Many luminaries who brightened American and international stages over the past half-century were lost in the 12 months of 2017.
This year we lost beloved actors like Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Lewis, Robert Guillaume, Roy Dotrice, and David Cassidy; master writers like Sam Shepard, Thomas Meehan, A. R. Gurney Jr., and Richard Wilbur; industry leaders like Stuart Thompson, Max Ferrá, and Sir Peter Hall; gifted songwriters like Michael Friedman; photographer Martha Swope; and one of the greatest stars of Broadway history, Barbara Cook.
Playbill takes a closer look at those who made their final exit in 2017, in reverse chronological order.
Rose Marie, familiar to TV audiences for her role as comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, died December 28 at age 94. She began in vaudeville as a child singing star “Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder,” and later spent a year on Broadway 1951–1952 opposite Phil Silvers in the burlesque musical Top Banana. She subsequently toured in the revue 4 Girls 4 with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell, and Margaret Whiting. She returned to Broadway in 1972 for a brief run in Fun City.
Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa von Trapp in the film version of The Sound of Music, died December 24 at 68. The Canadian-American actor boasted extensive TV and film credits, including Logan’s Run, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and Endangered Species. She had one Broadway credit, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which had a brief run in 1966.
John Shearing, Broadway sound designer, died December 3 at age 87. He was the first president of the Sound Designers Union (Local 922) and worked on such shows as Grease, Two Gentlemen of Verona (the musical), Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, and the 1971 revival of No, No, Nanette.
Eric Concklin, groundbreaking director of experimental theatre who staged the original Off-Off-Broadway debuts of Harvey Fierstein’s three short plays that later became the Tony-winning Torch Song Trilogy, died December 5, age unreported. Concklin pursued the majority of his career at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company. His credits include Honky Tonk Trash, Cotton Club Gala, What Is Making Gilda So Gray?, The Haunted Host, Julia Caesar, and The White Whore and Bit Player. Concklin and Fierstein had a close artistic collaboration in the 1970s and 1980s. Concklin staged Fierstein’s Spookhouse Off-Broadway in 1984, and earned his one Broadway credit directing Fierstein’s Safe Sex, in 1987.
Steve Elmore, the Broadway actor best known for creating roles in Company and Dames at Sea, died December 5 at age 84. He originated the role of Paul in the 1970 Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical Company, the intended bridegroom of the hyper-nervous Amy; the two sang in the memorable three-part patter song “(Not) Getting Married Today.” Elmore's three-decade career also included musicals with Carol Burnett, Mary Martin, and Bernadette Peters.
Heather North, actor who supplied the voice of Daphne on the animated TV series Scooby-Doo, died November 30 at 71. She co-starred as Sandy Horton on the TV soap opera The Days of Our Lives, and appeared on Broadway in the 1967 play The Girl in the Freudian Slip.
David Cassidy, widely known for playing guitar-strumming teen heartthrob Keith Partridge on the 1970s musical TV series The Partridge Family, died November 21 at age 67. He was the son of two stage actors, Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, and made his own Broadway debut in The Fig Leaves Are Falling. He replaced in the leading role of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1982 and made a highly publicized return to Broadway in 1993, starring opposite half-brother Shaun Cassidy as fraternal twins in the Willy Russell musical Blood Brothers.
Earle Hyman, a Tony Award-nominated actor for The Lady from Dubuque and a driving force in the history of black theatre in America, died November 17 at 91. His résumé boasted 16 Broadway credits. Though his interpretations of classic roles broke down racial barriers for black actors in a career that spanned seven decades, including playing James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Public Theatre in 1981, he is probably best known for his role as comedian Bill Cosby’s father on the long-running TV series The Cosby Show, for which he earned an Emmy nomination.
Ann Wedgeworth, the stage and screen actor who won a Tony Award for her performance in Neil Simon’s 1977 comedy Chapter Two, died November 16 at age 83. Her Broadway credits included Tennessee Williams’ Period of Adjustment (1960), James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), Saul Bellow’s The Last Analysis (1964), and Herb Gardner’s Thieves (1974). Her film roles included Aunt Fern in Steel Magnolias and Dallas Angel in Citizens Band (National Society of Film Critics Awards prize for Best Supporting Actress).
