|Born||Ronald E. Richardson
January 27, 1952
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
|Died||April 5, 1995
Bronxville, New York, USA
Ronald E. Richardson (January 27, 1952 – April 5, 1995) was an American actor and operatic baritone. Richardson began his career in the mid-1970s appearing in regional theater and opera productions. He appeared in several Broadway musicals from 1978-1993, arguably best known for his Tony Award and Drama Desk Award-winning performance of Jim in the 1985 Broadway musical Big River.
Richardson was born to William F. and Amanda Richardson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father worked in the meat-packing industry and his mother operated a beauty parlor in their home for more than 30 years. He had one sister, Vickilyn Reynolds, and two brothers, the Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson and Raymond Lloyd Richardson. Richardson was highly influenced by the music at his family's church where he started singing at age 4. In high school he began studying singing seriously and performed in choirs and dinner theater musicals. He also studied music composition. After high school, Richardson entered the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied voice and played roles in classic musicals such as Show Boat, Camelot, and Man of La Mancha.
In 1977, Richardson played "Sportin' Life" in the Houston Grand Opera production of Porgy and Bess. Richardson's first role on Broadway was as the "Chief of Police" in the 1978 musical Timbuktu! Over the next several years, Richardson appeared in several regional theatre and opera productions and was in the 1983 National tour of Dreamgirls. But it wasn't until his award-winning performance as "Jim" in the 1985 Broadway musical Big River, that Richardson became widely known. Richardson's approach to the role of "Jim", the runaway slave, was heroic:
"When I play Jim," he told an interviewer from The New York Times, "I am playing my grandfather, and my mother swears I look like him as a young man. He was born a free man, but his father and mother were slaves. He was very strong, and very majestic."
After Big River closed in 1987, Richardson toured London, Japan, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, in both concerts and staged productions. He also appeared at The American Place Theater in Leslie Lee's Ground People and starred as "Husky Miller" in the Old Vic revival of Carmen Jones.
Richardson also appeared in two more Broadway productions during the early 1990s; Oh, Kay! and The Boys Choir of Harlem and Friends.
- "Ron Richardson Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
- Mel Gusson (6 April 1995). "Ron Richardson Is Dead at 43; Won a Tony in 'Big River' Role". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-06.