Colleagues, Friends to Recall Mike Ockrent at Jan. 24 Memorial

News   Colleagues, Friends to Recall Mike Ockrent at Jan. 24 Memorial New York theatre artists will remember late director Mike Ockrent, of Crazy For You, Big and Me and My Girl fame, at a 1 PM Jan. 24 public memorial at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

New York theatre artists will remember late director Mike Ockrent, of Crazy For You, Big and Me and My Girl fame, at a 1 PM Jan. 24 public memorial at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Ockrent, who was married to the director-choreographer Susan Stroman, died Dec. 2 after a battle with leukemia. He was 53.

Scheduled participants include Bruce Adler (Crazy For You, Lynn Ahrens, James Brennan (Me and My Girl), Mel Brooks, Harry Groener (Crazy For You), Ruthie Henshall, Evan Hunter, Alan Menken (King David), Alice Ripley, Jim Walton, John Weidman (librettist of Big) and Karen Ziemba (Crazy For You).

The New Amsterdam is at 214 West 42nd St. in Manhattan.

* Ockrent also helmed Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol, Off-Broadway's La Terrasse, the staged concert, King David, and Broadway's Once a Catholic and Atkinson at the Atkinson.

A London service will be held 2 PM Jan. 30 at the Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road in London.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Mike Ockrent Charitable Trust, c/o Julia McCormick, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY, 10131 or The Mike Ockrent Charitable Trust c/o Flat 8, 28 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 2 NB, England.

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Ockrent was born in London on June 18, 1946. After graduating from Edinburgh University with a degree in physics, he became a trainee director at the Perth Theatre in Scotland. Eventually, he became an associate director to Joan Knight in the late '60s and early '70s. In 1973, he was appointed artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre.

Among the award-winning director's many London productions were Once a Catholic, Educating Rita, Passion Play, Follies and Zenobia for the RSC. Ockrent also directed several productions of Me and My Girl, which earned him Olivier, Ivor Novello and Drama Magazine awards. On Broadway, Ockrent's Me and My Girl was nominated for 13 Tonys and earned him the Drama Desk Award for Best Director.

The executive producer on Warner Bros.' "Metal God," Mr. Ockrent also directed the BBC films "Dancin' Thru the Dark" and "Money for Nothing," and wrote a theatrical novel, "Running Down Broadway" (Random Century).

Over the past three years Ockrent had been developing The Night They Raided Minsky's (which he co-conceived) for Broadway. Composer Charles Strouse, who worked closely with Ockrent in the three years since the director joined that project, told Playbill On-Line that he and his colleagues were stunned by the loss. The show is scheduled to have a production in summer 2000 in Los Angeles prior to Broadway.

Radio City Entertainment's Tim Hawkins, the executive producer of A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden told Playbill On-Line that Ockrent was a great collaborator who brought a special context to his work.

"Mike was really the driving creative force behind the show," Hawkins said. "It terms of what the show became creatively, it was really him and Charles Dickens. He came in seven years ago and he had a vision of what the show should be. He thought of it in terms of the English Pantomime, the tradition of doing shows, at the holidays, that are two-tiered. These "pantos" were generally based on fairy tales so that the through line would be a fairy tale story. But within that would be some sophisticated reference for the adults, so it works on two levels. It's a great old tradition, and while it's not quite as strong as it used to be 45 or 50 years ago, these pantos would run 8-12 weeks and that was traditionally how British kids would be introduced to theatre. Our show is not a panto, but Mike saw what a great opportunity this was for American kids to be introduced to the theatre and that's what it became."

Ironically, Ockrent watched the Nov. 30, 1999, opening of A Christmas Carol from his hospital bed in Manhattan over a live video feed that was arranged quietly and with the unanimous support of the various unions and production staff involved. Though very sick, he watched the entire show and was said to have enjoyed it thoroughly.

-- By Kenneth Jones
and Murdoch McBride