As the year comes to an end, we look back at the people we lost in 2019 who helped create and inspire theatre today.
A familiar face on both the silver and small screens—he played Father Mulcahy in the 1970 film M*A*S*H and spent six seasons as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III on the ABC series Benson—Mr. Auberjonois also enjoyed a distinguished Broadway career, which began in 1968 playing The Fool in a production of Shakespeare's King Lear at Lincoln Center Theater and continued through 2004 in Larry Gelbart's Sly Fox in a cast that also featured Richard Dreyfuss and Eric Stoltz. In between were productions of A Cry of Players, Fire!, Twelfth Night, Tricks, Break a Leg, Metamorphosis, and Dance of the Vampires. In addition to his Tony win for Coco, Mr. Auberjonois also earned three additional Tony nominations, for his performances in The Good Doctor, Big River, and City of Angels. He died December 8 at 79.
Ms. Ballard, the Broadway veteran known for her comedic roles on stage and screen, died at age 93 on January 21. Ms. Ballard made her Broadway debut in Top Banana; in 1954 she starred in The Golden Apple, where she introduced the standard “Lazy Afternoon.” She then starred in the 1961 production of Carnival! before appearing in 1963’s The Beast in Me. In addition to her Broadway roles, she was also known for her critically acclaimed nightclub acts. She continued performing around the country as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago, Pauline in No, No, Nanette and her star turn as Hattie Walker in Paper Mill Playhouse’s all-star revival of Follies in 1998. On television, she appeared in the 1957 television premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, starring Julie Andrews.
Playwright Barry, who wrote 1985’s Broadway play The Octette Bridge Club, died September 2 at age 88. His other plays include And Fat Freddy's Blues, which was the recipient of the HBO Award at the National Playwrights Conference of the O'Neill Theater Center, and later performed in Russia; Heritage, a play about the women in Lincoln's life seen at the Lucille Lortel Theatre; and Toast and Jelly, which was produced at the George Street Playhouse. Mr. Barry was the artistic director of the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York City for seven years where he directed several productions, including some of his own plays.
Mr. Bramble’s first Broadway production was the 1974 premiere of the Jerry Herman musical Mack & Mabel, serving as assistant to associate producer Jack Schlissel. Bramble became a frequent collaborator of the show’s book writer, Michael Stewart. In 1978, Bramble made his Broadway debut as a book writer, collaborating with Stewart on the Jerry Herman musical The Grand Tour. He was reunited with I Love My Wife composer Coleman, this time as a collaborator, on a musical based on the life of circus showman P.T. Barnum. Featuring a book by Bramble, music by Coleman, and lyrics by Stewart, Barnum opened on Broadway in 1980, earning Bramble his first Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical. He also wrote lead-ins and crossovers for the Tony Award-winning 1980 stage adaptation of the Hollywood classic 42nd Street. It was nominated for Best Book of a Musical. He returned to direct the Tony-winning 2001 Broadway revival of the musical, earning a Tony nomination for Best Direction of a Musical. He died February 20 at the age of 68
William F. Brown
Mr. Brown received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical for The Wiz, which went on to win seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. He made his Broadway playwriting debut with the short-lived 1967 comedy The Girl in the Freudian Slip. He served as head writer for the Broadway revue Leonard Stillman’s New Faces of 1968, and wrote the book for the Off-Broadway musical How to Steal an Election, which featured a score by folk artist Oscar Brand. Brown also served as book writer for A Broadway Musical, the backstage story behind the creation of Lee Adams and Charles Strouse's 1964 musical Golden Boy, which starred Sammy Davis, Jr. Brown's works also include A Single Thing in Common, Damon’s Song, Twist, and The Nutley Papers, as well as the musical revues Coconuts, Straight Up With a Twist, and Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know. He died June 23 at the age of 91.
Ms. Carroll made history in 1962, becoming the first black woman to win the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her performance in No Strings. She previously made her Broadway debut in 1954 in House of Flowers, appearing opposite Pearl Bailey and Alvin Ailey. That year also marked her film debut, playing Myrt in Carmen Jones; however, Ms. Carroll perhaps reached the most widespread recognition for her work in the title role of the '60s series Julia. As widowed nurse Julia Baker, Ms. Carroll offered audiences a look into the complexities and plights of an upper-middle class black woman—which had not yet been represented on screen. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe and Emmy nomination in 1969. After Julia ended in 1971, Ms. Carroll followed up her screen career with another acclaimed title role, in the 1974 Harlem-set movie Claudine. This led to her Oscar nomination the following year.
