2002 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On

News   2002 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On
In 2002, those we said goodbye to included a lyricist-librettist who infused musical comedy with touches of crazy impishness, a Nebraska-born actress who became known as a great interpreter of the classics in London and Broadway, and a veteran producer who embraced writers ranging from Euripides to Shakespeare to Terrence McNally.

The deaths of Adolph Green, Irene Worth and Robert Whitehead made headlines on Playbill On-Line in 2002, and as the year draws to a close we reflect on the varied losses the theatre suffered in the past year.

Whether their work was seen locally, regionally, nationally or around the world, the writers, producers, advocates, actors, composers, musicians, lyricists, directors, technicians and designers of the following list contributed to the welfare of the art form. Even now, their sparks fly upward.

This necrology was culled from the pages of the past year of Playbill On Line, but is by no means meant to be a complete list of the countless theatre people who left us — and left us inspired — in 2002.


George Roy Hill, 81, film director of "The Sting" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie," whose roots were in Broadway direction of Period of Adjustment, Greenwillow and Look Homeward Angel, Dec. 27 in Manhattan, of complications from Parkinson's disease. Virginia McKnight Binger, 86, millionairess owner of the five-house Jujamcyn Theatre Broadway chain and namesake of the Virginia Theatre, Dec. 22.

William Glover, 91, a retired editor and theatre critic who reviewed thousands of performances for The Associated Press between 1960-78, Dec. 20 after a long illness.

Frederick Knott, 86, one of the most-produced playwrights of the last 50 years for having penned two major thrillers, Dial M for Murder and Wait Until Dark, Dec. 17 at his Manhattan home.

James Hazeldine, 55, British actor who was to appear in London's new play, The Talking Cure, and who was among actors in Broadway's recent The Iceman Cometh, Dec. 17, in London.

Michael Dice Sr., 57, a Chicago-area actor and theatre educator, Dec. 14, of a heart attack on his way to perform in the Stage Left Theatre production of Prairie Lights, in Chicago.

Ruth Kobart, 78, the respected character actress who was Tony Award-nominated for playing the blowsy wife, Domina, in Broadway's original A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and played Miss Jones in How to Succeed... and Miss Hannigan on the road in Annie, to say nothing of her roles with San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, Dec. 14 of pancreatic cancer at her home in San Francisco.

Maria Björnson, 53, the set and costume designer who created the rich, sumptuous visual world of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love, Dec. 13 in her London home.

William Marrié, 33, the Canadian dancer who played matinee performances as the lead Eddie in Broadway's Movin' Out, Nov. 16, in New York City, following a motorcycle accident.

Eddie Bracken, 87, the sweet, owl-faced comic actor of film, TV and the stage, best known for the movies "Hail the Conquering Hero" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," as well as Broadway shows and regional stagings such as Paper Mill's nationally-televised Show Boat, Nov. 14 in New Jersey.

Vinnette Carroll, 80, a Tony Award nominee who was the first black woman to direct on Broadway, and one of the creators of the gospel sensation, Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, Nov. 5 at her home in Lauderhill, FL.

Irving Martin Phillips, 83, a longtime Broadway carpenter, stagehand and prop master who worked on Golden Age TV shows and dozens of Broadway plays and musicals, Nov. 2, of calciphylaxis, in New York City.

Brian Behan, 75, the Irish playwright and younger brother of playwright Brendan Behan, Nov. 2, in Brighton, England.

Jason Opsahl, 39, a Broadway singer and actor who appeared in the original casts of Grease!, The Will Rogers Follies and The Full Monty, Oct. 25 of cardiac arrest after a long struggle with brain cancer.

Richard Harris, 72, the passionate Irish actor who played King Arthur in the film version of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot, and later on tour and for TV, Oct. 25 at a London hospital after a battle with Hodgkin's Disease.

Adolph Green, the legendary Broadway lyricist librettist and screenwriter who, with partner Betty Comden, created On the Town, Bells Are Ringing, On the 20th Century and "Singin' in the Rain," Oct. 24, of natural causes at his Manhattan home.

Marvin A. Krauss, 74, the Tony Award-winning Broadway producer who started out as a stage manager but was also a respected and sought-after general manager for many Broadway productions, Oct. 22 after complications from a long illness.

George Hall, 85, a character actor who appeared on Broadway in seven decades, from the 1940s to 2002 (most recently in Roundabout Theatre Company's The Boys From Syracuse), Oct. 21 of complications from a stroke, in Hawthorne, NY.

