Tony Winner Mark O'Donnell's Friends, Family and Colleagues Will Pay Tribute at Nov. 12 Broadway Gathering
By Kenneth Jones
The life and work of late Tony Award-winning librettist Mark O'Donnell, co-writer of Broadway's Hairspray, will be celebrated 3 PM Nov. 12 at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
Family, friends and colleagues will gather. Songs and O'Donnell's writing will be integrated into the tribute. Doors will open at 2:30 PM, and the event is open to the public.
Manhattan Theatre Club's Friedman is at 261 West 47th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Participants will include O'Donnell's identical twin brother Steve O'Donnell (a four-time Emmy Award winner and former head writer for David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel); Tony and Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce; Patricia Marx (The New Yorker staff writer and "Saturday Night Live" alumna); Tony-winning Hairspray producer Margo Lion; Tony-winning Hairspray director Jack O'Brien; Tony-winning director Doug Hughes; Cry-Baby director Mark Brokaw; and Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who will perform along with Tony nominee Kerry Butler and other members of the Hairspray cast.
Filmmaker John Waters and comedian Jon Stewart (who was a student of O'Donnell's at NYU) "have contributed filmed tributes for the memorial, which will also feature testimonials from numerous colleagues as well as a montage of photos and Mark's cartoons, designed by David Rockwell and The Rockwell Group," according to organizers.
Mia Barron, David Greenspan (Hairspray), Jay O. Sanders (Fables for Friends) and Christopher Evan Welch (Scapin) will perform O'Donnell's one-act play There Shall Be No Bottom (a bad play for worse actors).
The playwright, novelist, humorist and librettist who shared the Tony Award for Best Book for the musical Hairspray died on Aug. 6 after collapsing in Manhattan. He was 58 years old.
O'Donnell adapted the 1960s Baltimore-set John Waters film — about a chubby girl fighting for integration — with librettist Thomas Meehan. The musical would go on to win the 2003 Tony as Best Musical, and became an international hit. The librettists hoped lightning would strike twice when they adapted Waters' "Cry-Baby" for Broadway. It was short-lived in 2008, but they again received Tony nominations.
Hairspray co-songwriter Marc Shaiman told Playbill.com on Aug. 6, "Mark was a kind soul, a hysterical mind and the real hero of Hairspray. His passing is shocking, our great loss, but heaven's gain."
His plays include That's It, Folks!; Fables for Friends; The Nice and the Nasty; Strangers on Earth; Vertigo Park and the musical Tots in Tinseltown. He collaborated with Bill Irwin on an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin and co-authored a translation of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. He also adapted Feydeau's Private Fittings for the La Jolla Playhouse and a symphonic version of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Kennedy Center.
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