Ms. Channing, who introduced not one but two iconic musical theatre characters —Lorelie Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!—died of natural causes on January 15. She was 97. Oscar nominated for her performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie, she was a tireless trouper who played concerts and national torus across the country, while always able to poke fun at her larger-than-life public persona. She famously participated in a rap duet of “Hello, Dolly!” with LL Cool J on a broadcast of the Tony Awards. “I’m terribly shy, but of course no one believes me,” she said on one occasion. “Come to think of it, neither would I.”
The director and songwriter was the one who led the charge in bringing Little Orphan Annie from the comic strips pages to Broadway. He optioned the Depression-era comic from the Tribune Company, then pressured Thomas Meehan and composer Charles Strouse to get on board with the idea. In a joint interview in 2013, Mr. Charnin revealed that he may have enticed the two others by promising the involvement of the other. His previous musical outings included writing lyrics for the Vernon Duke musical Zenda, Off-Broadway’s Ballad for a Firing Squad (originally Mata Hari), and the 1970 musical Two By Two, with composer Richard Rodgers and book writer Peter Stone. After the success of Annie, he went on to direct Bar Mitzvah Boy in London and penned the lyrics to Broadway’s I Remember Mama. He earned double Tony nominations in 1982 for writing (with Charnin) and directing the Jackie Robinson-focused musical The First. He directed on Broadway five more times: A Little Family Business, Cafe Crown, Sid Caesar & Company, The Flowering Peach, and the 1997 revival of Annie.
The force of nature behind the Theater on Film and Tape Archive, who earned a special Tony Award for her efforts in 2001, died September 10 at the age of 98. After convincing Actors Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), the union for stagehands and technicians (IATSE), and the union of professional musicians (Local 802) that theatre should be recorded for posterity, TOFT has continued to expand throughout the decades and now counts over 4,000 Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional performances in its vault. In explaining her passion for preserving shows, Corwin hit on a universal truth for all theatrelovers: “I thought it was a sin that once these wonderful productions were gone that they were gone forever,” she said. “The terrific production of The Glass Menagerie with Laurette Taylor, or Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire—gone forever. That really troubled me."
Ms. Crumb, who created the role of Rose Vibert in the London and Broadway productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love and subsequently earned a Tony nomination for her title performance in Anna Karenina, died October 31 at the age of 69. In addition to Aspects of Love and Anna Karenina, Ms. Crumb appeared on Broadway in Les Misérables and Chess. Her other theatre credits included London’s The Goodbye Girl and Nine, the national tour of Man of La Mancha opposite Tony winner John Cullum, Off-Broadway’s Inside Out, Johnny Guitar, and Rags, and regional productions of Wings, Other Desert Cities, Spamalot, and Sunset Boulevard.
Mr. Donen, who co-directed Singin' in the Rain and On the Town with Gene Kelly and went on to direct Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade, Two for the Road, and more solo, was the man behind the most acclaimed movie musicals of the 1950s. In addition to his credits with Kelly (which included It's Always Fair Weather), Donen also co-directed The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees; solo, he helmed Royal Wedding, Funny Face, Charade, and many more. He died February 21, at the age of 94.
Making his Broadway debut in 1957 in a consecutive string of classics—Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Duchess of Malfi—Mr. Easton followed the trio with The Country Wife, earning a Theatre World Award for his breakout performance as Mr. Harcourt. Several Broadway productions followed into the '70s, including Phoenix Repertory Company presentations of The Show Off and Pantagleize and Hamlet, The Cocktail Party, The Misanthrope, and Cock-a-Doodle Dandy. After a nearly 30-year hiatus, Mr. Easton returned to Broadway in 2001 with Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love. His leading performance earned him a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award. He subsequently returned to Broadway in The Coast of Utopia, Elling, and Macbeth. He died December 2 at 86 years old.
Though perhaps best known for her work on such sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Everybody Loves Raymond (earning a total of five Emmy nominations between the two), Ms. Engel began her career on Broadway, as a replacement in the original production of Hello, Dolly!. At the age of 21, she played millinery shop assistant Minnie Fay. After Hello, Dolly! closed, Ms. Engel appeared in John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves Off-Broadway, and found her way to the small screen as The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Georgette Franklin Baxter. Ms. Engel returned to Broadway, again as a replacement, in My One and Only. She would appear on the Great White Way twice more—in the revival of The Boys From Syracuse in 2002, and then as Mrs. Tottendale in 2006’s The Drowsy Chaperone. She died April 12 at the age of 70.
