Nell Carter

Performer
Nell Carter

Also known as: Nell Hardy

Female

Born: September 13, 1948
Birmingham, Alabama

Died: January 23, 2003
Beverly Hills, California

Nell Carter, the zaftig actress-singer who won a Tony Award for singing Fats Waller tunes in Ain't Misbehavin', died Jan. 23, 2003, at the age of 54. She collapsed and died of natural causes in her Beverly Hills home, according to her publicist. Ms. Carter struggled with diabetes over the years and had a brain aneurysm in the 1990s, according to CNN.

Her most recent work on Broadway was playing the nasty Miss Hannigan in the 20th anniversary revival of Annie, in which she sang a new song. Her turn in the Tony Award-winning Ain't Misbehavin' in 1977-78 was so potent she landed a Hollywood job, starring as a sassy housekeeper in the popular NBC sitcom, "Gimme a Break!"

Ms. Carter, a Birminghamm, AL, native, was set to star in a 30th anniversary production of the musical, Raisin, inspired by the play A Raisin the Sun, for International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA. The run was slated for Feb. 7-March 9. She would have played the mother role.

Ms. Carter's other Broadway appearances included Dude, Soon, Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope and Jesus Christ Superstar. She appeared as a tribe member in the 1979 film, "Hair."

In 1978's Ain't Misbehavin', devised by Rcihard Maltby, Jr, using songs by (or made famous by) Thomas "Fats" Waller, Ms. Carter appeared as "Nell" (there were no character names) and brought the house down with her nasaly voice and strutting, bosomy presence. She sang "Cash for Your Trash," "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling," and (with Ken Page) "Honeysuckle Rose," among other tunes. Her rendition of "Mean to Me" was singled out as heartbreaking and a highlight of the revue.

Her co-stars in 1978 were Andre de Shields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page and Charlaine (now Charlayne) Woodard. The show was originally produced by Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club. The show took the Best Musical Tony Award that year. When the ensemble musical was revived on Broadway in 1988, Ms. Carter had risen above the title, as the show's star.

Ms. Carter began performing professionally when she was 11, on a weekly radio show in her hometown. She first came to New York as a nightclub singer and played such spots as Reno Sweeney's and The Village Gate.

Her 1988 Playbill bio for the Ain't Misbehavin' revival read: "This space is usually used to tell you what I've done. Instead, I will tell you what I'm going to do: the best that I possibly can. Enjoy. Love, Nell."

In 1997, Ms. Carter expressed her dismay that the producers of Annie used an old TV commercial featuring Marcia Lewis from the original run of the show to promote the revival.

"Maybe they don't want audiences to know Nell Carter is black," she told the New York Post at the time. The producers said it was too costly to shoot a new commercial, though the spot did mention that Carter was the new star. "It hurts a lot," Carter told the Post. "I've asked them nicely to stop it — it's insulting to me as a black woman."

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - The 52nd Annual Tony Awards - 1998 The 52nd Annual Tony Awards - 1998
Jun. 7, 1998 - Jun. 7, 1998
Participating Artist Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Annie Annie
Mar. 26, 1997 - Oct. 19, 1997
Miss Hannigan Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - The 48th Annual Tony Awards - 1994 The 48th Annual Tony Awards - 1994
Jun. 12, 1994 - Jun. 12, 1994
Participating Artist Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Ain't Misbehavin' Ain't Misbehavin'
Aug. 15, 1988 - Jan. 15, 1989
Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - The 40th Annual Tony Awards - 1986 The 40th Annual Tony Awards - 1986
Jun. 1, 1986 - Jun. 1, 1986
Participating Artist Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The 35th Annual Tony Awards - 1981 The 35th Annual Tony Awards - 1981
Jun. 7, 1981 - Jun. 7, 1981
Participating Artist Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Ain't Misbehavin' Ain't Misbehavin'
May 9, 1978 - Feb. 21, 1982
Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Dude Dude
Oct. 9, 1972 - Oct. 21, 1972
Suzie Moon Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Soon Soon
Jan. 12, 1971 - Jan. 13, 1971
Sharon Performer
(Original)
 
 

Inside the Playbill (3)

See more Who's Who

Awards


Drama Desk Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1978 Outstanding Actress in a Musical Ain't Misbehavin' Winner

Theatre World

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1978 Theatre World Award Ain't Misbehavin' Winner

Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1978 Featured Actress in a Musical Ain't Misbehavin' Winner
 
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