Norman Twain, a producer who work on Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as in California, died on August 6. He was 85.
Born in Atlantic City, Mr. Twain graduated from Columbia University and began producing plays in New York in the late 1950s with a Broadway staging of Epitaph for George Dillon by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton. He started his Off-Broadway resume in 1961 with another British playwright, backing a staging of Roots by Arnold Wesker. The work of British and European artists would continue to be a hallmark of his producing life.
A stab at directing, with the 1960 production A Distant Bell, didn’t go well; the show closed in five performances. By 1963, he was back to producer, with a Franco Zefferelli production of The Lady of the Camelias, followed by Traveler Without Luggage. His offerings during the ‘60s were varied, ranging from the musicals Bajour and Henry, Sweet Henry to the concerts The World of Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Becaud on Broadway. He brought back Aznavour and Becaud for return engagements. He also produced the John Guare double bill of one-acts Cop-Out, which starred Linda Lavin and Ron Leibman, then husband and wife.
Arguably, Mr. Twain’s most notable critical success was the 1969 Broadway production of Hamlet starring the erratic British actor Nicol Williamson, directed by Tony Richardson.
Off-Broadway, his shows included a solo performance by Williamson and The World of Lenny Bruce, starring Frank Speiser as the comedian.
He was also the producer on Lolita, My Love, the infamous 1971 flop musical by Alan Jay Lerner and John Barry. Based on the scandalous novel Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, it rather unsurprisingly encountered troubles while out of town in Boston and never made it to Broadway. It cost Twain nearly a million dollars.
In the 1970s, he decamped to California, where he staged shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Long Beach Theatre Festival.
These included David’s Rabe's Streamers, which co-starred Richard Thomas, Bruce Davison, Charles Durning and Ralph Meeker, the Tony Richardson production of As You Like It, Cyrano starring Stacy Keach , the Gower Champion production of Our Town and Jules Feiffer’s Hold Me, as well as Tennessee Williams' Eccentricities of a Nightingale starring Sandy Dennis. During this era, the New York Times referred to him as “an unbuttoned type, who commutes each week between New York and Los Angeles.”
Mr. Twain also produced ten separate productions--several of which co-starred Elizabeth Ashley and Lesley Ann Warren--of the play Vanities by Jack Heifner.
His film career began with It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, a television movie based on the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical. He also produced The Hotel New Hampshire and Lean on Me.
His first marriage to the actress Sandra Church ended in divorce in 1975. He was married in 1981 to actress Deanna Deignan, who survives him along with his daughter Dena, his son-in-law Timothy Sims and his granddaughters Dylan and Isabelle.