Phillip Oesterman, co-librettist and director of the upcoming Broadway-bound musical, Urban Cowboy, was found dead in his home in Ft. Myers, FL, the morning of July 30, according to a spokesman for the aborning musical.
Mr. Oesterman was a longtime friend and colleague of Tommy Tune, and is credited as one of the people who brought Tune to New York City, where the dancer would become a major Broadway director. A cause of death was not immediately known, but Mr. Oesterman had a previous heart condition and underwent surgery in the last year. He was thought to be in his late 50s.
His association with Tune included serving as associate director of The Will Rogers Follies, the 23rd collaboration with Tune over 30 years. Mr. Oesterman was attached as co-librettist of Easter Parade, a stage version of the movie musical, starring Tommy Tune and Sandy Duncan, which never materialized on Broadway but had workshops in New York and Australia.
His co-wrote the Urban Cowboy libretto with Aaron Latham, screenwriter of the 1980 film of the same name. The show will use songs made famous in the film of the same name, plus offer interpolations.
Chase Mishkin and Leonard Soloway, producers of the upcoming musical, Urban Cowboy, said in a statement, "We are deeply grieved by Phil's passing. Urban Cowboy has been a passion of Phil's for many years and we are totally committed to moving forward as he would have wished." A new director will be announced shortly and the production is set to open a pre-Broadway engagement at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida in November.
In London, Mr. Oesterman directed Bus Stop starring Jerry Hall. For five years, he served as producer and artistic director of Theatrefest, at Montclair State College in New Jersey, where he was a member of the faculty.
Among shows Mr. Oesterman worked on were My One and Only, Grand Hotel and Tommy Tune Tonite! He also staged Yoko Ono's rock musical, New York Rock, Let My People Come, Tommy Tune Atop the Village Gate, The Charles Pierce Show, Geese and Liliane Montevecchi On the Boulevard (co-directed with Tune).
The new stage musical production of the 1980 film has its premiere at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Nov. 5-Dec. 1.The new show concerns a honky-tonk bar, a mechanical bull, and male ego.
"The story takes place in Gilley's bar, the evening watering hole of the newly prosperous rig workers during the oil boom of the '70s," according to the Coconut Grove announcement. "It's a place rife with lots of laughs, personal drama and sexual tension — and as the song depicts — it's the place where everyone goes 'Lookin' For Love.'"
Songs in the show include "Could I Have This Dance," "Orange Blossom Express" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The original soundtrack went triple platinum.
The new musical received a workshop Dec. 6-7, 2001, at downtown's Manhattan's Westbeth Theatre Center. The Cowboy workshop also featured Sandy Duncan (Peter Pan), playing Aunt Corene opposite Reathel Bean's Uncle Bob, Tom Zemon as the villainous Wes (the Scott Glenn part) and Smokey Joe's Cafe alum B.J. Crosby as Jesse. The latter, owner of the honky tonk club Gilley's is a new character created expressly for the musical.