2000 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On

News   2000 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On A chorus dancer who became a Broadway star. Two rival producers who made headlines. A weathered interpreter of Eugene O'Neill. Two of the greatest British actors of all time.
N. Richard Nash bows at the opening night of the Roundabout's Rainmaker revival; Art Carney and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple.
N. Richard Nash bows at the opening night of the Roundabout's Rainmaker revival; Art Carney and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple. (Photo by Nash photo by Aubrey Reuben)

A chorus dancer who became a Broadway star. Two rival producers who made headlines. A weathered interpreter of Eugene O'Neill. Two of the greatest British actors of all time.

The deaths of Gwen Verdon, Alexander Cohen, David Merrick, Jason Robards, John Gielgud and Alex Guinness made headlines in 2000, prompting us to reflect on the varied human losses the theatre suffered in the past year.

Whether their work was seen locally, regionally, nationally or around the world, the writers, producers, advocates, actors, composers, musicians, lyricists, directors, technicians and designers of the following list contributed to the welfare of the art form that keeps us thinking, laughing and crying.

This necrology, arranged alphabetically, was pulled from the pages of the past year of Playbill On-Line, but is by no means meant to be a complete list of the countless theatre people who left us — and left us inspired — in 2000.

* • Steve Allen, 78, the affable and articulate comedian and actor best known as the first host of the "Tonight" show, but also the author of over 4,000 songs, including a score for Broadway's Sophie and the revue, Seymour Glick Is Alive But Sick, of a heart attack.

Sally Amato, 82, an opera singer who, with her husband, conductor Anthony Amato, ran New York City's shoestring Amato Opera in Manhattan, Aug. 16.

Amyas Ames, 93, chairman of the board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts between 1970 and 1981, Jan. 24, in his sleep.

Louis Applebaum, 82, considered the dean of Canadian theatre composers and the first director of the Stratford Festival's music department, April 20, of lung cancer.

Skip Ascheim, 56, an admired Boston theatre critic (for Tab newspapers, Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe) and co-founder of Boston Theatre Project, Aug. 6, of cancer.

Lyn Austin, the founder and producing director of Music Theatre Group (MTG), which embraced new and unconventional work such as Vienna: Lusthaus and Julie Taymor's Juan Darien, Oct. 30, after being struck by a taxi.

Thomas Babe, 59 a playwright whose work — including Kid Champion, Rebel Women, A Prayer for My Daughter, Fathers and Sons, Salt Lake City Skyline, Buried Inside Extra — was a mainstay at the Public Theater in the late '70s and early '80s, Dec. 6, of lung cancer.

Ted Bales, 35, the Chicago actor, comedian and singer who made good playing a crooning priest in the hit comedy, Party, Feb. 10, of complications from primary pulmonary hypertension.

Paul Bartel, 61, the character actor and filmmaker whose 1982 picture, "Eating Raoul," became a 1992 musical of the same title, with a libretto by the filmmaker, May 13, several weeks after cancer surgery.

Anne Barton, 72, onetime stage actress who became a character actress in film and TV between the 1950s and 1970s, Nov. 27, after a long illness.

Billy Barty, 76, the diminutive actor who had roles on TV ("The Bugaloos"), film ("Nothing Sacred") and stage (vaudeville and Broadway's Andre Heller's Wonderhouse), Dec. 23, of heart failure.

Betty Macdonald Batcheller, 92, reportedly the last surviving member of Martha Graham's original dance troupe, Jan. 15.

Gary Bonasorte, 45, the playwright (The Aunts, Big Hearts), AIDS research advocate and co-founder of Rattlestick Theater, whose partner was playwright Terrence McNally, Nov. 9, of lymphoma.

Victor Borge, 91, the Danish-born comic pianist who tweaked opera and the classics in such stage shows and concerts as Comedy in Music, Dec. 23, in his sleep.

DeMarcus Brown, 99, professor emeritus of the theatre program of the University of Pacific in Stockton, CA, where he shepherded thousands of students in a long career, 1924-1969, March 24.

Robert Burr, 78, a Jersey City, NJ, native who became one of the great American interpreters of Shakespeare, acting in many works for the New York Shakespeare Festival, May 13, of emphysema.

