The first blog I get to write on behalf of the Firehouse and I already have to say goodbye to someone very important to the Richmond Theatre Community. Recently we lost well-known actor and raconteur Andy Boothby after he finished performing as Santa Claus at the Jefferson Hotel tree lighting ceremony.
Through the years, Andy graced all of the major theatre companies’ stages, ours included, and he did so with grace, dignity, and a devilish sense of humor. As a critic, I was always delighted to find his name in the cast list. He had a way of disappearing into a character and never failed to succeed in bringing it to life.
He is also one of those rare people that seem to be liked by everyone else. Andy had a way of not only making you feel as if you were long time chums, but that somehow you and he shared a conspiratorial inside joke that would make you both smile.
It’s a rare talent.
On Sunday, December 2, hundreds of Andy’s best friends made their way to Virginia Rep for a service of remembrance. Due to family obligations, I was unable to attend, but I was there in spirit and heard that many people were there who sang, joked, cried, and remembered our dear friend.
Everyone has an Andy Boothby story. Here’s mine. The first time I reviewed a production in which Andy was a member of the cast was Doug Jones’ atmospheric adaptation of Henry James’ TURN OF THE SCREW. I had only been an “official” critic for a short while and only a handful of people knew who I was.
I was sitting in the back row of Hanover Tavern watching the show when I became aware of a presence standing to one side. It was Andy about to make his first entrance as a shadowy figure. He was dressed all in black and had this strange expression on his face.
Later, when I was writing my review, I remarked that the character “looked like Edward Scissorhands in drag.” Being worried about leaving the sentence in for fear of offending anyone, I cut it just before broadcast. It was years before I told Andy that I had written that line and far from being upset about the comment, he was disappointed that I cut it. He told me he would have used it as his tag line for future shows and anytime we saw each other after that, he would wave his fingers in a cutting fashion to remind us of that private joke.
Andy Boothby is, was, and always shall be known for his love of the art and craft of acting. He will also be known as a wickedly funny and warm human being and when any actors of Richmond will gather backstage or in an audience, they will tell stories of something Andy said or did, and he will be remembered with a big smile.