Mr. Esper, acting teacher, died January 26 at age 86. Esper was founder of the William Esper Studio in New York City, where he trained such actors as Amy Schumer, Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Beals, Kristin Davis, Peter Gallagher, Jeff Goldblum, Christine Lahti, Gretchen Mol, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kathy Bates, Michele Shay, Paul Sorvino, Harold Perrineau, Patricia Wettig, Timothy Olyphant, Tonya Pinkins, and Aaron Eckhart.
A five-time Academy Award nominee for Best Actor, Mr.Finney boasted a screen career that spanned more than six decades. He appeared on Broadway twice in the 1960s, making his debut in John Osborne’s 1964 drama Luther, and later originating the role of Bri in Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in 1968. He was Tony-nominated for both. He portrayed Oliver Warbucks in the 1982 screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie. He died on February 7 at the age of 82.
Theatre album producer and Oscar Hammerstein II-biographer Hugh Fordin is best remembered as the founder of music label DRG Records, which he started in 1976. Specializing in theatre albums, the label released Broadway cast recordings of such shows as The Act, March of the Falsettos, Tintypes, Meet Me In St. Louis, Falsettoland, Kiss Me, Kate, The Music Man, 42nd Street, The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors, Wonderful Town, and Fame—all with Fordin acting as producer. Mr. Fordin won the Best Musical Show Album Grammy in 2001 for The Producers. He passed away February 26 at age 85.
Ms. Furr was an original cast member of the Tyne Daly–led 1989 revival of Gypsy, as well as its pre-Broadway tour. In 1994, she joined the cast of Beauty and the Beast at the Palace Theatre, spending several years in that company before embarking on the 1997 Tony Stevens–directed tour of Dreamgirls. In 2000, Ms. Furr joined the touring company of Les Misérables, moving to the Broadway company after the birth of her daughter, Annie. Offstage, Ms. Furr later served as Director of Education for the Montclair, New Jersey–based Luna Stage, and was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Glen Ridge, New Jersey–based Gas Lamp Players. She died May 26 at the age of 54.
Mr. Goldsmith was scheduled to make his Broadway debut in the original comedy Leda Had a Little Swan in 1968; however, the production never officially opened, playing only 14 previews. His official Broadway opening came in March 1970 in the musical Minnie’s Boys about the life of the Marx Brothers. Goldsmith was seen in ten other Broadway productions: The Visit, Chemin de Fer, Trelawny of the “Wells,” Rex, Dirty Linen & New-Found-Land, The 1940’s Radio Hour, Slab Boys, Me and My Girl, Grand Hotel, and Ain't Broadway Grand. The character actor also triumphed on the silver and small screen. He died January 21 at the age of 81.
Young performer Laurel Griggs, whose stage credits include Broadway's Once and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, died November 5 at the age of 13. She made her Broadway debut as Polly opposite Scarlett Johansson and Benjamin Walker in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Later, she played Ivanka in the Tony-winning musical Once. In addition to her work on stage, Ms. Griggs appeared on Saturday Night Live in several sketches as well as the Amazon film Café Society. She also created her own short film, This is Not a Drill, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year.
Ms. Harper first achieved success as a dancer on the stage before TV beckoned, appearing in the Broadway productions of Take Me Along, Wildcat (with Lucille Ball), Subways Are for Sleeping, Something Different, and Paul Sills' Story Theatre. But it was her casting as Mary Richards' best friend Rhoda, the single, Jewish, wisecracking window dresser, that secured Harper's place in television history, first on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then her own spinoff, Rhoda. She won four Emmy Awards as Rhoda, three while appearing on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and one on her spinoff.
Ms. Helmond made her mark in two TV comedies: Soap, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1981, and Who's the Boss?,also on ABC from 1984 to 1992. Helmond made her Broadway debut in 1969's Private Lives and earned a Tony nomination for her performance as Margaret in the 1972 revival of Eugene O'Neill's Great God Brown, which played in repertory with Stephen Porter’s adaptation of Molière’s Don Juan. She returned to Broadway only once more, in 1993 in the short-lived original play Mixed Emotions opposite Harold Gould. Her stage work also included roles in Sarah in America, Quartermaine's Terms, The Madwoman of Chaillot, 'Night Mother, and Steel Magnolias, and in 2004 Helmond brought her formidable talents to the Signature Theatre production of Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel's The Oldest Profession, which cast her as a madam named Mae. She died February 23 at the age of 89.