John Bury, 75, the Tony Award-winning British scenic designer whose career began in England in the 1950s and continued internationally into the 1990s, often with the director Peter Hall, Nov. 12, of pneumonia brought on by heart disease.

John Colicos, 71, a Canadian-born actor who appeared on stages in Canada (Stratford Festival), London (The Old Vic) and New York, March 6.

Vincent Canby, 76, the critic, playwright and novelist who covered film and theatre for The New York Times — briefly holding the powerful position of chief theatre critic — Oct. 15, of cancer.

Robert Harris Chapman, 81, a former Harvard drama professor and co-author of a Broadway play based on Herman Melville's "Billy Budd," Sept. 27.

Alexander H. Cohen, 79, the legendary theatrical producer known for bringing quality plays to Broadway for six decades, April 22.

Val Dufour, 73, a Broadway actor in High Button Shoes, South Pacific, Mister Roberts, Stalag 17, Picnic and The Grass Harp, and Emmy Award-winning soap opera star, July 27.

David Dukes, 55, the Tony-nominated Broadway, film and TV actor remembered for turns in Broadway's Bent (which earned him a Best Featured Actor nom), Dracula, Amadeus, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me and Arthur Miller's Broken Glass, Oct. 9, of a heart attack.

William J. Eckart, 80, the Broadway designer and producer who frequently collaborated with designer wife Jean Eckart (She Loves Me, Li'l Abner, The Golden Apple, Anyone Can Whistle, Mame, Tenderloin and Once Upon a Mattress), Jan. 24.

Eldon Elder, 76, a prolific scenic designer, author and educator whose work was seen on Broadway, at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Off-Broadway and regionally, and who designed the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Dec. 11, several weeks after suffering a heart attack.

Charles Elson, 90, a professor, theatrical lighting and scenic designer whose work was seen on Broadway, at the Metropolitan Opera and regionally, March 30.

Robert Emmett, 78, a New York actor who also penned TV programs and specials, and married the actress Kim Hunter, April 8, after surgery for acute appendicitis.

Don Ettlinger, 86, a screenwriter for film and TV, and co librettist of the 1972 Broadway musical, Ambassador, Aug. 7.

Rex Everhart, 79, the character actor who played Ben Franklin in the Broadway musical, 1776, and numerous roles on Broadway and in regional theatre, March 13, of lung cancer.

Margaret Hart Ferraro, thought to be 84, known in the theatre world as stripper Margie Hart, but who eventually toured in legit shows, Jan. 26, after a long illness.

Gus Fleming, 56, a onetime actor who worked in various areas of the New York theatre, including director of concert halls at Lincoln Center since 1988, May 6, of cancer.

Herbert Fox, 82, an entertainment manager who handled musicians, singers and actors for 50 years, and served on the boards of Opera Pacific and the Orange County High School of the Performing Arts, June 29.

Martin Fried, 62, a Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional director and stage manager, March 28, of an aneurysm.

Mira Friedlander, 48, the Canadian theatre critic and a correspondent for Variety and former contributor to Playbill On-Line, May 10, of breast cancer.

Robert Fryer, 79, whose name was above the title as producer of a number of hit plays and musicals, including Mame, Sweet Charity, Sweeney Todd and Chicago, May 28, of complications from Parkinson's disease.

Peter Gennaro, 80, the Broadway dancer who wowed audiences strutting to "Mu Cha Cha" and "Steam Heat" in the 1950s before becoming a successful choreographer of musicals such as Annie, Fiorello! and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Sept. 28.

John Gielgud, 96, considered one of the greatest actors of the 20th century, working in stage classics, contemporary drama, TV and film, May 22.

Byron Goldman, 78, linked to 146 theatrical productions as an investor or a producer, most recently as a co-producer of Broadway's Copenhagen, March 31, of cancer.

Edward Gorey, 75, the pen-and-ink illustrator and writer known for his eerie, gallows-humor, which inspired stage shows including The Gorey Details, April 15. He designed sets and costumes for Broadway's Dracula.

Edgar A. Guest III, 60, an actor and director associated with professional and community theatre groups in the Detroit area, Feb. 11, of a heart attack.

Alec Guinness, 86, the British actor who made his professional stage debut in 1933-34 and was a star of theatre, film and TV over a 60-year career, Aug. 5.