Liz Smith, legendary syndicated celebrity gossip columnist for more than three decades with a special eye for the backstage doings on Broadway, died November 12 at age 94. Her columns appeared for many years in various publications, including The Daily News, The New York Post, and Cosmopolitan.
Frank Corsaro, the opera innovator at New York City Opera and other companies, who staged the original Broadway productions of A Hatful of Rain and Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana, died November 11 at 92. The Argentinian-born director was known for his untraditional stagings of traditional operas in the 1960s through the1980s, including La Traviata, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, The Makropulos Case, The Cunning Little Vixen, Die Tote Stadt, and Faust. Corsaro championed and staged Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere of Scott Joplin’s “lost” folk opera, Treemonisha, which transferred to Broadway in 1975.
Robert Guillaume, the first African-American Actor to play the title role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera, in the Los Angeles production of the show, died October 24 at age 89. Guillaume is best known to the general public as the title star of ABC’s Benson (1979–1986), which earned him an Emmy Award and three Golden Globe nominations. He supplied the voice for Rafiki the mandrill in the animated film musical The Lion King, and won a Grammy for the audiobook version of the same story. Guillaume, a Tony Award nominee for a 1977 revival of Guys and Dolls, performed on Broadway numerous times throughout his long career. His stage credits included Finian’s Rainbow, Purlie, and Cyrano The Musical.
Danielle Darrieux, the French film star who appeared in more than 100 films on both sides of the Atlantic in a career that spanned nine decades, died October 17 at age 100. She made her Broadway debut replacing Katharine Hepburn in the 1969 musical Coco, in the title role as Coco Chanel. Among her most celebrated film roles were in Anatole Litvak’s Mayerling (1936), Les Demoiselles De Rochefort (1967), Huit Femmes (2002), Persepolis (2007), and Max Ophüls’ La Ronde (1950).
Roy Dotrice, a distinguished British stage, film, and TV actor who won the 2000 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten, died October 16 in London at age 94. He spent much of his early career in the U.K., originally part of a Shakespearean repertory troupe that evolved into the Royal Shakespeare Company. His eight Broadway appearances show his range: he appeared in light comedies, including Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (1985), and dramas, including Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming (1991). He toured for years as English biographer John Aubrey in the solo show Brief Lives, which he brought to Broadway twice, in 1967 and again in 1974.
Richard Wilbur, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, translator, and lyricist, died on October 14 at age 96. His Broadway credits as a translator include a number of French classics by Molière: Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, The School for Husbands, and The Imaginary Cuckold. However he is best known to theatre fans for co-writing the lyrics for the musical Candide with Dorothy Parker and John La Touche. In the literary world, Wilbur was best known as a poet, for which he received numerous honors including a National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes.
Thomas Derrah, an award-winning actor, died October 5 at 64. He made a single appearance on Broadway, playing multiple characters in Jackie: An American Life, but spent much of his career starring in productions in Boston.
Gerry Burkhardt, a dancer who appeared in the original 1978 Broadway production of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, in its 1982 Broadway revival, and in its 1994 sequel, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, died October 3 at age 71. Broadway credits include Her First Roman, the 1990 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, and the 1992 musical Crazy for You. His sole film credit was playing a dancing ghost in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You.
Anne Jeffreys, whose long acting résumé included starring in the TV series Topper when it was being scripted by a young Stephen Sondheim, died September 27 at age 94. She appeared in four Broadway shows, including the original run of Kiss Me, Kate where she replaced Patricia Morison as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine.
Albert Innaurato, author of Gemini—which, at 1,819 performances, is the longest-running Broadway straight play post-World War II—died September 24 at age 70. Other plays include Coming of Age in Soho (1985), about a gay man who finds himself blocked after early success, and The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie (1976), starring James Coco as a massively overweight man who finds solace for his resulting isolation in yet more food.
