Hemsley left big impact during brief SA stay

Former "Jeffersons" star performed in "Ain't Misbehavin'"


SAN ANTONIO – Mark Richter, the president and CEO of Orpheus Entertainment Group, said he had tried for a long time to bring Sherman Hemsley to San Antonio for a show and finally the timing was right earlier this year.

"At this point in his life he really wanted to reinvent himself in some way and since the stage was his first love, it was important that his first return to the stage was going to be "Ain't Misbehavin'" here at the Josephine Theater," said Richter. "We're very fortunate to have been a part of that reinvention."

Hemsley passed away on Tuesday at his home in El Paso. A cause of death has not been released. Hemsley appeared in 12 performances of the show in San Antonio in January and February this year.

"He took direction pretty well and he always added his own flair," said Charles Barksdale, the director of the show, who also got to act alongside Hemsley in the performances. "He had his idea of what he thought something should be but he was very easy to work with."

Both men said Hemsley was all business during rehearsals and the performances but was very laid back off the stage, especially when it came to fans.

"He never said, 'get me away from these people, get me away from these crowds,'" said Richter. "He would go into the crowds to shake hands and give hugs and give autographs."

"It was just all giggles backstage all the time and Sherman was the root of it," added Barksdale. "He's just hilarious."

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SLIDESHOW: Sherman Hemsley at Josephine Theatre