In Memoriam: A Look at the Theatre Artists We Lost in 2021 | Playbill

Obituaries In Memoriam: A Look at the Theatre Artists We Lost in 2021 Playbill remembers the actors, directors, playwrights, and other familiar faces of the stage who died this year.

After another tumultuous year marked by a triumphant return of Broadway despite continued struggles with COVID-19, Playbill commemorates those we've lost in the theatre community. As we watch Broadway return, the legacy of these theatrical luminaries stand as a reminder of the art form's vitality. Click through to read more in the individuals' full Playbill obituaries.

Lee Breuer
February 6, 1937 - January 3, 2021
The innovative theatre director was a co-finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 for his show The Gospel at Colonus. (Read more.)

Martin Markinson
December 23, 1931 - January 7, 2021
The Tony-winning producer worked on Torch Song Trilogy, The Gathering, Honeymoon in Vegas, and more. (Read more.)

Philip J. Smith
July 29, 1931 - January 15, 2021
Smith served as chair and co-CEO of The Shubert Organization for decades. (Read more.)

Bob Avian
December 26, 1937 - January 21, 2021
The two-time Tony-winner co-choreographed the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning A Chorus Line with Michael Bennett. (Read more.)

Hal Holbrook
February 17, 1925 - January 23, 2021
The Mark Twain Tonight! creator was known for his wide-ranging work on stage and screen. (Read more.)

Cicely Tyson Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Cicely Tyson
December 19, 1924 - January 28, 2021
The actor and Civil Rights icon enjoyed a distinguished career on stage, TV, and film, winning a Tony Award for The Trip to Bountiful in 2013 and starring on screen in such works as Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Roots, and How to Get Away With Murder. (Read more.)

Christopher Plummer
December 13, 1929 - February 5, 2021
The Canadian-born Shakespearean actor won Tony Awards for his performances in Cyrano and Barrymore, and starred as Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 film adaptation of The Sound of Music. (Read more.)

Joe Allen
February 20, 1933 - February 7, 2021
The theatre district restaurateur gave his name to an eatery beloved by Broadway performers and fans alike. (Read more.)

Florence Birdwell
December 31, 1924 - February 15, 2021
A voice professor at Oklahoma City University, Birdwell's students and mentees included Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O'Hara. (Read more.)

Douglas Turner Ward
May 5, 1930 - February 20, 2021
The Tony-honored director, writer, and performer was a co-founder of Negro Ensemble Company. (Read more.)

Gary Gunas

Gary Gunas
May 26, 1947 - February 22, 2021
The theatrical producer's most recent Broadway credit was for Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Seussical. (Read more.)

Paul Foster
October 15, 1931 - March 5, 2021
A playwright and founding member of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Foster's works include Tom Paine, Elizabeth 1, and Satyricon. (Read more.)

William "Biff" McGuire
October 25, 1926 - March 9, 2021
Claiming Seattle Rep as his home base theatre, the actor's career includes a performance in the original production of South Pacific. (Read more.)

Pat Collins
April 3, 1932 - March 21, 2021
The Tony-winning lighting designer's Broadway resume includes I'm Not Rappaport, Doubt, and Execution of Justice. (Read more.)

Jessica Walter
January 31, 1941 - March 24, 2021
The Emmy-winning performer starred in TV's Arrested Development and on stage in Anything Goes and Rumors. (Read more.)

Arthur Kopit
May 10, 1937 - April 2, 2021
Best remembered for his Pulitzer finalist plays Indians and Wings, Kopit also penned the book to the 1982 musical Nine. (Read more.)

Paul Ritter
March 5, 1966 - April 5, 2021
Best known for his work in the U.K. TV series Friday Night Dinner, the character actor made his Broadway debut in The Norman Conquests. (Read more.)

(from left): Philip S. Birsh, Alex Birsh, and Arthur T. Birsh

Arthur T. Birsh
October 6, 1932 - April 14, 2021
Mr. Birsh began working for Playbill in 1961 as manager of the magazine’s printing plant; by 1973 he had become the sole proprietor of the company synonymous with Broadway. (Read more.)

Anthony Powell
June 2, 1935 - April 16, 2021
Among the Tony- and Oscar-winning costume designers Broadway credits are Sunset Boulevard and a 1963 production of The School for Scandal. (Read more.)

Jim Steinman
November 1, 1947 - April 19, 2021
The pop-rock hitmaker was responsible for Bat Out of Hell and Dance of the Vampires on the stage, along with songs made famous by Celine Dion, Meat Loaf, and Bonnie Tyler. (Read more.)

