. Kimbrough made his final Broadway appearance in the Pulitzer-winning play Harvey, opposite Jim Parsons. 

Ms. Howland passed away in 2015. Mr. Kimbrough is survived by his son from his first marriage, John Kimbrough, his sister Linda, and his stepdaughter, Holly Howland.

Look Back at the Original Production of Company on Broadway

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