Carol Hall, the Drama Desk Award-winning composer and lyricist of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, passed away October 11 at the age of 82.
For the past three years, Ms. Hall had been wrestling with a rare form of dementia, logopenic Primary Progressive Aphasia, and died of complications from the disease. She resided in New York City and passed away at home, surrounded by her children and husband.
Ms. Hall was a trailblazer on Broadway, one of the first women to write both music and lyrics for a Broadway musical, the 1978 hit The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Tommy Tune-Peter Masterson-directed production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning two prizes. Hall received Drama Desk Awards for both her score and lyrics.
The production ran for almost five years on Broadway, received a Grammy nomination for its cast album, and was subsequently turned into a motion picture in 1982 starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. Parton’s recording of Hall’s song “Hard Candy Christmas” earned an ASCAP Award. A revival and national tour of the show played across the country starring film icon Ann-Margret. On the cast album of that production, Hall recorded a bonus track, performing a new song, "A Friend to Me," written for Ann-Margret.
Carol Hall was born in Abilene, Texas, April 3, 1936, the daughter of Elbert E. Hall and Josephine Grisham. A serious student of classical piano, Ms. Hall attended Sweetbriar College, in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she began writing songs and musicals. She then transferred to and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She was later invited to join the newly formed BMI Workshop, under the tutelage of Broadway musical director Lehman Engel, where her musical theatre career was launched.
Ms. Hall's other Broadway outing was a short-lived sequel to The Best Little Whorehouse, entitled The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, which opened in May 1994. Her other stage work included Good Sports (Goodspeed Musicals), Paper Moon (Paper Mill Playhouse), Are We There Yet? (Williamstown Theatre Festival), and the Off-Broadway musical To Whom It May Concern. She also wrote individual songs for A... My Name Is Alice and A… My Name Is Still Alice, and the musical, Hats!, based on the Red Hats Society.
Her non-musical writing included The Days Are As Grass, an evening of one-act plays, which received a premiere at the Woodstock Fringe Festival.
Ms. Hall was also a major contributor to Marlo Thomas’ Peabody and Emmy Award-winning TV special and gold album Free to Be… You and Me; her contributions included the songs “It’s All Right to Cry,” “Parents Are People,” and “Glad to Have a Friend Like You.” She also acted as contributing editor and songwriter to its sequel, Free To Be… a Family.
Her songs have been performed by Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Cyndi Lauper, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Lisa Loeb, Mabel Mercer, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Chita Rivera, Barbara Cook, Michael Feinstein, Olivia Newton-John, Amanda McBroom, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Phyllis Newman, David Campbell, Maureen McGovern, Margaret Whiting, Miriam Makeba, RuPaul, Frederica von Stade, Big Bird, and Kermit the Frog, among others. A CD of her most recent songs, Hallways: The Songs of Carol Hall, was released in 2007.
Ms. Hall was a teacher at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, The Sundance Theatre Institute, and the Cabaret Conference at Yale University, as well as a guest panelist in the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop. She served on the Board of Directors of the Dramatists Guild Foundation, Young Playwrights, Inc., and The American Place Theater. She was a lifetime member of the Dramatists Guild Council, was a Tony voter, and a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women who, in 2017, bestowed upon her a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ms. Hall is survived by her husband, media producer Leonard Majzlin; her two children with first husband Richard Blinkoff, Susannah and Daniel; her grandson Wally Corngold; and her sister Jane Hall.