Milton Greene, 87, the Broadway conductor whose baton guided shows by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, including the rueful opening strains of a violin in Fiddler on the Roof, May 27, of complications from a stroke.

Renee Orrin Hague, 71, Broadway actress and cabaret singer (Still Young and Foolish) and wife of composer Albert Hague, of cancer.

Margaret Harris, 95, a British set designer who worked on 300 productions with two set-and-costume design collaborators in a Tony Award-winning, industrious firm called Motley, May 10.

David M. Haskell, 52, the handsome actor who starred in the original 1970s New York staging of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell, and its film version, Aug. 30, of brain cancer.

Doug Henning, 52, the hippie-haired magician who popularized magic and illusion on Broadway in The Magic Show, which earned him a Tony Award nomination, and Merlin, Feb. 7, of liver cancer.

Rose Hobart, 94, a Broadway actress in the 1920s and '30s (The Vortex, Lullaby) who later went to Hollywood to act and fight for actors' rights in the Screen Actors Guild, Aug. 29.

Derek Anson Jones, 38, the director who staged Off Broadway's Wit during the time it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Jan. 17, of complications from AIDS.

Todd Karns, 79, the actor perhaps best remembered for playing Harry Bailey, Jimmy Stewart's younger brother character in the film, "It's a Wonderful Life," but who was also a theatre director who opened the Lakeside Little Theatre, an English-language troupe in Mexico, Feb. 5, in Mexico.

Raymond Katz, 83, a Broadway producer, TV producer and onetime stage manager who produced Broadway's Monday After the Miracle, a sequel to The Miracle Worker, in 1982-83, March 23.

Lila Kedrova, believed to be 80, the Russian French character actress who won an Academy Award and a Tony Award for playing Madame Hortense in works inspired by the novel, "Zorba the Greek," Feb. 16 of heart failure.

Fred Kelly, 83, the dancer, actor, choreographer and director whose brother was famed film dancer and director Gene Kelly, March 15, of cancer.

Werner Klemperer, 80, the German-born Broadway and regional character actor and Tony Award nominee (the 1987 revival of Cabaret) who was active in Actors' Equity and could never shake his image as exasperated Nazi Col. Klink, from the TV series, "Hogan's Heroes," Dec. 6, after a long illness.

Jack Kroll, 74, arts writer and critic who covered theatre and much more during 35 years at Newsweek magazine, June 8, of colon cancer.

James Lawless, 64, a distinguished regional theatre actor who played roles with Denver Center Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., The Guthrie Theater, in Minnesota and Center Stage in Baltimore, and elsewhere, Sept. 27, after a long illness.

Stephanie Lawrence, 50, West End and Broadway star of musicals, including Cats, Evita, Starlight Express and Blood Brothers (which earned her a Tony Award nomination), Nov. 4.

James J. Legg Jr., 38, an opera, theatre and film composer who had been working on a full-length opera of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, and was the partner of director Jack O'Brien, Nov. 20 in Manhattan.

Anthony LeGrand, 47, executive administrator of SAG's Talent Agency Department, Aug. 1, of a heart attack.

Max Leib, 89, a musician, conductor and longtime music contractor for touring musicals that played Nederlander theatres in Detroit, May 25.

Larry Linville, 60, the actor who worked on Broadway and regionally, but is best known as the whining Major Frank Burns on TV's "M*A*S*H," April 10, of cancer.

Vera Lockwood, 82, the actress playing the solid Italian American grandmother in Off-Broadway's Over the River and Through the Woods, July 28, of natural causes.

Julie London, 74, the sultry-voiced actress, nightclub and recording vocalist whose style was often called "kittenish," and whose interpretations of show tunes are loved by fans, Oct. 18, of cardiac arrest.

Edward Ludlum, 80, a theatre director who staged the first West Coast productions of The Glass Menagerie, Nov. 21, of heart failure.

Kert Lundell, 64, a Swedish-born set designer who created the physical worlds of Off-Broadway and Broadway productions, including Frank Gilroy's Contact With the Enemy in 1999, Sept. 11, of lung cancer.

Michael Maggio, the accomplished Chicago based stage director and associate artistic director of The Goodman Theatre, Aug. 19 of complications from post transplant lymphoma after surviving a 1991 bilateral lung transplant.