Keene Curtis, 79, the Tony Award-winning actor whose range included roles in everything from The School for Scandal, The Wild Duck and The Cherry Orchard — to Daddy Warbucks in Annie and Albin in La Cage aux Folles — Oct. 13 near Salt Lake City, after battling Alzheimer's disease.

Bruce Paltrow, 58, the TV producer and director — and stage director at Williamstown Theatre Festival — married to stage actress Blythe Danner, and father of film actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Oct. 3 in Rome, Italy, of complications from pneumonia.

Tony Martinez, 82, an actor known for his more than 2,000 performances as Sancho Panza in the musical, Man of La Mancha, Sept. 23, of natural causes.

Jan de Hartog, 88, the Dutch playwright and novelist whose best-known stage work, The Fourposter, was turned in the musical, I do! I Do!, Sept. 22 in Houston.

Joan Littlewood, 87, the working class girl from the world of London cockneys who became a major director and producer of political, social and experimental works after World War II, notably Oh What a Lovely War and Taste of Honey, Sept. 20 in London.

James Gregory, 90, character best known for playing Inspector Luger on TV's "Barney Miller," but who had a respectable Broadway career, appearing in original runs of All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, Sept. 16.

Beatrice Manley, 81, a Broadway actress who played classics at Lincoln Center and co-founded San Francisco Actors' Workshop with husband Herbert Blau, Sept. 13, in Milwaukee.

Kim Hunter, 79, the actress whose long and rich stage career included playing Stella in the original Broadway production and subsequent film of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Sept. 11, in Greenwich Village, of a heart attack.

Rolf Fjelde, 76, whose translations are used for many of the Ibsen productions staged across the United States, Sept. 10 at his home in White Plains, NY.

Bruce W. Mitchell, 63, a member of the board of the Roundabout Theatre Company and A.R.T./New York (Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York), Sept. 10 at his New York City home, of lung cancer.

Katrin Cartlidge, 41, an eccentric individual actress who impressed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic in the Theatre de Complicite's Mnemonic, Sept. 7 at a London hospital, of septicemia resulting from pneumonia.

Alan Brandt, 78, an art dealer and publicist whose later years were punctuated with playwriting and acting, including penning Off-Broadway's 2 1/2 Jews, Sept. 6.

Cliff Gorman, 65, the stage and film actor who won a Tony Award for portraying caustic comic Lenny Bruce in Lenny, Sept. 5 at his home in New York City, of leukemia.

Ted Ross, 68, the actor who won a Tony Award for playing The Cowardly Lion in the Broadway musical, The Wiz, a role he repeated in the film, Sept. 3 at a Dayton, OH, hospital.

Bob Borod, 70, a longtime Broadway production stage manager (Equus, Amadeus, M. Butterfly, "Night of 100 Stars"), Aug. 25 at his home in Martha's Vineyard, after a long illness.

William Warfield, 82, the baritone who played Porgy in the Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess in the 1950s and toured the world as a soloist, as well as a playing Joe in M-G-M's "Show Boat," Aug. 25 in Chicago.

Wesley Naylor, 44, composer who forged a career out of a small gospel musical, Mama, I Want to Sing, and its many sequels, Aug. 25, in Brooklyn.

Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes, 95, a designer and producer who was the widow of designer and architect Norman Bel Geddes, Aug. 16 in her home in Hudson, NY.

Don Chastain, 66, the tall, strong-voiced actor who distinguished himself in the musicals Floyd Collins and Parade, and many TV roles, Aug. 9, at a Los Angeles hospital after a battle with colon cancer.

Peter Matz, 73, the respected musical director, orchestrator, arranger and composer who worked on Broadway musicals, concert and cabaret acts and most recently the Reprise! musical theatre concert series in Los Angeles, as well as Tommy Tune projects, Aug. 9 after a battle with lung cancer.

Phillip Oesterman, 64, co-librettist and director of the upcoming Broadway-bound musical, Urban Cowboy, July 30 of a heart attack, in his home in Ft. Myers, FL.

Clark Gesner, 64, the composer of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, July 23, in New York City after a heart attack.

Chaim Potok, 73, the rabbi, novelist and playwright whose best known work might be the novel, "The Chosen," which had several stage versions, July 23 at his home in Merion, PA.

Leo McKern, 82, the rubbery-face stage, film and TV character actor who won fans for playing TV's tobacco-loving, blustery barrister, "Rumpole of the Bailey," July 22 in Bath, England, of natural causes.