Judy Parker Gaudio, writer and co-writer of Billboard chart-topping songs, including several Four Seasons hits heard in the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, died September 21 at age 79. Among those hits were “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” and “Who Loves You.” She was married to Four Seasons member and songwriter Bob Gaudio.
Frank M. Young, founder of the Houston, Texas, landmark Theatre Under the Stars, died September 20 at 77. Under Young, TUTS was instrumental in the development of the Broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde, and he collaborated with Walt Disney Theatrical Productions on the world premiere of the stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, which moved on to Broadway and ran 5,461 performances.
Myrna Lamb, feminist playwright and lyricist of Apple Pie Ballad of Brooklyn, and Crab Quadrille, died September 15 at age 87. Her 1970 musical Mod Donna, co-written with Susan Hulsman and staged at the Public Theater, was considered a groundbreaking second-wave feminist work for its depiction of women’s sexual liberation.
Brenda Lewis, a star soprano at the Metropolitan Opera who made occasional forays onto Broadway, died September 16 at 96. In 1941, she landed her first major professional role with the Philadelphia Opera in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. Between 1952 and 1965, Lewis sang in 38 regular performances at the Met Opera and worked with New York City Opera for 20 years. She created two major opera roles: Birdie in Regina, the 1949 Broadway adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and the title role in Lizzie Borden. In 1954, she created the role of Lotta Leslie in Broadway’s The Girl in the Pink Tights and returned a decade later as Mme. Cole in Cafe Crown.
Shirley Callaway, singer, pianist, one of New York’s leading voice teachers, and mother to Tony-nominated actors and concert artists Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, died September 14 at age 84. She counted among her students Tovah Feldshuh, Boyd Gaines, and Cady Huffman.
Sir Peter Hall, groundbreaking British director and theatre administrator, died September 11 at 86. He founded Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company and spent the years 1973 to 1988 as director of the National Theatre in London. Though his primary impact as a staging innovator was felt in the U.K., his influence spread across the Atlantic to Broadway in productions including the 1981 Tony Award-winning Best Play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer and the 1967 Broadway transfer of The Homecoming. Both productions earned Hall Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play. Hall was nominated for seven other Tonys for a lifetime total of nine.
Michael Friedman, the Obie-winning composer of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, died September 9 at age 41. Friedman, a founding member of the theatre group The Civilians, also held positions at the Public Theater and City Center's Encores! Off-Center, where he had taken over as artistic director just a few months before his death. He recieved an Obie Award for sustained excellence in 2007.
Shelley Berman, an actor who made a career as a “sit-down comedian” and who starred in composer John Kander’s first Broadway musical (the short-lived A Family Affair), died September 1 at age 92. A Family Affair was one of three Broadway appearances for Berman, a Chicago native who trained at the Goodman Theatre. He also played in The Girls Against the Boys and Insideoutsideandallaround with Shelley Berman. He scored his greatest success in standup comedy, comedy records, movies, and on television, where he enjoyed a late-career success earning an Emmy nomination for playing Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Bernard Pomerance, author of The Elephant Man, the Tony Award-winning 1977 drama about a disfigured man rescued from a life as a circus sideshow attraction, died August 26 at age 76. The Elephant Man was based on the life of 19th century Londoner Joseph Merrick, afflicted with a rare genetic condition that produced huge growths of flesh and bone on his body. The compelling drama received its Off-Broadway premiere in January 1979, starring Philip Anglim as Merrick. The production transferred to the Booth Theatre on Broadway in April 1979, and ran for 916 performances. The play enjoyed two more Broadway revivals in 2002 starring Billy Crudup and 2014 starring Bradley Cooper.
Thomas Meehan, three-time Tony-winning librettist of Annie, Hairspray (with Mark O'Donnell), and The Producers (with Mel Brooks), died August 21 at 88. A former writer for The New Yorker and other publications, he came to his profession late in life. He made his Broadway debut at age 47 with Annie, and went on to write or co-write the scripts to I Remember Mama, Bombay Dreams, Young Frankenstein, Elf, and Chaplin, among other shows. His final Broadway credit was the book to the musical Rocky in 2014.
