Mary Baldwin Alumna in Vanity Fair

September 30, 2004

Audiences never see her face onscreen, but Custer LaRue ’74 has a noteworthy role in the Mira Nair’s 2004 film,Vanity Fair. Many will recognize LaRue’s voice as Reese Witherspoon lip-syncs “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal” and “The Great Adventurer.”

According to reviewer Stephen Pedersen withThe Halifax Herald Limitedin Nova Scotia, Canada, LaRue’s rendition of “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal” is “a show-stopper. LaRue’s sweet, pure voice and her exquisite musical timing and subtle expression are irresistible to anyone within range of her voice — whether in the film, or in the movie theatre.”

LaRue’s film debut was 25 years ago, when she starred as Mary Magdalene in Theater Wagon’s production ofThe Visit to the Sepulcherfilmed at the Abbey St. Benoit de Fleury in France. The movie was produced by Fletcher Collins Jr., theatre professor emeritus of Mary Baldwin, and starred several college alumnae. It was a finalist in the American Film Festival in 1980 and won a CINE Golden Eagle Award in 1981. The story is about the first Easter — from the hesitant and mournful visit of the three Marys to the tomb of Christ, to the realization of His resurrection followed by His appearance.

“I’ve worked with Custer in various roles, both acting and singing. She’s a fabulous singer, of course, and a fine, convincing actress. I still cry every Easter when I show the video of Custer as Mary Magdalene, weeping at the death of Jesus,” said Virginia Francisco, professor of theatre.

Custer LaRue is a graduate of Peabody Conservatory and Mary Baldwin University, where she was a music major. She specializes in singing medieval and Renaissance music, as well as traditional ballads. Her CDs,The Daemon Lover,The True Lover’s Farewell, andLullaby Journeyreceived high ratings inBillboard MagazineandCD Review.

“As a student she always looked as if she inhabited another intelligent world and she sang like an angel,” said Frank Southerington, professor of English and director of the Master of Letters/Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance Program.

Although she is on indefinite leave from the group, she is one of the founding members of the Baltimore Consort. They perform and produce 16th– and 17th–century English, French, and Italian music. The group also travels the world, performing in many different venues for many different audiences. Learn more about the Baltimore Consort and their performance schedules at www.baltcons.com .

One review of a Baltimore Consort performance inThe Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper, stated, “… they brought their lutes and viols to Glasgow, along with bewitching soprano, Custer LaRue. It ought to be offensive that the most exhilarating Scots music performance to turn up on our native soil this year should come from America. They bring to this music, researched by them with awesome thoroughness, a mix of jazz and joy, of improvisation and uncanny insight.”

Vanity Fairhas grossed more than $13.5 million since its nationwide release in September. Visit the movie’s official site, www.vanityfairmovie.com for show times in your area.