The composer-lyricist who, with Hello, Dolly! and Mame, wrote two of the most popular and tuneful Broadway musicals of the 1960s—to say nothing of La Cage aux Folles in the 1980s—died December 26 at the age of 88. Mr. Herman specialized in anthems to joie de vivre (“Before the Parade Passes By” from Hello, Dolly!, “We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame, “Tap Your Troubles Away” from Mack and Mabel), straightforward tributes of vibrant personalities (“Hello, Dolly,” “Mame,” and “When Mabel Comes In the Room”) and positive declarations of individuality (“I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles). “All these years that I’ve been writing Broadway musicals,” he once revealed, “whenever I’ve had to write a real hit-’em-in-the-gut show tune, I always pictured it in the voice of Judy Garland. Invariably, my work came out more theatrical and exciting because of that little trick.”
Roger O. Hirson
Prior to his Tony nominated work on the book of Pippin, Mr. Hirson—alongside Ketti Frings—penned the book to the 1967 Broadway musical Walking Happy. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s Hirson wrote episodes for such television anthologies as The Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Playhouse 90, and The Sunday Showcase. Later in life, the writer returned to the small screen, crafting the screenplay for the 1991 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis–centered miniseries A Woman Named Jackie. He died May 27 at the age of 93.
E. Katherine Kerr
The performer and playwright won an Obie Award in 1982 for her performance in Cloud 9, a satire about British colonialism, in which she played several characters. She also earned a Drama Desk nomination for the role. Ms. Kerr also starred in Christopher Durang's Laughing Wild at Playwrights Horizon, earning a second Drama Desk nomination in 1987. Among Kerr's written work for the stage is Juno's Swans, which had its premiere in 1978 at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City. A 1985 revival was mounted Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. In addition to her Off-Broadway work, she had roles in films including Silkwood and Suspect. She died July 1 at the age of 82.
Ms. Kuhlmann’s opera career launched that same year when was chosen by Menotti to play Amahl’s mother in the world premiere of Amahl and the Night Visitors, an experimental project commissioned by NBC that marked the first opera written for American television. Broadcast live December 24, 1951, as part of Hallmark Hall of Fame, critics praised Amahl and the Night Visitors, singling out Ms. Kuhlmann’s performance. The 45-minute opera was the first Christmas special to become an annual tradition on network television. Ms. Kuhlmann would reprise her performance for the next 12 years.
Mr. Larkin, a four-time Tony-winning scenic designer who worked on Broadway and in Hollywood, died December 16 at age 93. In his long career in the theatre, Larkin designed the sets for Dial “M” for Murder (1952), Frederick Knott’s play that inspired the Hitchcock classic; the original production of Peter Pan (1954); Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs (1970); and the 1961 musical Wildcat starring Lucille Ball in her only Broadway show. He was nominated for two Tony Awards for his scenic design on two separate plays in the 1954 season: The Teahouse of the August Moon and Ondine. Larkin took home both Tony Awards, a rare feat that he would again repeat in 1956 with Inherit the Wind and No Time for Sergeants.
Ms. Lawford-Wolf was a Wangkatjungka woman born in the far north Kimberley region of Western Australia. She toured internationally with her solo show Ningali, earning a Green Room Award for Best Actress and a Fringe First Award for Best New Production. Ms. Lawford-Wolf's stage appearances also included Aliwa for Company B Belvoir, as well as Uncle Vanya and Jandamarra for Black Swan Theatre Company. She appeared in the world premiere of The Long Forgotten Dream at the Sydney Opera House in 2018. Her play Windmill Baby, co-written with David Milroy, won the 2003 Patrick White Playwright’s Award. She recently appeared in The Long Forgotten Dream at Sydney Opera House. She died August 11 at the age of 52.
Mr. Legrand first came to prominence with his sweepingly romantic score to 1964's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in which Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo found and lost love. He went on to compose the scores for movies as varied as The Thomas Crown Affair (which earned him an Academy Award for the song "Windmills of Your Mind) and Yentl, which brought him another Oscar. He ultimately won three Oscars, out of 13 nominations. Though Cherbourg was adapted for the stage in 1979, Legrand didn't write an original score for a Broadway musical until 2002's Amour, starring Malcolm Gets and Melissa Errico. Though short-lived, Amour brought Legrand a Tony nomination and led to an album with Errico, Legrand Affair. He died January 26 at the age of 86.
Mr. Leibman, who won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1993 for originating the role of Roy Cohn in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, died December 6; he was 82. He was well-known in the theatre community and Hollywood for his turns in shows like Friends (playing Rachel's father, Dr. Leonard Green) and Kaz, the latter for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award. He also appeared in such films as Norma Rae, Slaughterhouse Five, and Where’s Poppa?. Throughout his stage career, the performer appeared in productions of God of Vengeance, We Bombed in New Haven, Transfers, and The Merchant of Venice, among others. He reprised the role of Cohn when Angels in America: Perestroika opened on Broadway in November 1993, earning a Drama Desk nomination.
