News & Politics

For Kevin Spacey, the Show Must Go On—Even With a Frog In His Throat

The House of Cards star did not let a cold affect his annual Kevin Spacey Foundation fundraiser.

Kevin Spacey belts out a standard from the stage of the Harman Center on behalf of his Kevin Spacey Foundation. Photograph courtesy of the Kevin Spacey Foundation.

Kevin Spacey made Frank Underwood proud on Tuesday night, illustrating that in Washington, as in the entertainment industry, the show must go on. The House of Cards star sang his heart out from the stage of the Harman Center, even though it was clear something just wasn’t right. Backed by an orchestra that filled the stage, he performed some of the greatest hits of the American songbook, but the occasional high note was more croak than croon. After only two songs he confessed to the audience that he had a frog in his throat, hinting at a cold. 

During the speaking parts of the show, Spacey spoke quietly. Later, a guest who sat in the front row, said, “I could barely hear him. He was really pushing himself.” Another guest noted his voice was “a little raspy.”

A sore throat was not going to deter Spacey from this occasion, called Kevin Spacey in Concert, his second big bash in Washington to raise funds for his baby—the Kevin Spacey Foundation. Last year, the fundraiser consisted of a seated dinner at the Mandarin Hotel. This year, it was a sold-out lavish stage show and an after-party at Poste in the Hotel Monaco that, according to one organizer, raised more than $700,000. Both events featured Spacey singing his favorite songs, fondly remembering his mentor Jack Lemmon, and dropping the occasional reference to Underwood, the devious and (more-or-less) fictional character he portrays in the hit Netflix series, House of Cards.

“It’s been a helluva lot of fun portraying Frank Underwood through the past couple of years,” Spacey said, commending his character’s abilities to get others to fall in line. “This man is passionate and dedicated, the supreme salesman.” He called the concept of the evening, raising money for arts education programs, and the show and party, “Frank Underwood’s guide to philanthropy.”

Fittingly, the evening’s co-chairs were bipartisan—House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.* Other co-chairs included Hunter and Kathleen Biden, Jill and Nathan Daschle, Lyndon Boozer, Melissa Maxfield, Ted Sarandos of Netflix, Charles Segars of Ovation, and British Ambassador Peter Westmacott and his wife, Susie. Adrienne Arsht served as the event chair. The Spacey Foundation, founded in 2010 in England, where Spacey was artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre, provides young artists with scholarships, grants, and other learning experiences.

Spacey made it to the after-party, was reportedly in every way the good sport, and stayed until the end, past midnight, though the same guest who had watched him from the front row of the concert observed, “he was clearly not feeling good.” 

There’s this for anyone who had face time with Spacey on Monday night: If you end up with a cold, you can say you got it from an Academy Award-winning actor, the President of the United States, or both. In true political tradition, his spokesperson would not confirm or deny a cold. 

*This post has been updated from a previous version.