Betsy Friday, 44, a Broadway producer and former actress-dancer who shepherded a concert act known as "The Broadway Tenors," July 16 in New York City of complications from a bone marrow transplant.

Vera Dunn O'Connor, 89, a cosmetics executive who had roots in the theatre, including the role of the gun moll, Bonnie, in the original Broadway staging of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, July 11 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Rod Steiger, 77, the intense, serious-faced "method" actor who played the non-singing role of Jud Fry in the film, "Oklahoma!," and won an Academy Award for "In the Heat of the Night," July 9, of kidney failure and pneumonia.

Lore Noto, 79, the producer responsible for the legendary Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks, July 8 at his home in Forest Hills, NY, of complications from cancer.

Rosemary Clooney, 74, singer-actress who went from singing to catchy novelty tunes to winning respect as one of America's leading interpreters of standards, June 29 at her home in Beverly Hills.

Dolores Gray, the sultry-voiced Tony Award winning actress (Carnival in Flanders) who had a late-career Broadway success as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street and who appeared in other Broadway shows (Two on the Aisle, Destry Rides Again) and Hollywood musicals ("Kismet"), June 26, in New York City; her birth year has been reported as both 1924 and 1930.

Ira Eaker, 80, the co-founder and co-publisher of the entertainment trade paper, Back Stage, June 26 in Tamarac, FL, after surgery.

Timothy Findley, 71, Canadian novelist and playwright whose work has been seen at the Stratford Festival and elsewhere, June 20 in Provence, France, after an illness.

Robert Whitehead, 86, who, over a 50-year career produced landmark productions of everything from Arthur Miller to Euripides to Terrence McNally, and who received a 2002 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2002, June 15 at his home in Pound Ridge, NY, after a long illness.

Tom Mallow, 72, a booker and producer who was so successful at mounting national tours he was dubbed "King of the Road" by Time magazine, June 6.

Josephine R. Abady, 52, a major regional theatre director who served as artistic director of The Cleveland Playhouse and Circle in the Square, May 25 at her Manhattan home, after a struggle with breast cancer.

Zypora Spaisman, late 80s, the renowned Yiddish stage actress long associated with the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre as its onetime executive producer, May 19 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

George Sidney, 85, the film director who realized a handful of major Broadway musicals for the screen ("Show Boat," "Kiss Me, Kate"), May 5 in Las Vegas.

Annette Leisten, 75, a musical theatre lyricist who penned children's musicals for Barry and Fran Weissler before the Weisslers became major Broadway producers, May 3, in Boca Raton, FL, of leukemia.

Martin Aronstein, 65, a five-time Tony Award nominee for his lighting design on Broadway (his shows included Cactus Flower, George M!, Tiny Alice, How Now Dow Jones, Noises Off, Play It Again, Sam), and a busy Los Angeles-based designer since the late 1970s, May 3.

Janet Fox, 89, Edna Ferber's niece, who appeared in George S. Kaufman and Ferber's original Dinner at Eight on Broadway, April 22 in Palm Beach, FL.

Robert Urich, 55, the actor known TV audiences for "Vega$" and "Spenser: For Hire," and who briefly played Billy Flynn in the hit Broadway revival of Chicago, April 16 after a fight with cancer.

Josef Svoboda, 81, the renowned scenograoher of Laterna Magika and The National Theatre of Prague who created new visual dimensions for productions in 20th-century European theatre, April 8, of cancer.

Nobu McCarthy, 67, a film actress who later landed stage roles and became artistic director for East West Players, the Los Angeles based Asian-Pacific theatre, April 6, on a film location in Brazil, of an aortic aneurysm.

Milton Berle, 93, the performer who straddled vaudeville, Broadway, radio, nightclubs and movies before becoming the first star of the post-war industry known as television, March 27, at home in Los Angeles.

Billy Wilder, 95, the European-born film director and screenwriter whose unique, cynical and often darkly comic films would inspire generations of filmmakers and prompt stage musicals such as Promises, Promises and Sunset Boulevard, March 27, in his Beverly Hills home, of pneumonia.

Dudley Moore, 66, the diminutive actor who reached international heights starring in the Blake Edwards film comedy, "10," but who was known to theatregoers in London and New York for the 1960s revue, Beyond the Fringe, March 27 at his home in New Jersey, of pneumonia related to progressive supranuclear palsy.

Rosetta LeNoire, 90, the African-American actress singer-dancer who founded Off-Broadway's Amas Musical Theatre and championed the idea of nontraditional casting, March 17.

