Jeffrey Ash, Broadway Ad Man and Producer, Dies at 65

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10 Aug 2011

Jeffrey Ash, who followed his father in the Broadway advertising business and helped revolutionize it through a ground-breaking television spot for the musical Pippin, died suddenly on Aug. 8 at his home in Manhattan. He had for many years suffered from inclusion body myositis, an autoimmune disorder. He was 65.



Jeffrey Ash was the son of Ingram Ash, one of the owners of Blaine-Thompson, the dominating Broadway advertising agency during the post-WWII years. By some accounts, the firm at times represented 90 percent of the shows on Broadway. After graduating from Muhlenberg College in 1967, the younger Ash began work at Blaine-Thompson alongside his father, handling the advertising for such legendary producers as Harold Prince, Stuart Ostrow and Alexander H. Cohen.

Pippin, the 1972 Bob Fosse-director Stephen Schwartz musical about a wayward prince trying to find himself, was a Blaine-Thompson client. Until then, Broadway producers had not invested much in television advertising, deeming it too expensive, and imagining its viewers were not prospective theatergoers. But with the box office flagging, the show filmed a television spot featuring a dance sequence of star Ben Vereen and two dancers. (The dance was not actually from the show, but a special routine created by Fosse for the commercial.)

"Stuart Ostrow had the guts to try television," Mr. Ash is quoted as saying in "The Anatomy of a Broadway Musical," an upcoming book by Ostrow. "Everyone said people who watch TV wouldn't spend the $9.90 to go to a musical. But we cut out all the newspaper ads and ran the TV ad with Ben Vereen and the girls."

According to Ostrow, in 1973 the fledgling Ash/LeDonne Agency—which was formed by Jeffrey Ash together with Peter LeDonne—set up a shoot in Princeton, New Jersey, to film "The Manson Trio" dance excerpt, starring Ben Vereen, Candy Brown and Pam Sousa. The spot worked. Tickets sales soared, and the show became a hit.

After Ingram Ash's death in 1974, Mr. Ash continued to work with producers Prince, Ostrow and Cohen at the Ash/LeDonne.(Blaine-Thompson went bankrupt in 1978.) The firm closed in 1985, when it filed for protection from creditors. According to reports at the time, the agency was dealt a blow by the touring production of The Tap Dance Kid, which owed it money.

The next year Jeffrey Ash became director of theatrical accounts at Grey Entertainment. He remained for 15 years. While at Grey, Mr. Ash ventured into producing, backing the Off-Broadway hit Other People’s Money in 1989. The award-winning play ran for over two years at the Minetta Lane Theatre and later toured the United States. His other productions and co-productions included Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Three Tall Women, David Shiner and Bill Irwin’s Fool Moon, Jon Marans’ Old Wicked Songs, and Mrs. Klein starring Uta Hagen.

In a career that spanned five decades, Mr. Ash and his agencies represented the original Broadway productions of A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, I Love My Wife, Side by Side by Sondheim, Annie, Evita, Barnum, Children of a Lesser God, Amadeus, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Sophisticated Ladies, Dancin, Deathtrap, Da, Woman of the Year and Glengarry Glen Ross, among many others.

Jeffrey Ash is survived by three daughters: Nicole Ash, Danielle Ash, and Heather Ash and son-in-law Rene Hidalgo, all of New York City; a brother Steve (Mariah) Ash, a niece Emily Ash, all of Scituate, MA; and longtime companion, Melly Garcia of New York City. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The New Dramatists or to The Myositis Association.