UPDATED: Theatre Community Remembers Tony and Oscar Winner Marvin Hamlisch
By Playbill Staff
August 7, 2012
Playbill.com reached out to members of the theatre community Aug. 7, asking them to share their memories of the late Tony and Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, whose numerous compositions included A Chorus Line, They're Playing Our Song, "The Way We Were," "The Entertainer," "Nobody Does It Better" and more. Several artists have also expressed their thoughts via Twitter.
Steven Brinberg, Barbra Streisand impressionist who sang in symphony concerts with Mr. Hamlisch
"I first met Marvin when he heard my CD and had the idea of my doing a number in the Streisand 'Timeless' tour. In the end it didn't happen because the concert, just a few weeks away, already had a young girl playing young Barbra (Lauren Frost, who we later did a show with), and it would be overkill. But he promised 'I definitely want to work with you.' Sure enough, within a few months he asked me to sing in one of his symphony concerts with Barbara Cook at the Kennedy Center. We would end up doing shows in over a dozen cities over the next decade. I was in total awe upon our meeting, but he put me quickly at ease as he did everyone. I've never met someone so accomplished who was so completely down to earth...far less famous people could learn from him. We would do these shows not just in DC but places as far flung as Fort Worth and Oklahoma City...places where one might worry about the 'unorothodox' appearance of a man dressed as a woman...but Marvin had no such qualms. I loved our chats as we would wait in the wings together....as well as onstage, where I would change the jokes leading up to my songs each night just so they would be different to him and make him laugh. The last show we did together was last year in Pasadena at an outdoor venue which didn't have proper dressing rooms. He graciously allowed me to change in his trailer. At one point he asked me to fix his collar, at which point I was fully made up as Barbra, and we both laughed at the sight of me-as-her, nails and all trying to fix his collar. You could ask him anything, and he could talk about any subject, not just show business, but politics, sports etc. In Milwaukee after a show he took us to get custard, as excited as a kid to show us this place...not blase at all like so many in the business. In Seattle he was so excited to take us to his favorite restuarant. He really enjoyed life. In spite of all his success, I think Marvin was underrated...when you look at the vast range of music, from musicals and film scores he leaves behind. It's truly sad to think of the music he still had in him that we won't get to know. Sadder still is the loss of the friendship of this wonderful human being."
Betty Buckley, Tony-winning actress, via Twitter
"So shocked & sad to learn of Marvin Hamlisch passing away at 68 after a brief illness. Such a lovely, gracious, talented man. Such a loss."
Michael Cerveris, Tony-winning actor
"I only got to work with Marvin Hamlisch once for a Sondheim concert at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony. Even the phone call inviting me and the follow ups before I arrived left me trying to catch my breath...and he had done most of the talking, much of it about the amazing meal he wanted to take us all to after the concert was done (did I like steak? there's this amazing cut of meat at this fantastic place....).
"The concert itself was a whirlwind few days in DC and he was intense, manic, demanding...a pretty stressful few days. And yet, there was also a sweetness and a deep and sincere joy and love for the singers he'd assembled and the music we were making. By the end of what felt like a symphonic boot camp, there was nothing but gratitude and mutual appreciation and the happiness that only comes when you take on too much and somehow prevail. And then you realize that he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"When we finally got to the promised meal (which was as spectacularly good as he had said), I began to feel that this was really what he wanted most of all, to surround himself at a table with people he held in some regard and talk about life, music, shows, stuff. He seemed most of all like a big kid, harder on himself than anyone, who never lost the boyhood delight that he got to do this for his life. And he passed that on to so many of us over the years. Beyond the unforgettable music, that will be his legacy, living on through the lucky ones he shared a rehearsal or a dinner table with."
Susan Egan, Broadway actress and singer, via Twitter
"God Bless you, Marvin Hamlisch. I was so honored to work with you. You will be missed, sweet man."
Melissa Errico, Tony-nominated actress, via Twitter
"Marvin, this cannot be! Only 3 weeks ago, we sang and laughed under stars. You are a prince. I cannot say goodbye...omg, we had just fallen madly in love. We had a night for the ages, in DC that night, I will never forget -inspirational...Marvin texted me these words last week: 'enjoy!!!' and so he did- HE enjoyed music, artists, his talent, the audience, life... And jokes!!"