Jerry Lewis, the slapstick man-child comedian who became one of the top stars in Hollywood when teamed with singer Dean Martin from 1946 to 1956, died August 20 at 91. Film credits include My Friend Irma, At War with the Army, Sailor Beware, Scared Stiff, and The Caddy. After he and Martin broke up their partnership, Lewis showcased his absurd style of comedy in several more films including The Errand Boy, The The Nutty Professor, and The Disorderly Orderly. He also appeared in nightclub shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, in TV variety and game shows, and as host the 1955 Oscars and the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon every August for 35 years. Despite the diversity of his showbiz experience, he had only two Broadway credits, the 1957 variety show Jerry Lewis at the Palace, and a gig replacing Victor Garber as Applegate in the 1994 revival of Damn Yankees. A planned starring role in a revival of the anarchic revue Hellzapoppin collapsed when the show closed out of town.
Dan Zittel, a stage manager who worked on myriad Off-Broadway productions and national tours, died August 19 at age 66. A board member of the Stage Managers’ Association, Zittel worked extensively with a number of Off-Broadway houses, including York Theatre (Musicals of Musicals, The Musical), Barrow Street (Orson’s Shadow), and Playwrights Horizons. He also toured with productions of High School Musical, White Christmas, 42nd Street, The Sound of Music, and Man of La Mancha. His credits also include more than 50 productions at the Cape Playhouse in Massachusetts.
Janusz Głowacki, the Polish-born author who chronicled the struggles of immigrants in his plays, novels, and screenplays, died August 19 at 78. He wrote several plays while still in Poland, but left his homeland and settled in New York after martial law was imposed in the early 1980s. He made his splash in the U.S. with his rueful 1986 comedy Hunting Cockroaches, which won the Joseph Kesselring Award and the Hollywood Drama League Critics Award in 1987. His other plays in the U.S. include Antigone in New York, about homeless immigrants in Tompkins Square Park in New York, The Fourth Sister; and Fortinbras Got Drunk.
Stuart Thompson, a six-time Tony-winning theatrical producer and manager who worked on more than 70 Broadway and West End productions, died August 17 at age 62. The Australian-born producer’s long list of projects includes Art, The Book of Mormon, Not About Nightingales, The Play What I Wrote, On Golden Pond, and the three longest running non-musical plays on Broadway of the last 25 years: The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Proof (2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), and The Curious Incident of Dog in the Night-Time. Recent Broadway credits include Sweat (2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, King Charles III, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Death of a Salesman, Jerusalem, The Motherf**ker With the Hat, God of Carnage, and Exit the King.
Joseph Bologna, the actor, writer, and director who appeared on Broadway in three of his own plays with his wife, actor Renée Taylor, died August 14 at age 82. The couple wrote and co-starred in plays that touched on the comedic side of romance and marriage. Their 1968 Lovers and Other Strangers was later adapted for the big screen in 1971, earning the couple an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The pair also starred in their 1981 play, It Had to Be You, and in their autobiographical 2001 two-hander, If you ever leave me…I’m going with you!. On his own, Bologna is remembered for playing the blustering TV star King Kaiser in the film My Favorite Year.
Barbara Cook, whose crystalline and heartfelt soprano led her to a remarkably long-lived career, first as one of Broadway’s most memorable musical theatre ingénues and then as a leading light in the international cabaret scene, died August 8 at age 89. She created major roles in landmark musicals, including Amalia Balash in She Loves Me and Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, as well as Cunegonde in the flawed masterpiece Candide. She also starred in the lesser-known shows Plain and Fancy, Flahooley, and The Gay Life. She introduced such standards as “Till There Was You,” “My White Knight,” “Ice Cream,” and “Glitter and Be Gay.” Cook reinvented herself as a cabaret and recording star in the 1970s, making appearances at clubs across the U.S., at Lincoln Center, and at Carnegie Hall. Late in life she also returned to Broadway in Mostly Sondheim, Barbara Cook’s Broadway!, and her final mainstem appearance, Sondheim on Sondheim in 2010, for which she earned a Tony nomination. She earned the 1958 Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The Music Man.
