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Stratford and Toronto Theatre Star Lindsay Thomas Passes Away at 31

Lindsay Thomas, star of Stratford and Toronto theatre productions, passed away on Wednesday February 3rd after a long and valiant struggle with lung cancer. She was 31 years old.

Most recently seen as "Francine" in the Original Canadian Cast of Jersey Boys in Toronto, Lindsay was a veteran stage actress, perhaps most known for her extensive work with the Stratford Festival. When news of her passing spread through the Ontario theatre community, there was an immediate and heartfelt outpouring of support. One only need glance at social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to see what an impression this young star left in the hearts of so many.

Lindsay was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, and the theatre community immediately leant their support. Caissie Levy (currently starring in Broadway's HAIR) was a close personal friend of Lindsay's, and helped organize one of the many benefits that took place to assist Lindsay and her family in her battle with the disease.

The first benefit took place on September 14th, 2009 at Joe's Pub in NYC, where the entire cast of HAIR performed "With A Little Help From My Friends" in order to raise money for medical care and holistic therapies. Joining the cast were some of Lindsay's closest friends, including Nikki M. James, David Reiser, Ryan Silverman, Karen Burthwright, Leslie McDonel, MiLes Johnson and Jamie McKnight. In a statement issued around the same time, Caissie Levy spoke about her friend:

"Lindsay is one of my best friends, and a truly incredible woman. She has the biggest heart, and is always the first person to help out a friend in his or her time of need. When I approached our Tribe of actors, musicians, and producers, and told them Lindsay's story, everyone jumped at the opportunity to come to her aid. We hope people within the New York community will join us to benefit Lindsay's cause, and to celebrate the healing power of music and friendship."

Shortly thereafter, theatre veterans in Las Vegas held a benefit for Lindsay at The Cabaret Showroom at the Liberace Museum called Seasons of Love. That benefit featured members of the casts of Jersey Boys, Phantom and The Lion King as well as guest artists. Among the performers were Travis Cloer, Joan Sobel, Alton Fitzgerald White, Carly Thomas Smith, Charl Brown, Jon Peterson, Kristofer McNeeley, Philip Fortenberry, Sabrina Sloan and Sarah Lowe.

I was lucky enough to see Lindsay perform not only in Jersey Boys, but also in many of her productions at the Stratford Festival. She was a very talented performer and a wonderful spirit who will be sadly missed. I know many people share my sentiments, and the Stratford Festival issued a release earlier today discussing her passing which sums up how many people seem to feel about her wonderful spirit:

It was with great sadness that staff and artists at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival learned of the death of Lindsay Thomas. She was beloved by her fellow company members and all who came in contact with her at the Festival for her vivacious spirit, infectious smile and tremendous talent. Lindsay died Wednesday of cancer, at the age of 31.

Audiences will remember Lindsay as the diminutive powerhouse who portrayed Ado Annie in the 2007 production of Oklahoma! That same year, she donned her tap shoes and danced up a storm, playing Anchovie in My One and Only. In 2008, Lindsay played Gracie Shinn in The Music Man and gave a moving performance as Jacinta in Fuente Ovejuna. Lindsay made her Stratford debut in 2006, appearing in Oliver! and Don Juan.

"This is very sad news for the Festival family," said General Director Antoni Cimolino. "Lindsay had so many friends and they stayed close to her throughout her illness.

"She had a vibrant talent. In addition to being a gifted dancer and singer, Lindsay was an outstanding comedienne with both energy and wit. Her performance as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! drew not only great laughter but warmth and affection from the audience. She will be missed by all who knew her."

Lindsay's career took her throughout Canada and to Broadway, where she appeared in the original production of Hairspray in 2002. She was a member of Hairspray's original Canadian company, as well as the first U.S. tour.

Lindsay also played Francine in the original Toronto production of Jersey Boys, directed by Stratford Artistic Director Des McAnuff.

"I became friends with Lindsay at the Stratford Festival," said Mr. McAnuff. "I was thrilled to hire her for the original Canadian Jersey Boys company in Toronto, in which she excelled as an electrifying performer.

"Lindsay had more than simply abundant talent; she had a huge heart. Everyone that she came in contact with benefitted from her generous spirit. She will be greatly missed by both companies and many, many others."

Lindsay performed in Anne of Green Gables and Somewhere in the World at the Charlottetown Festival; in Grease at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre; in Aladdin at the Stirling Festival; and in The Boy Friend, City of Angels and The Crucible at Theatre Sheridan. She was a graduate of Sheridan's music theatre performance program.

Lindsay is survived by her partner, actor Gareth Potter, her parents, Marilyn and Derek Thomas, and her brother, Gareth Thomas.

A memorial service will be held at Parkview United Church, 470 Ontario Street, Stratford, on Monday, February 8. Visitation at the church begins at 2 p.m. The service will begin at 3 p.m. Friends and family will gather afterwards at the Paul D. Fleck Marquee in the Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street.

It was once written that Lindsay "looks like the happiest person in the Festival Theatre." That is how we will remember her.

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