Frankie Michaels, who became the youngest actor to ever win a Tony Award when he took home the prize for playing Patrick Dennis in the 1966 original production of Mame, died March 30 at his home in Chittenango, New York. He was 60.
Mr. Michaels was all of ten when he began performances in the Jerry Herman musical, acting opposite Angela Lansbury as the flamboyant Auntie Mame of the title. He played the ten-year-old version of Patrick Dennis, a character who is embodied by two actors in the show, one young and old older. As the impressionable Patrick, he got to take part in the songs “My Best Girl,” “We Need a Little Christmas” and “The Fox Hunt.” He had recently celebrated his 11th birthday when he accepted the Tony.
The New York Times approved of what it saw. “The hazard with young performers,” wrote critic Stanley Kauffmann, “is that either they look coached or, if they are gifted, are show-offs. Young Mr. Michaels is neither. He is simply a competent member of the cast and I’m sure that Miss Lansbury would be the first to assert how difficult her job would be with a lesser nephew.”
Jerry Herman commented that he was able to teach Mr. Michaels all his music in one day.
He was born May 5, 1955, as Francis Michael Chernesky in Bridgeport, CT, to the late Michael Chernesky, who worked for the Bridgeport fire department, and Mary (Bissett) Chernesky. He took lessons in acting, dancing, singing and various musical instruments from the time he was three.
Mame would be his only Broadway credit. On television, he appeared in episodes of As the World Turns and Our Private World. Off-Broadway he appeared in A for Adult and Happily Ever After.
In 2010, Lansbury and Michaels were reunited when he sang “My Best Girl” to her at a Drama League tribute to Lansbury at the Pierre Hotel.
Survivors include his son, Michael Lloyd Chernesky, a sister Felicia Hreschak, nd companion Lucille Bort. He was predeceased by his brothers Michael, Robert and Vincent.