Annette Garceau, the last surviving member of team that founded the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, died August 6 at 103. During her four-decade tenure there, it was the French-born Garceau’s job to take the sketches drawn by costume designers and build them for dozens of productions, including classics Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Mary Stuart. She also reportedly did uncredited work on costumes for Broadway productions The World of Suzie Wong and Waltz of the Toreadors.
Mariann Mayberry, the Chicago-based actor who created the role of Karen Weston in the acclaimed Broadway production of August: Osage County and the role of Eurydice in Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, died August 1 at age 52. She was a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre acting ensemble, appearing in 25 of the company‘s productions in a career that began in 1989.
Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who made his career exploring the American mythology of the West, died July 27 at age 73. Among his dozens of plays are the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, Tony-nominated True West, the long-running Fool for Love, and many more, including The Tooth of Crime, Icarus’s Mother, Red Cross and La Turista, Forensic and the Navigator, and Melodrama Play. In addition to his playwriting career, Shepard appeared as an actor, mainly in films and TV, including 1983’s The Right Stuff, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. He gave an Emmy-nominated performance in TV’s Dash and Lilly, and appeared in Black Hawk Down, Mud, Swordfish, Bloodline (marking his final screen appearance), and the film adaptation of fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County.
John Heard, who made his mark playing dad Peter McCallister in the movie Home Alone and two of it sequels, died July 21 at 71. He made several Broadway appearances including playing the Gentleman Caller in the 1983 revival of A Glass Menagerie, opposite Jessica Tandy and Amanda Plummer. He played Guildenstern and understudied Sam Waterston in the title role of the 1975 Hamlet, having made his Broadway debut playing Lord Cumulus in the 1973 sci-fi play Warp. On TV, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in 1999 for his role on The Sopranos.
Danny Daniels, dancer and choreographer who enjoyed a six-decade film, TV, and Broadway career, died July 7 at age 92. With a reputation as a star-friendly choreographer, he created dances for Tammy Grimes in High Spirits, for Norman Wisdom in Walking Happy, for Liv Ullman in I Remember Mama, for Liza Minnelli in the film Stepping Out, and for Christopher Walken in the film Pennies From Heaven. He earned a Tony Award for Best Choreography for The Tap Dance Kid in 1984.
Libby Adler Mages, a producer who won a Tony Award for her work on the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, died July 2 at 93. Mages’ additional titles included the Tony-nominated productions of Swing!, Enchanted April, Say Goodnight Gracie, and The Bridges of Madison County.
A.R. Gurney Jr., whose Love Letters, The Middle Ages, Scenes From American Life, and The Dining Room chronicled a slowly vanishing middle-class America, died June 13 at age 86. The prolific author (called “Pete” by friends and also sometimes credited as A.R. Gurney, Jr.) wrote nearly 50 full-length plays, four of which were produced on Broadway: Sylvia, Sweet Sue, Love Letters, and The Golden Age. Many others were set in his native Buffalo, New York, including The Snow Ball, The Old Boy, Labor Day, The The Cocktail Hour, and especially The Dining Room, which was cited as a finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
Glenne Headly, an Emmy-nominated stage and screen performer who was a long-time ensemble member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, died June 8 at 62. She appeared Off-Broadway in The Philanthropist, and in the 1985 Broadway revival of Arms and the Man. Her last Broadway appearance was in Larry David’s Fish in the Dark opposite Jason Alexander. She was twice nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries: in 1989 for Lonesome Dove and 1997 for Bastard Out of Carolina.
Peter Sallis, the British stage and film actor known for voicing the cartoon character Wallace in the Wallace & Gromit animated films, and who was featured in London productions of several prominent American musicals, died June 2 at 96. He appeared in the 1963 West End transfer of She Loves Me, and played opposite Judi Dench in the 1968 U.K. premiere of Cabaret. He also had two Broadway credits, playing Dr. Watson in the 1965 Sherlock Holmes musical Baker Street, and originating the role of Hudson in the drama Inadmissible Evidence—a performance he reprised in the 1968 film version.