Jo Sullivan Loesser
Ms. Loesser received a 1957 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for creating the role of Rosabella in the original Broadway production of The Most Happy Fella. She went on to play the role of Polly Peachum in a concert version of The Threepenny Opera which led to the classic Off-Broadway production, and “The Bilbao Song” was added for Loesser to perform. Ms. Loesser was instrumental in preserving and furthering the legacy of her husband, composer Frank Loesser. She died April 28 at the age of 91.
The playwright whose work included The Belle of Amherst and Barrymore died December 9 at age 88. Mr. Luce made his Broadway playwriting debut in 1976 with the solo show Belle of Amherst, based on the life of Emily Dickinson. The play earned Julie Harris a Tony Award for her performance as the 19th-century American poet. Two decades later, Christopher Plummer earned a Tony for his work as theatre star John Barrymore in Mr. Luce’s Barrymore. Two other plays of his appeared on the Main Stem, Lillian and Lucifer’s Child.
The director, playwright, and actor who earned a Tony nomination for his direction of August Wilson's King Hedley II in 2001, died at age 65. Mr. McClinton was known for his productions of the late Wilson's dramas, having maintained a long friendship and professional relationship with the acclaimed playwright. In addition to bringing both King Hedley II and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2003) to Broadway, other McClinton-helmed Wilson productions include Gem of the Ocean at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; Seven Guitars and Two Trains Running at Baltimore's Center Stage and Pittsburgh Public; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Missouri Repertory; Fences at Indiana Repertory Theatre; and Jitney, seen at Pittsburgh Public, Center Stage, Studio Arena, the Mark Taper Forum, the Goodman, and more.
Playwright Mark Medoff was best known for his Tony Award winning Children of a Lesser God and its 1986 film counterpart. In addition to earning the 1980 Tony for Best Play, the production also earned acting honors for John Rubinstein and Deaf actor Phyllis Frelich, who made history as the first Deaf performer to win a Tony Award. In 1974, Mr. Medoff won the Drama Desk, Obie, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his play When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder? His Off-Broadway plays also included The Wager and The Hands of the Enemy. He died at age 79 on April 23.
A director whose work on opera and theatre stages was only one facet of his myriad talents, Mr. Miller died November 27. He was 85. His career in the arts catapulted with the comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe, which saw success in London's West End and on Broadway. Mr. Miller, along with collaborators Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore, satirized prominent government and Parliament figures, often sparking controversy among targets and audiences. Such an instance involving Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was recently depicted on Netflix's The Crown. He worked particularly frequently with English National Opera, staging 15 operas with the company from 1978 to 2010. Among his theatre accolades are a 1976 Olivier Award for Three Sisters and a Special Tony Award in 1963 as a member of Beyond the Fringe.
Best known for playing Bob Rebadow on the HBO series Oz, his television appearances also included Saint Elsewhere, Deadly Matrimony, Blood Feud, and Sherlock Holmes. His films included They All Laughed, What's Up Doc, Daisy Miller, and She’s Funny That Way. Morfogen began his Broadway career as stage manager for The Fun Couple in 1962, and later as standby in John Gabriel Borkman and Kingdoms. He also appeared in the Broadway productions of Arms and the Man, the 1994 revival of An Inspector Calls, Fortune’s Fool, and the 2008 revival of A Man for All Seasons. He spent 17 years as a resident actor with the Williamstown Theatre Festival. His Off-Broadway credits were numerous. He last appeared in The Traveling Lady at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2017. He died March 8 at the age of 86.
The Tony Award-winning actor, lyricist, and women’s healthcare advocate who secured accessible healthcare for thousands, died September 15 at age 86. A gifted comedian, Ms. Newman made her Broadway debut in the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here, winning the Tony Award for her performance in Subways Are for Sleeping. She would returned to Broadway on several occasions, replacing Barbara Harris in The Apple Tree in 1967, and joining Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971. That same year she starred as Claire DeLoone in a Broadway revival of On the Town. And in 1979, Ms. Newman came to Broadway in The Madwoman of Central Park West, a solo show co-written with and directed by Arthur Laurents. Her diagnosis with breast cancer in 1983 led to the formation of The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, which operates as part of the Actors Fund. Her dedicated work as an advocate for accessible healthcare, particularly for women and young children, was recognized by the American Theatre Wing in 2009, when she was named the first recipient of the Tony Awards' Isabelle Stevenson Award for her humanitarian and philanthropic work.
