His death was announced by Michael Borowski, Marc Thibodeau and Candi Adams, his colleagues at the firm known as The Publicity Office. The cause was liver cancer, according to the New York Times.
In many ways, Mr. Fennell's last few years as a publicist were his most successful. He was press representative for the musical Wicked, a Broadway smash so big as to rank as a phenomenon. He also handled press for the Tony-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, which brought Julia Roberts to the New York stage.
Among The Publicity Office's other Broadway clients were the shows The Diary of Anne Frank starring Natalie Portman, I'm Still Here... Damn It!, Putting It Together, James Joyce's The Dead, The Green Bird, Follies, Jane Eyre, Festen and the currently running Grey Gardens. The company also did press for the Off-Broadway nonprofits Playwrights Horizons and The Signature Theatre Company.
Over six feet tall, with dark wavy hair, a square jaw and ramrod posture, Mr. Fennell was an imposing figure with a piercing gaze. He was a fierce protector of his clients' shows and did not shrink from confrontations with members of the theatre press. He was also an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College.
A longtime resident of New York City, he worked as a carpenter and actor before becoming a theatrical press agent. Since 1996 he was co-owner of The Publicity Office. Before that, was an associate at the agency Boneau/Bryan Brown.
A statement released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown read: "Chris Boneau, Adrian Bryan-Brown and everyone at BBB mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Bob Fennell. Bob helped launch BBB with Chris, Adrian, Jackie Green and Susanne Tighe in 1991 and we will always celebrate Bob's fierce integrity, boundless energy and dedication to the theatre, as well as the unmatched caring attention that he gave to anyone he ever worked with. We were all enriched by his great sense of humor and his passion for living in New York. We send our heartfelt condolences to Bob's family, his companion Stacy Shane, his business partner Marc Thibodeau and his associates Michael Borowski and Candi Adams. Bob was truly one of a kind and we will miss him deeply."
Among the more than 100 Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions he represented were Angels in America, The Phantom of the Opera, A Raisin in the Sun, Skylight, Hamlet, Fortune's Fool, A Christmas Carol, Stomp and The Vagina Monologues. He also handled productions for The Royal National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company.
Robert Arthur Fennell was born in Yonkers, NY, the son of Katherine (Granger) Fennell and the late Robert Augustine Fennell. Mr. Fennell was a graduate of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, as well as Fordham University and New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
He is survived by his longtime companion Stacy Shane as well as sisters Mary Ann Brendler, Susan D'Agostino, Katherine Hoffnagle, Elizabeth Frare and Nancy Case, and three nephews and six nieces. He was also brother to the late Jeanne DeCola.
A wake will be held Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM at The Whalen & Ball Funeral Home, 168 Park Avenue, Yonkers (914-965-5488). A funeral service will be held on Nov. 17 at 10:30 AM at The Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, 110 Shonnard Place, Yonkers. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Robert A. Fennell Scholarship at Brooklyn College, which was established by the college in Mr. Fennell's name for a first-year management student in Brooklyn College's MFA program. www.brooklyn.cuny.edu.