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater
"The Public Theater is deeply saddened by the loss of the great Marvin Hamlisch. Marvin was a musical genius; he is a legend at The Public for his ground-breaking score for A Chorus Line, which changed The Public, and the American theater, forever. We are lucky he graced our stages. He will be missed."
Michael Feinstein, Grammy-winning singer, who shared the stage with Mr. Hamlisch at his final live performance July 21 at the Pasadena Pops
"The passing of Marvin is a tremendous loss both personally and professionally. He was prodigiously talented, and one of the smartest, quickest and most versatile people I have ever known. There was nothing he couldn't do musically. Personally he was always positive, generous, kind-hearted, sentimental and the funniest person in the room. Marvin loved talent and was a great fan of other people's work, nor was he threatened by other people's achievements. He was intensely faithful to his friends and treated everyone with respect. Marvin worked hard on every level and would try to transform anything he didn't like about himself. Creatively, there was so much more to come. I'm sorry he's gone."
Sheldon Harnick, Tony-winning co-creator of Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me
"This is a tragic loss. He was a gigantic talent as a composer, conductor, pianist and a wit. He was a dear friend to me and Margie."
Rupert Holmes, Tony-winning lyricist-librettist-composer who collaborated with Mr. Hamlisch on the new musical The Nutty Professor
"The music of Marvin Hamlisch is invariably compassionate, charming, tender, uplifting, classy, delightful and often profoundly moving. The world has not lost a note of his genius. His music will live on. What I have lost as his devoted collaborator is a friend who was invariably...compassionate, charming, tender, uplifting, classy, delightful and often profoundly moving. Like the rest of the world, I will now have to turn to Marvin's music to have his warmth and wit in my life.
"I first began to understand Marvin's brilliance in 1971 when, as a young man, I saw the early Woody Allen film 'Bananas.' Throughout the movie, there was this wonderful mock South American serenade 'Quiero La Noche,' a Marvin tune that propelled the giddy pace of the movie right from the opening credits. But when the movie ended, over a very brief end title I suddenly heard this same silly song, rendered only by Marvin at the piano and vocalist Jake Holmes, as a lilting little gem of heartbreaking loveliness entitled "'Cause I Believe in Loving." I stayed to watch the movie again, just to hear that gorgeous song. And I thought, 'This Marvin Hamlisch...he can make you laugh and cry with the same piece of music.' And he did that again and again for over 40 years."
Cheyenne Jackson, Broadway actor and singer, via Twitter
"Unbelievably sad about the passing of Marvin Hamlisch. We've lost one of the best."
Robert Klein, Tony-nominated star of They're Playing Our Song
"Marvin Hamlisch and I worked together many times. He was inscrutable in some ways, but was a loving collaborator who composed the most beautiful melodies, and thankfully we are left with them. It is sad to think of all the beautiful music he would have composed in days to come."
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tony and Olivier-winning composer, via Facebook
"I only heard of Marvin Hamlisch’s death this morning whilst I was on holiday. I am still reeling. I saw him but six months ago. Although I knew Marvin before, I became a friend through a USA TV chat show when he was at the height of his Chorus Line, witty performing fame. No one knew who I was. Marvin went to the piano, played some of my melodies and said to the studio audience 'This is who Andrew is.' No one other than a brilliant talent and a supremely generous composer and performer would have done that. We became firm friends ever since. Farewell Singular Sensation."
Donna McKechnie, Tony-winning star of A Chorus Line
"When I first met Marvin he was rehearsal pianist and I asked him to play an audition for me. I went to his apartment, and he told me the most incredible story about his family fleeing the Nazis. His father was a musician, and he had to jump off the train to avoid being caught, throwing his trombone off first. He survived and made it to this country with his trombone. His family was close and worked very hard to make sure he had good musical training. The energy and passion and sense of fun he possessed never left him. As a pianist, he was renowned for his brilliance and speed and a strong left hand (which was always my baromoter for a great player). His success as a composer as everyone knows is world-wide, but when I hear his sublime and beautiful melodies, I can't help thinking about that impassioned young man and his family legacy of courage, love and triumph."
Idina Menzel, Tony-winning actress, who performed in concert with Mr. Hamlisch, in a statement
"Marvin was a friend and mentor, but often felt like a second father to me. To have shared the stage with such a legend has been some of the most rewarding moments in my career. Not only does he leave us with the most precious of melodies and music, but anyone who has ever shared an after-show drink with him can attest to his hysterical storytelling and deep love for his stunning wife Terre. My heart is broken. He made me feel so special. I love him so much."
