The Broadway producer and general manager Arthur Cantor will be saluted at a tribute 7:30 PM Oct. 23 at the John Houseman Theatre, where the retired Cantor will hear testimonials — and some songs — from friends and colleagues.
The 80-year-old Cantor's long career has included presenting more than 100 productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in London and Paris. Recently, he presented Off-Broadway's Beau Jest, with producer Carol Ostrow, who is organizing the tribute. Among his many credits are New York's The Tenth Man, A Thousand Clowns, the Pulitzer Prize winning All the Way Home, Gideon, In Praise of Love with Rex Harrison and Julie Harris, Vivat! Vivat! Regina, Private Lives with Maggie Smith and On Golden Pond, Beau Jest, Greetings! and a revival of I Do! I Do! starring Karen Ziemba and David Garrison.
"He certainly was a mentor of mine when I started in the business 10 years ago," said former actress Ostrow, who continues to be a producer and operates a group sales venture. "I worked as his unpaid assistant, and I wanted to make a place for myself in the business. I listened and I absorbed and I learned and eventually became his partner on A Room of One's Own, Beau Jest and Greetings!"
In 1999, Cantor also produced a planned pre-Broadway staging of Scent of the Roses with Julie Harris, by Lisette Lecat Ross, in Nyack, NY. A Manhattan run did not materialize, and in the past year Cantor's health has been failing.
The James Sherman comedy, Beau Jest, about a Jewish woman who hires a gentile actor to play the perfect Jewish boyfriend for her family, ran three years at the Lamb's Theatre in New York. It started at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and has enjoyed a popular regional life. "He was the most superb and ingenious [businessman] and generous as far as his knowledge was concerned," Ostrow said. "[His gift] was putting on quality shows for the least amount of money — quality shows."
Ostrow is currently producing Berlin to Broadway, a Kurt Weill revue, at The Triad, with partners Laura Heller and Edwin Schloss, who also worked for Cantor.
Expected so far at the Cantor evening are journalist Howard Kissell (master of ceremonies), the Chicago director, Dennis Zacek, who staged Beau Jest, playwright James Sherman, Karen Ziemba, Gregg Edelmann (of Greetings!), Paulette Attie, representatives of the Barrow Group, columnist Peter Filichia and more.
For information about attending, call Carol Ostrow at (212) 265-8500. The John Houseman is at 450 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan.
Cantor was born in Boston, MA, in 1920 and graduated Harvard in 1940. For many years he was a press representative of Broadway shows such as The Most Happy Fella and Auntie Mame, and handled press for his own shows. He partnered with Saint Subber to present his first Broadway show, Paddy Chayefsky's The Tenth Man. He worked for legendary producer Billy Rose and ran the Billy Rose Foundation for a time. As a general manager he handled all business aspects of his shows, from contracts to advertising to press.
With Stuart Little, he co-authored "The Playmakers," a study of the Broadway theatre, published in 1970.
— By Kenneth Jones