The British-born playwright made his Broadway debut in 1968 with the play, which drew from his own experience as the parent of a severely handicapped daughter. Working with director Michael Blakemore, Mr. Nichols transformed his anguish into a resonant dark comedy that incorporated elements of farce and vaudeville.The play’s autobiographical style and gallows humor became a hallmark of Mr. Nichols' work, which continued with The National Health in 1969. Based on his hospitalization for a collapsed lung, the play earned Mr. Nichols his second Best Play Tony nomination for the play’s 1975 Broadway premiere. The 1977 musical Privates on Parade, sourced from his time in the National Service Combined Services Entertainments Unit, won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. He died September 7 at the age of 92.
Ms. Payton-Wright, who won a Drama Desk Award for her performance as Lavinia Mannon in the 1972 Broadway revival of Mourning Becomes Electra, died December 14 at the age of 78. Her other Main Stem credits included The Show Off, Exit the King, Jimmy Shine, The Crucible, All Over Town, The Glass Menagerie, Romeo and Juliet, A Streetcar Named Desire, M. Butterfly, The Night of the Iguana, and Garden District. Her final Broadway appearance was as a replacement in the role of Mary Tyrone in the 2003 revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.
In May of 1970, documentarian Pennebaker spent nearly 24 hours filming theatrical titans Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince during recording sessions for the Broadway cast album of their latest musical, Company. The behind-the-scenes account of the album’s creation is a staple for any theatre-invested cinephile, as creative brilliance and showbiz egos collide during Elaine Stritch’s late-night recording of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Pennebaker later turned his lens to politics, documenting Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign with The War Room. He died August 1 at the age of 94.
Though a prolific composer for film and an accomplished jazz musician, Mr. Previn's sole Broadway score was with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner for 1969's Coco, the musical about Coco Chanel starring Katharine Hepburn. He also penned two operas—adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire (1998) and Brief Encounter (2007)—as well as the London musical Good Companions. Though he only wrote one Broadway show, Previn's Academy Awards came courtesy of four movie musicals: Porgy and Bess and Gigi (Best Scoring of a Musical Picture) and Irma La Douce and My Fair Lady (Best Adaptation or Treatment). He died February 28 at the age of 89.
Mr. Prince, known as Hal to all in the theatre trade, worked well into his ninth decade. He remains represented on Broadway with his long-running production of The Phantom of the Opera. That Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is probably the Prince credit best known to the general theatregoing public. But to aficionados and historians, his singular artistic achievement was the groundbreaking string of Stephen Sondheim musicals he staged in the 1970s. (The future collaborators first met on the opening night of South Pacific.) Their shows—Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, and Sweeney Todd—are widely considered to be among the most significant landmarks of musical theatre, shows that changed the face of the art form.
The British stage and screen actor who was an instantly recognizable figure to generations of young viewers who watched her on screen as the Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the BBC's Grange Hill, died August 16 at age 86. She earned a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in Stop the World—I Want to Get Off, and went on to such varied projects as The Beatles’ 1964 movie A Hard Day’s Night, and West End appearances in Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey, Anthony Shaffer’s The Case of the Oily Levantine, Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, and Rodney Ackland’s After October.
Mr. Ramin and co-orchestrator Irwin Kostal orchestrated the original 1957 Broadway production of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story; both, along with Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green, were awarded an Academy Award for their work on the 1962 film adaptation. Ramin also won a Grammy for the movie soundtrack. Mr. Ramin’s work as an orchestrator also included the original Broadway productions of Wonderful Town, Gypsy, Wildcat, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Smile, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, The Red Shoes, and additional orchestrations for Crazy for You. On television, Mr. Ramin was known for writing music for All My Children, for which he earned a 1983 Daytime Emmy, as well as the theme for The Patty Duke Show. He also composed numerous well-known television jingles and ad spots, earning eight Clio Awards for his work. He died July 1 at the age of 100
Mr. Sabinson’s theatrical career spanned 50 years of Broadway history, encapsulating some of the most successful productions of the “Golden Age” through its commercial resurgence in the 1980s and ’90s. Sabinson began his career as a theatrical press agent, representing the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow; Guys and Dolls; Gypsy; Hello, Dolly!; 1776; Oliver!; Promises, Promises; Carnival; Marat/Sade; Luther; and a string of Neil Simon’s biggest hits, from Barefoot in the Park through The Sunshine Boys. He also represented the original production of the long-running Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, and major American theatrical institutions including the Tony-honored Guthrie Theatre. He was a co-founder of the PR firm Solters and Sabinson. He served as executive director of The Broadway League for nearly two decades, He died April 19 at the age of 94.
