Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Dear Sweet Cynthia

I regret that I must report today the loss of one of the great stars of New Orleans, nay, of America, Cynthia Owen. Cynthia died late Sunday night in Las Vegas on the eve of her 45th birthday. Her death remains unclassified, according to a report in today's edition of the Times-Picayune. Click here.
As a performer, Cynthia was without peers on the local stages. She possessed an extraordinary voice and a stage presence that made her a local luminary ever since she was a teenager in her hometown here in New Orleans. Cynthia, the daughter of local performer and singer Lyla Hay Owen, also achieved some fame as a featured performer aboard the American Queen and Robert E. Lee riverboats as well as in St. Louis at the Theatre Factory there. Cynthia also performed in a national touring company of "Nine," based on Fellini's film "8 and 1/2." Above everything else, she was a dear friend and I am blessed to have shared my life with her. A beautiful lady with an indomitable spirit, Cynthia charmed her way into the hearts of local theater goers for most of the decades of her life. She was a belter, but she could finesse the most difficult of intimate songs too. It is painful for me to think that she is gone. I remember her as a teenager coming into my family's record store and I was taken with her charm and irrepressible spirit. I caught most of her stage work through the years and counted her as among my closest of friends in the years leading up to Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, since the passage of the storm and my stay in Cleveland, I had not seen her. In the interim I had heard she was in St. Louis, had married and was now living in New York commuting between the East Coast and the West Coast. Yet, I was gladdened to hear that she would be performing as part of the cast of Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre's "Pal Joey." Unfortunately, she was ill just prior to the show's run (an attack of sciataca I was told) and her part and her song, "Zip," were hastily cut from the production. I will forever mourn the fact that I was not able to see her perform in that show. I feel certain that I would have seen her after the show and caught up with what had been going on in her life. Cynthia was a dynamo whether it was part of an ensemble or doing a cabaret show that spotlighted her abilities as a solo performer. I am overwrought with the thought that I will never see her smile or listen to her laugh again. She was a joy to me and the thought that she has passed so suddenly brings wave upon wave of inconsolable sorrow. I will cherish the great times we shared and remember her as a beautiful and charming lady. We have lost one of our truly great ones. God bless you, my dear sweet Cynthia.

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