Don McKay, the American actor who starred as Tony in the 1958 London premiere of West Side Story, died December 27 in Manhattan at age 93. His death was confirmed by his nephew, Sean McKenna.
Born Donald Juan Hawkins on January 28, 1925, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, McKay joined the U.S. Army at the height of World War II, serving in the 7th Infantry Regiment throughout Italy and Germany. Following the war, he attended art school in France before returning to the United States in 1945.
He began his acting career in the late 1940s, earning roles in regional theatres in the Chicago area. He made his Broadway debut as a singer in the 1951 musical Make a Wish, and appeared later that season in the Johnny Mercer musical Top Banana.
McKay garnered notable screen time in the 1954 film version of A Star Is Born, performing “Gotta Have Me Go With You” alongside Judy Garland in the film’s opening sequence.
He enjoyed his greatest success on the London stage, originating the role of Tony in the 1958 West End premiere of West Side Story, featuring original Broadway cast member Chita Rivera. He appeared opposite Shirley Bassey in a 1959 London revival of Show Boat, and later co-starred with Elliot Gould in the 1963 premiere of On the Town.
He returned to the New York stage in 1964, repeating his performance as Tony in a month-long run of West Side Story at New York City Center.
McKay later settled in Connecticut, appearing in regional theatres and teaching voice lessons to aspiring performers. He spent the last two decades of his life living in Manhattan.
McKay is survived by his partner Jessie Dunston, and his sister Stephanie Levine.