Mr. Simon, known equally for his considerable erudition, his longevity as a critic, and his sometimes vituperative style, died November 24. He was 94. Mr. Simon's reputation as an aggressive drama critic, with a tendency for acerbity, was forged early on. Joseph Papp wrote New York Magazine a letter in 1972 saying Simon suffered from the effects of a "benevolent mother who undoubtedly fussed all over her precocious offspring." Papp would in 1989 demand Simon's dismissal. Edward Albee—a frequent sparring partner—wrote in the New York Times in the mid-'60s, "Mr. Simon's disapproval of my plays has been a source of comfort to me over the years and his dislike of A Delicate Balance gives me courage to go on, as they say." He served as New York Magazine's theatre critic for 37 years until his dismissal in 2005, at which point he joined Bloomberg. Upon leaving that post in 2010, he created his own website, UncensoredJohnSimon.blogspot.com.
Mr. Sirola made his Broadway debut as Christmas Morgan in the 1960 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. He followed that with Golden Rainbow, co-starring Steve and Eydie Gormé in 1968, and the 1976 Broadway revival of Pal Joey. He was well known for his voiceover work and film and television roles. In later years, Sirola translated his performing career into theatrical producing, winning a Tony Award as a producer on A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. His producing credits also included Time Stands Still, Stick Fly, The Trip to Bountiful, and the 2014 Broadway revival of Love Letters. He died February 10 at the age of 89.
The Oscar-nominated screenwriter and playwright died October 30 at 89 years old. A TV writer for series including The Partridge Family, in 1975, Mr. Slade made his Broadway debut with Same Time, Next Year, a long-running two-hander that tracks a couple's extramarital affair over several decades. Originally starring Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin, the work earned a 1975 Tony Award nomination for Best Play and saw Burstyn win Best Actress in a Play. Mr. Slade subsequently earned an Oscar nomination adapting his script for a 1978 film adaptation starring Burstyn and Alan Alda. Mr. Slade would return to Broadway three additional times, each a star vehicle. 1978's Tribute was led by Jack Lemon, 1979's Romantic Comedy by Mia Farrow and Anthony Perkins, and 1982's Special Occasions by Richard Mulligan and Suzanne Pleshette.
Mr. Smith made his Broadway debut as a Shark in the 1964 revival of West Side Story. He later appeared opposite Paula Kelly in Something More! and A Joyful Noise in 1966, assisting the late Michael Bennett. He made his Broadway debut as a choreographer in 1974 with The Fifth Dimension with JoJo’s Dance Factory. Smith also established himself in Hollywood as one of the go-to contemporary choreographers and coaches of the 1970s disco era, working with John Travolta on Saturday Night Fever, Barbra Streisand for The Owl and the Pussycat, and Joey Heatherton in Dancin’. He also served as founder of JoJo’s Dance Factory, which continues its legacy to this day. He died January 22 at the age of 80.
During his time as executive director of TDF, the nonprofit organization for the performing arts that works to make theatre affordable and accessible, Mr. Southern was among the team (with Anna Crouse, Phil Smith, and Mayor Jon Lindsay) responsible for creating the first TKTS booth to sell discount tickets for Broadway productions. The inaugural booth, a trailer donated by New York City's Parks Department, opened in June 1973 in Duffy Square. TDF now operates three TKTS booths. Following his time with TDF, Mr. Southern worked for the National Endowment for the Arts, the independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity communities across the country. He spent several years as deputy chairman before being named acting chairman in 1989. He died July 15 at the age of 87.
Broadway and West End musical comedy performer Ms. Staiger died at age 91 September 25. Ms. Staiger was perhaps best-known on Broadway for her portrayal of Sophie Tucker in Sophie. On TV, audiences will remember her as one of the Corlick Sisters from Denny’s commercials in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Her additional Broadway and West End credits included Wonderful Town, By the Beautiful Sea, Destry Rides Again, and The Most Happy Fella.
Eric LaJuan Summers
Mr. Summers, whose moves in Broadway’s Motown led to a 2013 Astaire Award, died April 9 following an ongoing battle with cancer. He was 36. Mr. Summers was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017; he was in the ensemble of Kinky Boots at the time, having also understudied the role of Lola. That summer, his co-stars and Tony winner Billy Porter—the musical’s original Lola—came together for a benefit concert to help fund his treatments. After making his Broadway debut as a replacement in Aida, Mr. Summers went on to appear in The Wedding Singer, The Little Mermaid, Elf, and the aforementioned Motown the Musical, earning an Astaire Award for Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show.