Olympia Dukakis
June 20, 1931 - May 1, 2021
An Oscar-winner for her performance in Moonstruck, the actor starred in stage productions of Peer Gynt, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Her Anymore, and more. (Read more.)

Charlotte d'Amboise and Jacques d'Amboise Noam Galai/Getty Images for National Dance Institute

Jacques d'Amboise
July 28, 1934 - May 2, 2021
Father to Broadway favorite Charlotte d'Amboise, the dancer and choreograhper impacted Broadway and beyond as one of New York City Ballet's most celebrated talents. (Read more.)

Samuel E. Wright
November 20, 1946 - May 24, 2021
Broadway's original Mufasa in The Lion King, the actor is best remembered as the voice of Sebastian in Disney's The Little Mermaid. (Read more.)

Karla Burns
June 15, 1954 - June 4, 2021
The actor was the first Black performer to win an Olivier Award with her performance as Queenie in Show Boat. (Read more.)

Lisa Banes
July 9, 1955 - June 14, 2021
The Gone Girl alum's Broadway credits included Rumors and Present Laughter. (Read more.)

Elliot Lawrence

Elliot Lawrence
February 14, 1925 - July 2, 2021
The Tony- and Emmy-winning musician served as music director and conductor for 46 years of Tony Awards broadcasts. (Read more.)

Paul Huntley
July 2, 1933 - July 9, 2021
The Tony honoree created hairstyles for over 200 Broadway productions, including Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Patti LuPone's Eva Peron in Evita, Harvey Fierstein's Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, and many more. (Read more.)

Arthur French
November 6, 1931 - July 24, 2021
An original Negro Ensemble Company member, the actor's Braodway credits include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Iceman Cometh, and more. (Read more.)

Alvin Y. F. Ing
May 26, 1932 - July 31, 2021
The actor starred in the original 1976 Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures, along with its 2004 Broadway revival and the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song. (Read more.)

Micki Grant Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

Micki Grant
June 30, 1929 - August 21, 2021
The three-time Tony nominee was the first woman to write and star in an original Broadway musical, in Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. (Read more.)

Ed Asner
November 15, 1929 - August 29, 2021
Last seen on Broadway in 2012's Grace, the actor was best known for his 12 years of television work as the Mary Tyler Moore Show character Lou Grant. (Read more.)

Elizabeth I. McCann
March 29, 1931 - September 9, 2021
A Tony-winning producer with a taste for serious drama, McCann produced such works as The Elephant Man; 'night, Mother; and Amadeus. (Read more.)

Melvin Van Peebles
August 21, 1932 - September 21, 2021
The pioneering Black theatremaker created such works as Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death and Don't Play Us Cheap! (Read more.)

Leslie Bricusse
January 29, 1931 - October 19, 2021
The Oscar-winning writer wrote lyrics for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Jekyll & Hyde, The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, and Stop the World - I Want to Get Off. (Read more.)

Peter Scolari
September 12, 1955 - October 22, 2021
The actor's New York stage credits included Lucky Guy, Bronx Bombers, Wicked, Hairspray, and The True. (Read more.)

Ed Bullins
July 7, 1935 - November 13, 2021
One of the leading playwrights of the Black Arts Movement, Bullins wrote works including the 1975 Obie-winning The Taking of Miss Janie. (Read more.)

Stephen Sondheim Erika Kapin Photography

Stephen Sondheim
March 22, 1930 - November 26, 2021
The Tony- and Pulitzer-winning composer-lyricist changed the face of musical theatre with such works as West Side Story, Gypsy, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Assassins, and more. (Read more.)

Geoffrey Johnson
June 23, 1930 - November 26, 2021
The Tony-honored casting director of Cats, Les Misérables, Phantom, and more also spent time as an actor and stage manager. (Read more.)

Antony Sher
June 14, 1949 - December 3, 2021
One of the great Shakespearean actors of his time, the stage and screen star made his Broadway debut with a Tony-nominated and Theatre World Award-winning performance in Stanley. (Read more.)

Sally Ann Howes
July 20, 1930 - December 19, 2021
The British-born actor made her Broadway debut as Julie Andrew's first replacement in My Fair Lady and starred on screen in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Read more.)

Harvey Evans
January 7, 1941 - December 21, 2021
The singer, actor, and dancer appeared on Broadway in Hello, Dolly!, Follies, West Side Story, and more. (Read more.)


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