Nancy Marchand, 71, the actress who often played dignified stage roles and was well-known for the TV series "Lou Grant" and "The Sopranos," June 18, of cancer.

Helen Martin, 90, an African-American actress who appeared on Broadway in Native Son, in 1941, long before people of color were a regular part of the landscape there, March 25.

Kent Martin, a Detroit actor and artistic director who ran the State Fair Theatre, a small Equity company that gave voice to new works and African-American actors in the 1980s, Sept. 8, of health issues related to prostate.

Walter Matthau, 79, the stage and film actor whose droopy, rubbery face is known to millions for roles in the film versions of stage hits "Hello, Dolly!" and "The Odd Couple," July 1, of cardiac arrest. He won a Tony Award for The Odd Couple in 1965.

Michael McAloney, 72, an actor, director and producer who produced the Tony Award-winning staging of Borstal Boy in 1970 and numerous plays around the world, May 16.

William McCleery, 88, the playwright whose plays featured Franchot Tone and Jane Wyatt (Hope for the Best) and Helen Hayes (Good Morning, Miss Dove), Jan. 16.

David Merrick, 88, the legendary Tony Award winning impresario behind such smash hits as Hello, Dolly! and 42nd Street, April 25, in his sleep.

Michael Meyer, 79, a translator of Ibsen and Strindberg plays and biographer of both playwrights, Aug. 3.

Ruth Mitchell, 81, the former production stage manager, longtime producing associate of director-producer Harold Prince and companion of costume designer Florence Klotz, Nov. 3.

Robert Montgomery Jr., 77, the entertainment lawyer who for many years helped preserve and promote the work of Cole Porter, Sept. 2, of lung cancer.

Hobe Morrison, 95, the Variety theatre critic whose Broadway reviews were signed, simply, "Hobe" for many years, Jan. 22, after a long illness.

Richard Mulligan, 67, Broadway actor best remembered for his hangdog looks and big-eyed takes in TV's "Soap" and "Empty Nest" — and who, as a young man, hoped to be a playwright — Sept. 26, of cancer.

N. Richard Nash, 87, the playwright-librettist best known for The Rainmaker and its musical version, 110 in the Shade, Dec. 11.

Harold Nicholas, 79, the younger half of the famed tap dancing Nicholas Brothers, of stage musicals (Babes in Arms, Ziegfeld Follies of 1936) and movie musicals ("The Pirate"), July 3, after heart surgery.

Alan North, 79, the character actor who appeared in film, TV and on stage, including Off-Broadway's Lake Hollywood, Jan. 19, of kidney and lung cancer.

Eugenia Rawls, 87, an American actress who appeared on Broadway, in the United Kingdom and in stock and regional theatres in the United States, Nov. 8, of complications from pneumonia.

Beah Richards, the African-American actress whose stage career coincided with the great flourishing of black drama in the 1950s and 1960s — leading her to film and TV roles up to the 1999-2000 season, when she won an Emmy Award for TV's "The Practice" — Sept. 14, of emphysema. Her age was variously listed as 74 and 80.

Allan Rieser, 86 a playwright and lyricist whose work (The Brownstone Urge, The Glass Coffin, Celebrity Suite, among others) was seen Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway, Nov. 26, of congenital heart disease.

Jason Robards, 78, the stage and film actor who helped breathe new life into the works of Eugene O'Neill with appearances in stagings of The Iceman Cometh (1956), Long Day's Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten (1974), Dec. 26.

Vicki Sue Robinson, 46, the pop singer and actress (Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar) who told and sang her life story in the 1999 Off-Broadway show, Vicki Sue Robinson: Behind the Beat, April 27, of cancer.

Charles Schulz, the author of the comic strip "Peanuts," which was read by 355 million people across the world during its 50-year run and in turn inspired two musicals, Feb. 12, of colon cancer.

Arthur Seelen, 76, the actor-turned-store owner whose Drama Book Shop in Manhattan is ground zero for those in search of plays and theatrical references, Feb. 7, after an illness.

Jack Segal, 98, a talent agent for unusual acts who was said to be the inspiration for the Woody Allen film and character, "Broadway Danny Rose," Jan. 12.