Liza Minnelli, Tony and Oscar-winning actress and singer, in a statement
"Marvin Hamlisch and I have been best friends since I was 13 years old. He arranged my first album, my second album, the songs for 'Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli at the London Palladium' and just about everything else. He was one of the funniest people I knew. I will miss his talent, our laughter & friendship, but mostly I will miss Marvin. My heart is with his wife Terre always. I have lost my first lifelong best friend, and sadly we have lost a splendid, splendid talent."
Phyllis Newman, Tony-winning actress and creator of Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative
"If Marvin wasn't such a great composer, he could have been Jerry Seinfeld, one of the funniest men ever!... When Marvin was about 16 years old, he came to our apartment to play piano for a party we were having. At that time he was playing back-up piano and was also just a rehearsal pianist. Jules Styne saw him that night at our party and hired him for one of his parties. Then producer Sam Spiegel, who was also at one of the parties, heard Marvin play and realized that Marvin could play just about anything, so he hired him as well..... and that may or may not have been his introduction to the Broadway community."
Elaine Paige, Olivier-winning actress, via Twitter
"Marvin Hamlisch you were a 'singular sensation' & will be much missed my friend."
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Bernadette Peters, Tony-winning actress and star of The Goodbye Girl
"Marvin Hamlisch was an amazing writer, conductor, raconteur and all in all, a wonderful showman!! Working with him was a dream come true. His talents gave joy to audiences worldwide. What a great loss for all."
Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The Recording Academy, in a statement
"Four-time Grammy winner Marvin Hamlisch was a masterful composer whose work transcended Broadway stages and the silver screen. His compositions for Broadway hits such as A Chorus Line and The Goodbye Girl, and scores for films 'Sophie’s Choice,' 'Ordinary People,' and 'The Way We Were' earned him numerous accolades, including the prestigious honor of having received Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, Tonys and a Pulitzer Prize — in addition to his Grammy Awards. His work had a significant influence on our culture, and continues to reach across generations. The music industry has lost a truly gifted artist, and our condolences are with his family, friends and all those who were inspired by his singular talent."
Seth Rudetsky, actor, musician, Playbill.com columnist and star of They're Playing Our Song benefit concert
"He was a genius yet a down-to-earth New York Jewish boy. He was so supportive when I asked him if I could play Vernon in They're Playing Our Song (opposite Sutton Foster). As a matter of fact, he approved my first idea of doing it...opposite Gavin Creel! But in the long run, we couldn't convince the other rights holders. And, PS, both times I verbally asked him...he was one of those people who never graduated to email. It was a phone call or fax. And, it was a phone call to his home number. No cell phone."
Stephen Schwartz, award-winning Broadway and film composer and president of Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.
"The Dramatists Guild is saddened by the loss of one of our most admired and valued members. Marvin Hamlisch, among his many extraordinary accomplishments, was a great and influential composer for the theatre, and we will miss both his talent and his friendship."
Barbra Streisand, Oscar-winning actress, on her official website
"I'm devastated. He was my dear friend. He’s been in my life ever since the first day I met him in 1963, when he was my rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl. He played at my wedding in 1998… and recently for me at a benefit for women’s heart disease. The world will remember Marvin for his brilliant musical accomplishments, from A Chorus Line to 'The Way We Were,' and so many others, but when I think of him now, it was his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity, and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around. Just last night, I was trying to reach him, to tell him how much I loved him, and that I wanted to use an old song of his, that I had just heard for the first time. He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him."
David Zippel, Tony winner and lyricist for The Goodbye Girl
"The temptation is to use Ed Kleban's wonderful lyric for 'One' to describe Marvin, but I will try to use my own words. Marvin was astonishing! He was as funny as any stand-up comic, lightning fast, extremely emotional, extraordinarliy kind, wildly enthusiastic, massively talented and so much fun. Writing with Marvin was a delight, filled with laughter, an avalanche of melody, and, did I mention, enthusiasm? When Marvin bounced ideas, there was actual bouncing. A little window into Marvin: It was early in our collaboration. We were working at his house in Long Island, and he knew that I had to be back in the city early that evening. Time was getting tight. I ran upstairs to get my bag, and when I came downstairs to say goodbye Marvin was nowhere to be found. Then I heard a horn honk. When I walked out to the driveway, Marvin was getting out of my car, which he had just filled with gas. What a guy! There has never been anyone like him, and there never will be. I will miss him forever."