Ira Bernstein, Renowned Broadway Executive, Dies at 94 | Playbill

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Obituaries Ira Bernstein, Renowned Broadway Executive, Dies at 94

Mr. Bernstein's decades-long theatre career includes roles in casting, management, and producing.

Ira Bernstein, renowned Broadway executive, died of natural causes December 21, 2023, at Belmont Village in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 94.

Early in his career Mr. Bernstein worked as casting director on Broadway productions such as Guys and Dolls and Wish You Were Here. Over the ensuing decades, Mr. Bernstein managed and produced 44 Broadway shows ranging from 1966’s Wait Until Dark to the original 1975 production of Chicago. Later in his career, Mr. Bernstein managed the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles from 1984 until 1991, and he served two three-year terms on the Tony Nominating Committee, first in 2002 and then in 2014.

Ira Bruce Bernstein was born January 21, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, legendary Broadway press agent Karl Bernstein, founded the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM), and was said to have originated the job of theatrical press agent. Mr. Bernstein’s only sibling, Norman Bernstein, was a navigator on a B-17 bomber during WWII, and was killed in action in Europe in 1944.

Mr. Bernstein earned a degree from Pratt Institute as an industrial designer. In 1953, while working for the renowned Feuer & Martin management team on the Broadway musical Can-Can, General Motors hired Mr. Bernstein as a stylist for Oldsmobile. He left opening night for Michigan and upon arrival received a telegram from the show’s composer, Cole Porter, which read: “Dear Ira, success to you at General Motors. We of the theatre shall miss you.”

Mr. Bernstein married entertainer Florence Henderson in 1956. The couple met when Ms. Henderson was auditioning for a part. Mr. Bernstein had to inform Ms. Henderson she did not get the part, but their subsequent marriage lasted 28 years, and the couple raised four children, Barbara, Joseph, Robert, and Elizabeth. His children collectively stated they all felt blessed to be able to be together at their father’s side during his final days.

Mr. Bernstein married Carol Richards, an actor and singer, in 2004. Ms. Richards described Mr. Bernstein as, “A true man of the theatre, my best friend, and the love of my life.”

In addition to his love of theatre, Mr. Bernstein had a life-long love of model toys, particularly pre-WWII die-cast automobiles. He was a member of the Antique Toy Club of America, and cherished both his collection and the friendships he made with fellow collectors around the world.

Mr. Bernstein, from his Brooklyn days, had a special place in his heart for the Dodgers baseball club, and while in Los Angeles was friends with the likes of Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda and the legendary announcer Vin Scully, often traveling to Vero Beach, Florida for Spring Training.

Shubert Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel said of Mr. Bernstein, “His wealth of knowledge and experience proved to be a great resource for us. He will be missed.”

Joe Benincasa, CEO of the Entertainment Community Fund, said that “Ira’s love for theatre people was wonderfully expressed in his life-long support for the Actors Fund Home, which he and Carol generously supported.”

The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM) Secretary-Treasurer Rina Saltzman described Mr. Bernstein as, “a mentor and an inspiration to generations of managers.”

Mr. Bernstein is survived by his wife Carol, his four children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

The date for a memorial service is to be determined.

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