Karen Walsh, a Broadway and screen actor who often understudied big-name stars in their Broadway projects, became a star herself when her courageous fight against stage IV colon cancer became the subject of a viral Instagram photo series inspired by her friend, choreographer Sam Pinkelton. Walsh was named a 2016 Mother of the Year by the American Cancer Society for her ambassadorship of the “80% by 2018” initiative to get people screened for cancer. Walsh died May 30 at age 41.
Dina Merrill, the actor, businesswoman, and arts administrator of glamorous looks and aristocratic bearing, died May 22 at age 93. She appeared in more than 25 feature films, including the movie adaptation of the Broadway play The Desk Set, plus Operation Petticoat, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and two Robert Altman films, A Wedding and The Player. She also appeared on more than 100 television shows including The Nanny, The Love Boat, Hawaii Five-O, Murder, She Wrote, Batman (as “Calamity Jan”), and The Magnificent Ambersons. She made made three appearances on Broadway, one at the beginning of her career, John Van Druten’s The Mermaids Singing in 1945 and two more at mid-career: a 1975 revival of Angel Street , and a 1983 revival of Rodgers & Hart’s On Your Toes, in which she played ballet company manager Peggy Porterfield.
Elliot Martin, whose Broadway credits as a producer, stage manager, and actor included nearly 50 productions, died May 21 at age 93. After his producing success with the comedy Never Too Late, which ran more than 1,000 performances on Broadway, Martin embarked on a distinguished career that took him to Los Angeles as the first director of the Center Theatre Group, then back to New York. After presenting the American premiere of Eugene O'Neill’s More Stately Mansions, he became a champion of the Nobel-winning playwright, producing revivals of A Touch of a Poet, and three productions of A Moon for the Misbegotten. He also helped nurture many playwrights, presenting numerous original works on Broadway and Off, including Dirty Linen & New-Found-Land by Tom Stoppard, The Wake of Jamey Foster by Beth Henley, Angels Fall by Lanford Wilson, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson. He also presented the original Broadway production of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross.
Powers Boothe, star of stage and screen with a knack for playing villains, died May 14 at 68. Among major roles: Tombstone's Curly Bill Brocious and Deadwood's Cy Tolliver. He won an Emmy Award for his performance as cult leader Reverend Jim Jones in the TV film Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. He had a single Broadway credit, appearing in the 1979 double-bill Lone Star & Pvt. Wars.
William David Brohn, the prolific and multi-faceted Broadway orchestrator and arranger, died May 11 at 84. Brohn, who worked as “Bill Brohn” and “William D. Brohn” early in his career, orchestrated the stories of a remarkably diverse series of musicals from 1975 to 2012, including original productions of Wicked, Miss Saigon, Ragtime, Mary Poppins, Crazy for You, The Secret Garden, and Curtains, plus revivals of Oklahoma!, Show Boat, and Brigadoon.
Jeanne Button, who designed costumes for the original Broadway production of The Robber Bridegroom, among numerous other Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional shows, died on her birthday May 8 at age 87. Among her Broadway credits: Wings (1979), King Richard III (1979), Home (1980), The Dresser (1981), Arsenic and Old Lace (1986), and The Twilight of the Golds (1993). She accepted the Henry Hewes Design Award in 1967 for her work on the Off-Broadway show, MacBird!. She also designed costumes for opera, film, television, and dance, and was a professor the Yale School of Drama.
Edwin Sherin, stage and screen director and actor, died May 4 at 87. His first directing credit, The Great White Hope (1968), earned him a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director. He subsequently directed An Evening with Richard Nixon and…, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Find Your Way Home (which earned him a Tony nomination), Of Mice and Men, Sweet Bird of Youth, Rex, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, Do You Turn Somersaults?, First Monday in October, Goodbye Fidel, The Visit, and, his final Broadway credit, 2004’s Prymate.