Max Showalter, 83, a Broadway, film and TV actor, a painter and Broadway composer (Harrigan 'n' Hart), July 30.

Howard Simon, 37, a playwright whose James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire opened Off-Broadway at Abrons Art Center at the Henry Street Settlement, April 12, just days after the play's premiere, of septic shock prompted by streptococcus meningitis.

Mary Sinclair, 78, a theatre, TV and film actress who was married to director George Abbott for a time, Nov. 5.

Nick Stewart, 90, actor (TV's "Amos 'n' Andy") and founder of the Los Angeles company, Ebony Showcase Theater, which offered black performers the chance to play a variety of roles, Dec. 18.

Craig Stevens, 81, the stage, film and TV actor best known for playing the hardboiled detective in TV"s "Peter Gunn" but who also starred in Broadway's "Miracle on 34th Street" musical, Here's Love, May 10, of cancer.

Albert Takazauckas, the Manhattan-born theatre and opera director who staged many productions in San Francisco (American Conservatory Theatre and Magic Theatre) and around North America, July 23, of a heart attack.

Maggie Task, 76, the Broadway, Off Broadway and regional actress who originated the role of Miss Hannigan when Annie was still in development at Goodspeed Opera House, Jan. 20, of cancer.

Samuel Taylor, the playwright who wrote the literate Broadway comedies Sabrina Fair and The Pleasure of His Company, and the libretto for Richard Rogers' No Strings, May 26.

Norman Thomson, 84, an actor who was one of the original members of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in the 1930s, Feb. 3, of congestive heart failure.

Jay Thompson, 68, a photographer who took indelible production shots of resident Los Angeles productions, including 250 Mark Taper Forum works, March 14, of respiratory failure.

Peter Thompson, 65, a New York actor and acting teacher who also directed Off-Broadway and regionally, April 24, of complications from heart surgery.

Claire Trevor, onetime Broadway actress who appeared in the films, "Key Largo," "Dead End" and "The High and the Mighty," April 8, after an illness.

Peter Turgeon, 80, the Broadway actor and onetime co managing producer at Westport Country Playhouse, who appeared in Brigadoon (as sidekick Jeff), Inside U.S.A., the original Little Me (as Patrick Dennis) and more, Oct. 6.

Antonio Buero Vallejo, the playwright widely considered the father of modern Spanish theatre, with such works as The Sleep of Reason, History of a Stairway and In the Burning Darkness, April 29, of a stroke.

Gwen Verdon, 75, the Broadway dancer and star who inspired several generations of dancers after she burst out of the chorus and into theatre history in such musicals as Damn Yankees, New Girl in Town, Sweet Charity, Redhead and Chicago, Oct. 18, in her sleep.

Sasha Von Scherler, 65, actress who followed in the footsteps of her mother, appearing in dozens of New York productions up until the mid 1970s, April 15.

Mary K. Wells, 79, an actress who played on and wrote for TV soap operas and acted on Broadway (Three Men and a Horse, Any Wednesday, Everything in the Garden), Aug. 14, of a colon infection.

Miles White, 85, the Broadway costume designer who created the look of Billy Bigelow, Conrad Birdie and the "real" and "dream" Curlys and Laureys in Broadway musicals, Feb. 17.

Jim Wise, 81, the composer who applied a brassy, sunny pastiche sound to Off-Broadway's Dames at Sea, the spoof of 1930s movie musicals that launched Bernadette Peters in 1968, Nov. 13, in his sleep.

Mary Hunter Wolf, 95, one of the first women to direct on Broadway (Horton Foote's Only the Heart plus Carib Song, Out of Dust, Ballet Ballads and Sartre's Respectful Prostitute), Nov. 3.

G. (George) Wood, 80, an actor, composer, lyricist and cabaret artist who wrote specialty material for revues and acted in New York City and regional theatres, July 24, of heart failure.

Oleg Yefremov, 72, an influential Russian actor and director who carried on the tradition of Stanislavsky as leader of the Moscow Art Theatre, May 24, of lung disease.

Morton A. Zolotow, 69, a former theatre manager at venues from Carnegie Hall to Chicago's Blackstone Theater to New York's now demolished Helen Hayes and Morosco theatres, Sept. 15, of pancreatic cancer.

— By Kenneth Jones