By Robert Simonson
06 May 2013
Mr. Wolsk began his career as the Broadway company manager of the hit play Tchin-Tchin in 1962, starring Anthony Quinn and Margaret Leighton. He was also company manager for John Osborne's historical play Luther and James Baldwin's race drama Blues For Mr. Charlie.
By the time the Joshua Logan-directed comedy Ready When You Are, C.B.! came along in 1965, Mr. Wolsk—who sometimes went by the more informal Gene Wolsk—was a general manager. He acted in the same capacity for the enormous comedy hit The Impossible Years, which starred Alan King and ran for two years beginning in 1965.
Mr. Wolsk was a member of a generation of general managers in the 1960s who graduated to the role of producer. His first foray as a full-fledged showman was 1966's The Lion in Winter, on which he joined forces with King and Emanuel Azenberg, who would become his most frequent partner, both as producer and general manager. The James Goldman play, set in the time of King Henry II, ran only three months, but was respectfully reviewed, won a couple Tony nominations and was adapted into a well-known film.
"We formed a combine," Mr. Wolsk told the New York Times or his partnership with Azenberg, "because we can provide better service by the three of us than individually."
Mr. Wolsk followed up that effort with Mark Twain Tonight!, an innovative solo play starring Hal Holbrook; the wartime drama The Investigation; and the farce Something Different, written and directed by Carl Reiner.
From that time on, Mr. Wolsk would ping-pong between the roles of general manager and producer. As a general manager—often in collaboration with Azenberg—he worked on the musical George M!, the Joe Papp-production Shakespearean musical romp Two Gentlemen of Verona, David Rabe's Sticks and Bones, the 1972 revival of A Funny Thing Happened…., the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama That Championship Season, Much Ado About Nothing, Larry Gelbart's Volpone-inspired comedy Sly Fox, the musical The Wiz, and a 1977 revival of Hair. A frequent employer was the New York Shakespeare Festival, where Wolsk and Azenberg were Joe Papp's general managers of choice throughout much of the 1970s.
As producer, he backed, with Azenberg, the Melvin Van Peeples musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, and a series of 1970s Neil Simon comedies, including The Sunshine Boys, The Good Doctor and God's Favorite. Alone, he produced a 1977 revival of Man of La Mancha. He was nominated for Tony Awards for Natural Death and The Sunshine Boys. His final Broadway producing credit was the Gelbart political farce Mastergate in 1989.
He had one of his biggest successes Off-Broadway with the musical revue Forever Plaid, which, beginning in 1990, ran for more than 1,800 performances. A subsequent revue, A Brief History of White Music, was less successful.
Eugene Wolsk was the son of Isidore Wolsk, a lawyer of Baldwin Harbor, Long Island. He graduated from Allegheny College and attended the Yale School of Drama.
His marriages to Cynthia Harris and Judith Carol Licht ended in divorce. His is survived by his third wife, Laura Stein.