William M. Hoffman, the playwright and librettist, died Apri 29 at age 78. He won a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination for his 1985 play As Is, one of the first dramas to depict the early days of the AIDS crisis. His numerous Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and regional plays prior to his breakout work included A Book of Etiquette, Children’s Crusade, and Luna. He wrote scripts for the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, for which he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 1992 and won a Writers Guild of America Award in 1993.
Joe Gustern, who performed numerous classical and musical theatre roles, died April 28, age unreported. Over a 50-year stage career, he spent eight of those years in the touring and Broadway companies of The Phantom of the Opera as Joseph Buqet. He performed at the Metropolitan Opera Studio, Chicago Lyric, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh Operas. Favorite roles included Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro and the title roles in Don Pasquale and The Flying Dutchman.
Martha Lavey, who served as the artistic director of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre for over 20 years, died April 26 at age 60. Lavey was the first woman to hold the prestigious post. During her time at Steppenwolf, she oversaw the development and production of several titles, including Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, Man From Nebraska, and Superior Donuts. Her final season included the premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway in 2015.
Linda Hopkins, the powerhouse gospel and blues singer, died April 10 at 92. Hopkins made her mark on Broadway embodying an earlier jazz giant, Bessie Smith, in the 1974 musical Me and Bessie. A masterful stylist in her own right, Hopkins kept the flame of 1920s through the 1940s female jazz and blues giants alight for younger generations. She also appeared in Broadway musicals Purlie, Inner City—which ran only three months, but earned her the 1972 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical—and Black and Blue.
Tim Pigott-Smith, the U.K. actor who earned a Tony Award nomination in 2016 for his performance in the title role of King Charles III, died April 7 at age 70. He had been scheduled to headline a touring production of Death of a Salesman alongside his wife, Pamela Miles, starting April 10. Pigott-Smith was perhaps best known for his role as Ronald Merrick in the 1984 TV series The Jewel in the Crown, for which he won a BAFTA Award. Additional screen credits include 1971’s Doctor Who, V for Vendetta, and Alice in Wonderland. The death came just months after he was named Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).
David Storey, a Tony-nominated playwright and novelist, died March 27 at 83. Boasting a long career in his native U.K., he saw two of his plays adapted to Broadway, Home (1970) and The Changing Room (1973), the latter with a cast that included George Hearn and John Lithgow. Both plays were nominated for Tony Awards. Other works include The Contractor, Early Days, and This Sporting Life.
Sheila Bond, a Broadway actor with nine Main Stem credits, died March 25 at age 90. She won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Fay Fromkin in the 1952 Harold Rome musical Wish You Were Here. Her other Broadway appearances include Artists and Models, Street Scene, Make Mine Manhattan, The Live Wire, and as a replacement for Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees. She also had several screen credits, including The Marrying Kind, and a cameo in Woody Allen’s 1984 comedy Broadway Danny Rose.
Derek Walcott, the Caribbean-born poet and dramatist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, died March 17 at age 87. An Obie Award winner for his 1971 surrealist play The Dream on Monkey Mountain, Walcott’s stage works also included The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!: Two Plays, and Ti-Jean and His Brothers. Walcott famously supplied the libretto to songwriter Paul Simon’s 1998 Broadway musical The Capeman.
Barbara Carroll, acclaimed jazz pianist, singer, and composer, died February 12 at age 92. Carroll held court at the Hotel Carlyle’s Bemelmans Bar for 25 years. She had a single Broadway credit, appearing in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1953 backstage musical Me and Juliet in the role of Chris, the rehearsal pianist.
Harvey Lichtenstein, the theatre administrator who oversaw the rebirth of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), died February 11 at age 87. He took over management of the arts center in 1967 when the 1908 building was crumbling and stood in a run-down section of the Fort Greene neighborhood that few of its potential customers wanted to visit. Over the 32 years of his tenure as executive producer, he oversaw a renaissance of the theatre (and, eventually, the neighborhood), making it such a fashionable cultural mecca that fans of music, theatre, and dance from Manhattan and other parts of the metropolitan area joined local Brooklyn fans in flocking to its attractions.
