Dick Gallagher, Award-Winning Off-Broadway Composer and Musical Director, Dead at 49 | Playbill

Obituaries Dick Gallagher, Award-Winning Off-Broadway Composer and Musical Director, Dead at 49
Dick Gallagher, a trusted accompanist, musical director and Off-Broadway composer, died Jan. 20 in Manhattan after a long illness, according to friends in the New York theatre community.

Mr. Gallagher was 49. In addition to working with many performers in the cabaret community, Mr. Gallagher (with Mark Waldrop) wrote the plucky scores for the Off-Broadway revues What Not, Whoop-Dee-Doo! and — his greatest hit — When Pigs Fly.

What Not won the 1990 Richard Rodgers Production Award and Whoop-Dee-Doo! was the winner of the 1993 Outer Critics Circle Award.

Waldrop and Mr. Gallagher created When Pigs Fly with designer Howard Crabtree, whose outrageous costumes and co-conception wowed audiences at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre (and later regionally and around the world). The show was about putting on a show and pursuing a life in musical theatre — no matter what the obstacles.

Bette Midler recorded one of the songs from that score, "Laughing Matters." The show was produced internationally after an extended run in New York, having won the 1996 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revue, and the Drama Desk Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical.

Mr. Gallagher's scores have been preserved on cast albums. Whoop-Dee-Doo! (also with Howard Crabtree) also won the 1994 Drama Desk Award for Best Revue. The composer also wrote the words and music for the Off-Broadway musical Have I Got a Girl for You: The Frankenstein Musical, and the title song for the Charles Busch comedy, You Should Be So Lucky.

With Mark Waldrop, Mr. Gallagher also wrote two musicals for the Theatreworks/USA: Gold Rush and A Christmas Carol. He also wrote several songs for the revue That's Life!

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, he graduated with honors from the Northwestern University School of Music. He received his masters degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign.

When he came to New York City, he played piano for performers at such choice venues as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, the Oak Room at the Algonquin, Rainbow & Stars, the Carlyle, The Russian Tea Room and elsewhere. He created musical arrangements for Liza Minnelli, Karen Akers, Liliane Montevecchi, Julie Wilson, Hildegard, Bruce Vilanch, Andrea Marcovicci, David Staller, Charles Busch, Karen Mason, Sally Mayes, Lina Koutrakos, Laura Kenyon, Mandy Patinkin, KT Sullivan, Jeff Harnar and Philip Officer among others.

He won many MAC cabaret awards — more than any other pianist, according to colleagues.

"His unique combination of humor and an astoundingly innate understanding of the human psyche made him paramount among all accompanists," said friend and colleague David Staller. "Patient, unassuming, never wishing to take the spotlight away from the performer at the microphone, listeners couldn’t help but be aware of the enhancement he supplied to every singer. All of us who ever worked with him felt he had given the same gift to each of us. He had a rare talent for breathing with the singers. His lightness of touch, with a breathtaking spare chord structure reminiscent of Bill Evans, among others, could suddenly erupt into what one would swear was a full symphony orchestra. He could study a song as intently as an actor preparing a role. Analyzing the musical structure of a song, he could find a way to serve the original writers, the singer at hand and even the listening audience. He cared deeply about his work and his meticulousness was evident, always, no matter the venue or performer."

Staller added, "As a musical collaborator, he had a quick gift of translating one's verbal idea about a given song into a musical reality. Given his seemingly impossible range of musical knowledge his fingers could carry a tune from Rachmaninoff to Rap with apparent effortlessness."

For the last several years Mr. Gallagher has been arranger, accompanist and conductor for Patti LuPone. Along with writer-director Scott Wittman he created several shows for LuPone, which they performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center on Broadway (Patti LuPone on Broadway) and in cabaret appearances and concerts internationally.

In a statement last week, LuPone said, "I never knew what true communication through music could be until Dicky and I began working together. He elevated me as a singer. He elevated me as a human being. His talent was boundless. His humor, dry and treacherous. His love, his care and his dignity made him an extraordinarily special person in my, and my family', lives. Dicky, I will miss you as long as I live."

Mr. Gallagher was buried beside his partner of 15 years, Myles Fifick, in the Hillside Cemetery, in Metuchen, NJ. Fifick died in 2004 of liver failure while Mr. Gallagher was in the hospital.

Mr. Gallagher is survived by his parents, Lorraine and Joseph,of Palatine, IL., and two brothers, Daniel and William.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Actors Fund of America in his name.

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