The stage and screen actor seen on Broadway throughout the 1980s and 1990s and most recently on Amazon’s Emmy-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, died November 2 at age 60. Mr. Tarantina was seen on Broadway in Diane Shaffer's Sacrilege (1995), John Pielmeier's The Boys of Winter (1985), Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues (1985), and Lanford Wilson's Angels Fall (1983). Off-Broadway, Tarantina was also seen in Balm in Gilead The Birthday Present, and Innocent Thoughts, Harmless Intentions. He performed in a number of films and television shows, including roles in BlacKkKlansman, The Black Donnellys, and Gilmore Girls.
The widow of former New York Times and New York Post theatre and dance critic Clive Barnes, Ms. Taylor-Barnes spent her latest years working for The Clive Barnes Foundation, which she established in 2009. The Foundation was best known for its annual Clive Barnes Awards, recognizing and cultivating the next generation of great performing artists in theatre and dance. Ms. Taylor-Barnes was also a formidable performer in her own right. She began dancing at the age of three and trained with Sadler’s Wells (now the Royal Ballet) at the age of 16. She joined the company the following year. Among her favorite roles were the Miller’s Wife in Leonide Massine’s Le Tricorne and the Prelude in Les Sylphides, opposite husband-and-wife pair Sergei Griforiev and Lubov Tchernicheva. She also danced in the premieres of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella and The Two Pigeons.
Tony Award nominee Rip Torn, who originated the role of Tom Junior in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, died at age 88. Torn made his Broadway debut understudying the role of Brick in the 1955 Broadway premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, subsequently taking over the role. He earned a Tony Award nomination for Sweet Bird of Youth in 1960 and went on to reprise his performance in the screen adaptation.
Press agent Robert “Bob” Ullman, a veteran of the theatrical industry whose career spanned eras in Broadway history, died July 31 in Bayshore, Long Island, New York. Mr. Ullman worked with Ethel Merman and George Abbot on the 1950 premiere of Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam, as well as with theatre legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on their final Broadway appearance in the 1958 revival of The Visit. He also worked on the short-lived musical Goldilocks, co-written by theatre critic Walter Kerr and starring Elaine Stritch; Lauren Bacall in Cactus Flower; and Ethel Merman and Mary Martin: Together on Broadway.
The founder and chairman of Alan Wasser Associates built a career in theatrical general management, tour booking, and tour marketing and counts all three Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera touring productions among his many tours. Wasser went on to form Foresight Theatrical, which continues to provide executive producing, general managing, booking, press, and other theatrical resources for stage productions. In 2017, the Tony Awards Administration Committee presented Mr. Wasser and fellow general manager Nina Lannan the 2017 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. Some of Mr. Wasser’s additional Broadway credits include: Kinky Boots, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Mary Poppins, Grey Gardens, and Seussical. He died April 14 at the age of 70.
The stage and screen performer, known for his roles on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Jamie Foxx Show, died September 8. He was 72. In addition to his work on the small screen, Mr. Wesley was a frequent performer on the stage. He earned an Atlas Award for Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic in San Diego, as well as a Dramalogue Award for his performance in Oyamo's I Am A Man in Los Angeles.
In 2006, Ms. Willis was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score for the Broadway adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, a score she co-wrote with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray. That same year, she was credited on the Broadway musical Hot Feet, director-choreographer Maurice Hines' retelling of of a Hans Christian Andersen fable featuring the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. When The Color Purple was revived in 2015, Ms. Willis was part of the team that earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
Mr. Wright, who was last on Broadway in the 1998 revival of Twelfth Night, died June 26 at the age of 75 following a lengthy battle with cancer. Best known for playing the often-exasperated father Willie Tanner on the TV series Alf, the actor's Broadway credits spanned three decades. He made his Main Stem debut in October 1968 in Howard Sackler's The Great White Hope, which co-starred James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. He also shared the stage with Al Pacino in 1977 in David Rabe's The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel.
Famed for his 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet starring a teenage Olivia Hussey—decades before Baz Luhrmann's equally younger-skewing movie—and hailed and criticized for his lavish opera productions, director Franco Zeffirelli died June 15 at 96. First exposed to the opera at the age of eight, Zeffirelli caught his big break when the director Luchino Visconti offered the younger man the chance to work with him on an Italian-language production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Embarking on a personal relationship with Visconti, Zeffirelli went on to contribute set designs for many of his productions before making the segue into directing himself. In addition to Romeo and Juliet—a box office smash—Zeffirelli also directed a film adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as a film of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson and the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth.
Casting director Mr. Zerman, who worked on the original Broadway runs of Les Misérables, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera, died January 6 at age 62. In addition to his work as a Broadway casting director, Zerman also coached young musical theatre talent, imparting his years of experience to novice singers starting to make their way.