“Professor” Irwin Corey, a comedian and actor who often billed as “The World’s Foremost Authority,” died February 6 at age 102. In a long career devoted mainly to stand-up comedy, he made seven Broadway appearances, debuting in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1943, and being featured as Abou Ben Atom in the cult 1951 musical Flahooley. He played Marlo Thomas’ father in Herb Gardner’s 1973 comedy Thieves, and made his final Broadway appearance as the Court Clerk in the 2004 revival of Sly Fox.
Max Ferrá, founding artistic director of New York City's INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center, which produces the work of Latino playwrights, died February 4 at 79. Though retired from INTAR in 2004, Ferrá spent his career champtioning Hispanic artists and cultivating the next generation of said artists through free classes, workshops, The Hispanic Music Theatre Lab, and performances of work by Latino voices. Among leading Latino voices to develop work at INTAR are Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, Lisa Loomer, Migdalia Cruz, Josefina Lopez, Eduardo Machado, Cherrie Moraga, Edwin Sanchez, Milcha Sanchez-Scott, and José Rivera.
Bob Holiday, who originated the twin roles of Clark Kent and Superman in the 1966 musical It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman, died January 27 at 84. He made his Broadway debut as young law clerk Neil in the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1959 Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical Fiorello!. Holiday toured in productions of Camelot and Lady in the Dark before besting more than 50 other actors competing for the coveted role as Superman.
John Hurt, the prolific British actor who pursued a busy career on the British stage, on TV, and in more than 120 movies, died January 25 at age 77. He was perhaps best known for his role in the sci-fi film Alien, and for his Oscar-nominated work in the films Midnight Express and The Elephant Man, playing the roles of a heroin addict named Max and the disfigured John Merrick, respectively. The actor received a Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for his performance in Midnight Express and BAFTA Awards for Elephant Man and his breakout role as British gay icon Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant. Younger fans will recognize him for his performance as the magic wand designer Garrick Ollivander in the first two Harry Potter films.
Mary Tyler Moore, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actor, died January 25 at 80. Moore secured her place in pop culture history with The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. She appeared on Broadway twice, winning a Special Tony Award for her performance in Whose Life Is It Anyway?, but became a Broadway producer through her MTM Enterprises, which won her a second Tony for 1985’s Best Revival A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. For more than a decade she and Bernadette Peters co-hosted Broadway Barks, a charitable organization known for its spring pet adoption fair.
Dick Gautier, who earned a Tony nomination for creating the iconic role of the draft-bound Elvis Presley-like rock ’n’ roller Conrad Birdie in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, died January 13 at age 85. That musical marked Gautier’s sole Broadway appearance. On TV, Gautier was best known for playing Hymie the robot in the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry spy-parody series Get Smart. He also lent his voice to a variety of cartoon roles in Transformers, G.I. Joe, Duck Tales, and Cow and Chicken.
Martha Swope, whose production photographs of Broadway shows from the 1950s–1990s form the public’s mental images of those shows, died January 12 at age 88. As a freelance photographer specializing in theatre, Swope took thousands of photos of the original casts of shows used as their official art. Having chronicled more than 800 productions, she earned a the Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre in 2004 and was granted a lifetime achievement award from the League of Professional Theatre Women in 2007.
Buddy Bregman, noted Hollywood music arranger, composer, director, and producer, died January 8 at age 86. While he worked on the film versions of Broadway‘s The Pajama Game and Panama Hattie, he had a single Broadway credit: arranging music for the concert show Jerry Lewis at the Palace in 1953. Still, Bregman arranged many classic showtunes from the 1940s–1960s for renowned singers, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Torme, and Shirley Bassey. He served as personal orchestrator of Ethel Merman‘s concert shows.
Jerry Arrow, Broadway producer of Albert Innaurato’s long-running Gemini and Lanford Wilson's Tony Award-nominated Fifth of July, died January 7 at age 78. Arrow was executive director of the award-winning Off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company from 1974 to 1978. It was during that period that the company rose to its national prominence. Among the more than 50 shows he produced at Circle Rep were Tennessee Williams’ Battle Of Angels and Jules Feiffer’s Knock, Knock.