Pamela Blair, best known for creating the role of Val in the Tony-winning musical A Chorus Line, died July 23 at her home in Phoenix, Arizona. The news was shared on Blair's personal Facebook account by a family member, who reported that Blair was "surrounded by loved ones."
Blair was born December 5, 1949, in Bennington, Vermont, and moved to New York City as a teenager to pursue a career in acting and dancing. She made her Broadway debut at the age of 19 in the ensemble of Promises, Promises, which would turn out to be the first of many associations with choreographer Michael Bennett. Just a few years later in 1972, Blair was in the original company of the Jule Styne musical Sugar, adapted from Billy Wilder's film Some Like It Hot. Blair later replaced Elaine Joyce in the title role, played on screen by Marilyn Monroe and portrayed onstage as a Monroe avatar. After Sugar, Blair joined the company of Seesaw, choreographed by Bennett.
Shortly after Seesaw completed its Broadway run, Bennett began gathering dancers to share stories from their lives and careers. Those chats would be transformed into the landmark musical A Chorus Line, which Bennett directed and choreographed. Blair was invited to create the role of Valerie Clark from the project's earliest workshops. The character was reportedly somewhat based on Blair's own life, with one important exception. Val's most notable moment in the Tony-winning musical comes when she sings of getting plastic surgery after learning that producers didn't find her pretty enough to hire—"Tits and Ass" from the "wizard on Park and 73rd" to the rescue. Blair had not had any such surgical enhancements, a character feature that was apparently inspired by Seesaw original company member Mitzi Hamilton. After premiering Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, the musical became a megahit, moving to Broadway's Shubert Theatre after just a few months. A Chorus Line became one of Broadway's longest-running musicals, for a time the longest-running. Blair would return to the role at least twice, in national touring companies of the show.
After A Chorus Line, Blair moved from Bennett to Bennett's protégé Tommy Tune, creating the role of Amber (later changed to Angel) in the original cast of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The irreverent musical centers on a brothel in rural Texas that's forced to close after a local politician learns that University of Texas football players are being taken to the so-called Chicken Ranch as a post-win treat. Blair's character, described in the script as "the most obvious-looking whore you'll see all night," leads the ensemble number "Hard Candy Christmas," a song that became somewhat of a break-out hit following the 1982 film adaptation of the musical starring Dolly Parton.
Though Blair would also appear on Broadway in King of Hearts, The Nerd, and A Few Good Men; and in the 1996 national tour of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as bombshell Hedy La Rue, she would spend the bulk of the '80s and '90s working in TV and film. Among her screen credits are roles in Ryan's Hope, Annie, The Cosby Show, All My Children, Law & Order, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Blair spent her later years in Arizona running a Therapeutic and Myofascial Massage Studio for athletes. She married actor-director (and her King of Hearts co-star) Don Scardino in 1984, divorcing in 1991.