Some people make a lasting impression with a smile, a handshake, a way with a joke or a compliment, or perhaps with a beautiful singing voice and a knack for delivering a line on stage in an unexpected way. For Stephen Walsh, known to many Petalumans for his frequent appearances on stage at Cinnabar Theater, Stephen was known for all of that.
Sadly, Walsh, 61, passed away suddenly last Saturday morning, following a diagnosis, just last week, of accute Myeloid leukemia. The suddenness of his passing has left the North Bay theater community shaken and grieving, most potently among those who worked with him at Cinnabar and at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, where he served as cantor.
Walsh most recently appeared at Cinnabar in last fall’s “Man of La Mancha,” playing the role of The Governor. Of that appearance, critics and co-players alike noted Walsh’s generosity of spirit, proving as skillful at helping to make his fellow performers look good in the spotlight as he was unforgettable when taking the spotlight himself, in lead roles such as Tony in “The Most Happy Fella” (2016), Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” (2014), or Georges in “La Cage aux Folles.”
In my own Sept. 2016 review of Walsh’s performance in “The Most Happy Fella,” I wrote, “There are many reasons to see this show, but in the end, it all comes down to Walsh, giving one of the best performances of his career.”
He was nominated that year for a Best Principal Actor award by the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle.
A funeral mass for Walsh was held on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Cinnabar plans to dedicate this summer’s production of “The Fantasticks” to Walsh.
“Stephen was pure light and love and kindness,” recalls Sheri Lee Miller, who directed him in “La Cage aux Folles.” Echoing those who’ve praised his generosity on and off stage, Miller adds, “He was a remarkable talent, yet completely ego-free. I know everyone has a dark side, but I never saw his. We have lost a truly good man.”
— By DAVID TEMPLETON