James Stovall, Broadway Musical Actor, Dies

Obituaries   James Stovall, Broadway Musical Actor, Dies James Stovall, a Broadway actor who worked with Bob Fosse and acted in the original production of Ragtime, died Sept. 26 at a hospital in Manhattan, his talent agency, Abrams Artists & Associates confirmed. The cause of death and his age could not be determined at press time, but Mr. Stovall had been suffering from heart problems.

James Stovall
James Stovall Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Mr. Stovall most recently appeared on Broadway in the 2009 revival of Finian's Rainbow. He was a preacher and a "Begat" singer.

Finian's Rainbow director-choreographer Warren Carlyle told Playbill.com on Sept. 27, "From the moment James auditioned for Finian's Rainbow he radiated joy. There was no doubt in my mind that he would play a big part in the community of Rainbow Valley. He sang the preacher's solo at the climax of Act One and blew the roof off every night, not only inspiring audiences to cheer and applaud but also his fellow cast members to sing and dance that little bit harder. Each and every moment spent with him was bright, easy and fun. We will all miss him greatly."

Mr. Stovall's first Broadway job was as a standby for several roles in Big Deal, Bob Fosse's ill-fated 1986 musical based on the film "Big Deal on Madonna Street." Later that year, he joined the cast of Fosse's revival of Sweet Charity, eventually taking on the role of Big Daddy. Mr. Stovall, a handsome man with large eyes and a wide smile, frequently stepped into lead roles in established productions, including 1990's Once on This Island; The Life, in which he went from understudy to take over the Chuck Cooper's part of the menacing pimp Memphis (he also shadowed Cooper in Finian's Rainbow); and the original 1998 staging of Ragtime, in which he assumed the leading role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., having already played the part in Chicago.

Off-Broadway, Mr. Stovall performed in Dessa Rose, Stars in Your Eyes, Sugar Hill, Stars in Your Eyes and Romance in Hard Times. He also acted in the national tour of Once on This Island.

As a writer, he and Hattie Winston wrote Nativity, an adaptation of the Christmas story that played annually in various spaces throughout New York. James Stovall was born in Baltimore to Ella and James Stovall, Sr. He studied piano and voice at the Peabody Conservatory. At age 13, he joined the Urban Musical Theater, based at Morgan State University, where his first dance teacher was Debbie Allen. (He would later act with Allen in Sweet Charity.) While a sophomore at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he gained his Equity card while working in an Alliance Theatre production. When he was cast in Big Deal, he moved to New York and gave up a job at Bear Stearns.

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