The July 21 death of actor Steve Barton is being attributed to heart failure, according to obituary information released by the press office for the New York production of The Phantom of the Opera, the musical for which Barton may be best known.
The 47-year-old American actor-singer who originated the role of Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera in London and also sang it — and, eventually, the title role — on Broadway, died suddenly in Bremen, Germany, according to obituary information. He was to take on the role of Jason in the fall staging of the non-musical Greek classic, Medea, at Pittsburgh Public Theater. At the time of his death, he was in Germany to make a recording for Stella Musicals.
The Austin American-Statesman first reported his death July 23. A family member confirmed news of his death to the paper in Austin, TX, where he performed as a student and young actor.
Barton is heard as the romantic lead, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, on the original London cast album of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. He played the role on the West End and on Broadway and would eventually graduate to play the fourth Phantom on Broadway (March 19-Dec. 1, 1990). He also covered the lead in Los Angeles briefly. His college-sweetheart wife, Phantom production dance supervisor Denny Berry, survives him. Recent credits include the lead role of Count von Krolock in the European world premiere of Jim Steinman and Roman Polanski's Dance of the Vampires (Tanz der Vampire). He is also heard on a cast album of that aborning show. He also played Bellini in Jones and Schmidt's Mirette at Goodspeed Opera House and was Boris Lermontov in Jule Styne's The Red Shoes on Broadway. He was the Beast in the European premiere of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. His 1988 Playbill bio stated that he was an Arkansas native but a "naturalized Texan" who attended the University of Texas as a multi-scholarship student, where he appeared in over 30 production before moving to Switzerland to join the Stadt Theater St. Gallen with wife Berry, a choreographer. According to fan sites, they have one son, Edward, who was born in Vienna.
His varied work in the U.S. and Europe — TV, concerts, Brecht-Weill revivals, plays, readings, smash musicals — inspired his followers to create international fan clubs and websites.
Among his credits, he played Fred in Kiss Me, Kate at Goodspeed Opera House in 1994, and workshopped Let's Do It!, a new A.R. Gurney tuner with Cole Porter songs at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT, in 1996.
He is heard on John McGlinn's Show Boat studio cast album, with Teresa Stratas, and on various demos and recordings (including Tupelo, a new Elvis-inspired show). Barton also appeared on TV soaps "The Young and the Restless" and "Another World."
Barton received the IMAGE Award, the European theatrical honor equal to the Tony Award in the U.S.
One of his proudest accomplishments was said to be the recording called, "Living Water," produced for charity. He wrote the lyrics for five of the album's 12 songs and performed one of the songs accompanied by the voice of Mother Teresa. Barton and wife Denny have a presidential scholarship named for them at UT. In addition to Berry, Barton is survived by a son, Edward, a brother, Tom Barton of Nederland, TX, and a sister, Betty Barton Gambrell, also of Nederland.