Irene Worth, 85, the Nebraska-born actress who played legendary roles in a career in London and North America, including Broadway at the famed Stratford Festival in Ontario, the weekend of March 10, at the her in New York, of a stroke.

Leonard Gershe, 79, the playwright of Butterflies Are Free, the 1969 Broadway comedy that launched the career of Blythe Danner, March 9 of complications from a stroke.

Thomas F. Leahy, 64, former Theatre Development Fund president, March 8 in Manhattan, after a bout with cancer.

Albert E. ("Jeff") Jeffcoat, 77, a former Wall Street Journal bureau chief and founding chairman of Manhattan Theatre Club, at his home on Bainbridge Island, WA, after a long battle with cancer.

Alan Manson, 83, a Broadway actor who left the stage for the armed services and landed a gig in the wartime show, This is the Army, later playing Ziegfeld to Streisand's Funny Girl on Broadway, March 5.

Peggy Hewett, 56, an actress who made her name on Broadway in a Margaret Dumont-like role in A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, March 1 at her Southampton, after a battle with leukemia.

Martin Esslin, 83, the critic and author whose 1961 book, "The Theater of the Absurd," is a staple on the shelf of any student of drama, Feb. 24 in London.

John Thaw, 60, the British character actor of TV's "Inspector Morse" and many theatrical productions over the years, Feb 21, in Tarlton, England, of cancer.

James B. McKenzie, 75, former executive producer and 41-year veteran of the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, Feb. 20 after a battle with cancer and pneumonia.

Tom Panko, 74, a Broadway chorus dancer who would become choreographer for Broadway's Golden Rainbow and the film, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," Feb. 18 of complications following heart surgery.

Byrne Piven, 72, co-founder and artistic director of the influential Piven Theatre Workshop in Evanston, IL, where John and Joan Cusack, Aidan Quinn, Lili Taylor and children Jeremy and Shira Piven were trained, Feb. 18 in an Evanston hospital after a battle with lung cancer.

Barry Foster, actor of London's Art and British TV's "Van Der Valk," Feb. 11, in Surrey, England.

Cliff Roquemore, 53, a writer-producer-director who directed plays at the early resident theatres in Motown before working Off-Broadway, regionally and in film, Feb. 5, of cancer.

Hildegard Knef, 76, the husky-voiced singer and actress who sang the role of Communist official Ninotchka in Cole Porter's Silk Stockings, Feb. 1 in a Berlin hospital, after a long illness.

Inge Morath, the respected photographer who was the wife of playwright Arthur Miller, Jan. 30 in Manhattan, of lymphoma.

Michael P. Hammond, 69, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, found dead in his Washington, DC, Jan. 29, one week after he took his post at the government agency that promotes — and awards grants for — arts education, projects and artists.

Peggy Lee, 81, the silky-sounding jazz vocalist who appeared on Broadway in the 1983 specialty show, Peg, and was known for singing show tunes and American pop standards, Jan. 21 in her Bel Air, CA, home.

Carrie Hamilton, 38, the actress-writer daughter of TV legend Carol Burnett, who penned Broadway's Hollywood Arms with her mother, Jan. 20 of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Ron Taylor, 49, the double Tony Award nominee for writing and appearing in It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues in 1999, Jan. 16, in Los Angeles, of a heart attack.

Reggie Montgomery, 54, an actor-director who worked on and off Broadway and regionally at theatres such as Hartford Stage, found dead Jan. 13 in his New York City apartment.

Bill McCutcheon, 77, the retired character actor who won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for playing jovial gangster Moonface Martin in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Anything Goes, Jan. 9.

George Margo, 86, an American-born actor who distinguished himself in a number of film, TV and stage roles in London, Jan. 9, of cancer.

Bibi Osterwald, 81, the original standby for Carol Channing in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, Jan. 7.

Avery Schreiber, the comedian and character actor known for his standup comedy with Jack Burns in the 1970s, and for acting in plays and musicals, including Cy Coleman's Welcome to the Club in 1989, Jan. 7 of a heart attack.

Donald W. Johnston, 57, the composer, orchestrator and arranger who penned arrangements and additional orchestrations for the current Broadway revival of 42nd Street, Jan. 7 of cancer.

Harry Jay Nederlander, 84, producer of the former Birmingham Theatre legit house in suburban Detroit and one of six children of theatre operator David T. Nederlander, who started an international theatre empire, Jan. 5 at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA, after a long illness.

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