Mark Baker, who earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in the 1974 Broadway revival of Candide, died August 14 at the age of 71 in his hometown of Cumberland, Maryland.
Baker made his New York debut at the age of 25 in the 1971 Off-Broadway musical Love Me, Love My Children, and later appeared in the original run of Godspell.
He landed his first Broadway role in 1972 when he was cast by Sir Peter Hall in Via Galactica, the infamous multi-million dollar sci-fi musical—equal parts futuristic spectacle and dramatic debacle—that shuttered after only seven performances.
A year later, Tony-winning director Harold Prince cast him to play the title role in a highly-revised version of Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 operetta Candide, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1973.
Prince’s rollicking take on the operetta transformed Voltaire’s odyssey into an irreverent farce, calling for a principal cast of fresh-faced “innocents,” with Baker as Candide and Maureen Brennan as Cunegonde. Clocking in at a brisk 105 minutes, Prince’s carnival-esque concept placed the action on a series of interconnected platforms that sprawled throughout the theatre.
The acclaimed production transferred to Broadway Theatre in March 1974, earning Baker a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, as well as the 1974 Theatre World Award for his performance.
Baker’s last Broadway role was in Alan Bennett’s short-lived 1975 farce Habeas Corpus, appearing alongside June Havoc, Celeste Holm, and a young Richard Gere.
In the 1980s Baker briefly turned away from acting, taking a job as a paralegal before returning to the stage, spending three seasons at the Guthrie Theatre. He also appeared in a recurring role on the TV medical drama St. Elsewhere.
Baker created the role of bookkeeper Otto Kringelein in the 1990–1992 national tour of Grand Hotel, earning a Helen Hayes Award for his performance.
Born October 2, 1946, Baker spent the last two decades of his life devoted to the revitalization of the Embassy Theatre in his hometown of Cumberland, Maryland, overseeing the operations of the non-profit arts facility.