Wesley Naylor, who forged a career out of a small gospel musical Mama, I Want to Sing, and its many sequels, died on Aug. 25, the New York Times reported. He was 44 and was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment.
Mr. Naylor became the musical director of Mama, I Want to Sing, a musical written by Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro, in 1985. The show, about a minister's daughter who leaves the church to become a recording star, had already been running Off-Broadway since 1983 and would eventually run 2,213 performances in total. Over time, Mr. Naylor, who was born in Mississippi and was well schooled in gospel music and piano, began adding his own songs to the show.
Anyone living in the New York area who watched late-night television during the years of Mama's run was familiar with the shows commercials, which climaxed with a young woman belting to the rafters, "Mama, I Want to Sing!" A sequel, Mama, I Want to Sing II, followed in 1990, running for a year. A third production, Born to Sing!, played six months in 1996. By this time, Mr. Naylor was furnishing all the compositions.
Mama, with a new score written by Mr. Naylor, played London in 1995, and, according to the Times, a new tour of the show will tour the U.S. next year.
Mr. Naylor is survived by his mother, father, three brothers and sister.