Remembering the Theatre Luminaries We've Lost in 2018

Obituaries   Remembering the Theatre Luminaries We've Lost in 2018
Playbill looks back at the actors, directors, choreographers, and other theatre legends who died in 2018.

As the summer comes to an end, we look back at the people we have lost so far this year—the men and women who helped create and inspire theatre today.

Mark Baker
He landed his first Broadway role in 1972 when he was cast by Sir Peter Hall in Via Galactica, the infamous multi-million dollar sci-fi musical—equal parts futuristic spectacle and dramatic debacle—that shuttered after only seven performances. A year later, Tony-winning director Harold Prince cast him to play the title role in a highly-revised version of Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 operetta Candide, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1973.

John Barton
Barton co-founded RSC in 1960 with Sir Peter Hall and continued to work with the company for the remainder of his life. Heralded as “the Shakespeare swami” by the likes of Peter O'Toole, Ian McKellan, and Judi Dench, the director was renowned for his ability to interpret the words of the Bard with passion and clarity. Among his most memorable Shakespeare productions were the 1969 Twelfth Night with Dench as Viola and Donald Sinden as Malvolio, Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1978 with Michael Pennington as Berowne and Jane Lapotaire as Rosaline, and The Merchant of Venice—first with Patrick Stewart as Shylock at The Other Place in 1978, and then David Suchet in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1981.

Gary Beach
His greatest roles came later in life, originating the Chevalieresque candelabra Lumiere, who beckoned Belle to "Be Our Guest" in Beauty and the Beast, opening at the Palace Theatre in 1994. Beach earned his first Tony Award nomination for his performance. His biggest triumph was director Roger De Bris in Mel Brooks' 2001 hit The Producers—a role Beach imbued with the dedication of an old-fashioned, heart-on-his-sleeve show queen who finally got his moment in the spotlight with "Springtime for Hitler."

Alex Beckett
Mr. Beckett was known to many in the U.K. for his work on the BBC comedy W1A as Barney Lumsden—a role he first originated on Twenty Twelve. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he appeared on stage in such productions as Much Ado About Nothing in the West End, the Young Vic’s The Changeling, and Edward II at the National Theatre. His film credits include Survivor, Youth, and the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Rourke.

Joseph Campanella
Mr. Campanella made his Broadway debut in 1962 in the short-lived The Captains and the Kings, which played seven performances at the Playhouse Theatre. His role as Daniel Stein in Garson Kanin's A Gift of Time earned him a 1962 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. His final Broadway appearance was opposite Judy Holliday in the 1963 musical Hot Spot, which played 43 performances at the Majestic Theatre. The actor, however, made his strongest impression in a TV career that spanned over 40 years with scores of appearances. He received both a Primetime Emmy nomination (in 1968 for Mannix) and a Daytime Emmy nomination (in 1989 for Days of Our Lives).

James Colby
Colby was recently seen on Broadway as Stan in Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat, the role he originated in the play’s critically acclaimed debut Off-Broadway. Previously, he was seen in the 1992 Broadway production of Hamlet. The actor performed extensively Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, Westside Theatre, MCC, and Symphony Space.

Olivia Cole
Cole made her Broadway debut in 1966 in a revival of The School for Scandal. The actor worked steadily on Broadway for nearly a decade, also appearing in Right You Are If You Think You Are, We Comrades Three, You Can't Take It with You, War and Peace, The Merchant of Venice, and, in 1974, the original satire The National Health. The latter, which ran a little over a month, marked Cole's final Broadway appearance. It was the small screen, however, where Cole would garner the most attention, winning the aforementioned Emmy for her work in Roots and garnering a second nomination in 1979 for her performance as Maggie Rogers in Backstairs at the White House.

Pearl Somner Debuskey
She first entered the realm of theatre as an actor, appearing in a national touring production of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo with Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach. She was involved as an actor in the emerging Off-Broadway movement, but then switched to her ultimate career, as a costume designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway, TV, movies, and commercials. Best remembered among her films was Love Story. Among her Broadway credits are Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Shenandoah, 84 Charing Cross Road, and Ulysses in Nighttown. Off-Broadway, she costumed the musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road for The Public Theater.

Bradford Dillman
A year after Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Dillman co-starred in the film In Love and War, earning a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. He was also nominated for an Emmy in 1963 for the episode “The Voice of Charlie Pont” from the Fred Astaire-hosted Alcoa Premiere. His additional screen credits include Compulsion, The Way We Were, The Enforcer, and the 1973 film adaptation of The Iceman Cometh.

Nanette Fabray
Before her move to Hollywood, she made nearly a dozen Broadway appearances, including original productions of lesser-known musicals by a panoply of Golden Age songwriters including Cole Porter (Let’s Face It! opposite Danny Kaye), Rodgers & Hart (By Jupiter opposite Ray Bolger), Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg (Bloomer Girl, replacing Celeste Holm), and Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner (Love Life). Her performance in the last-named show earned her the 1949 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical—the second time that award was given.

John Glines
With Barry Laine and Jerry Tobin, Mr. Glines co-founded The Glines, a non-profit theatre company dedicated to the development of works exploring the gay experience, in 1976. Mr. Glines chose to use his own moniker for the company to echo his insistence that everyone who took part use their real names. He told Playbill in a 1985 interview, “We wanted something that was not politically oriented…nine years ago, playwrights and actors didn’t use their own names; a gay play meant something pornographic. I thought by using my own name, it would be a forerunner—it would force others to do the same.”

Lorraine Gordon
With teenaged friends, Lorraine founded the Hot Club of Newark. She made her first pilgrimage to the Village Vanguard with them in 1940 for a Sunday matinee. Shortly thereafter, she met Alfred Lion at Jimmy Ryan’s, a jazz club on 52nd Street. Lion’s obsession with jazz matched Lorraine’s. A recent émigré from Germany, he had started his own jazz record label, Blue Note. Lorraine knew Blue Note’s records and loved them. In a very short time she and Lion were married and working side-by-side. Together they would build Blue Note into the most influential jazz record label of its time.

Kenneth Haigh
Haigh was seen on Broadway and American stages a number of times throughout his career, including the John Osborne's seminal Look Back in Anger in 1957. Haigh originated the role of Jimmy Porter in the show's premiere production at the Royal Court in 1956 and subsequent Broadway transfer. His other Broadway credits included the title role in Albert Camus’ Caligula (1960), Neil Simon’s California Suite (1977), and the role of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Tennessee Williams’ Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980).

Barbara Harris
Whether comedic or dramatic, bold or demure, the characters Harris played were imbued with a sense of palpable discovery and spontaneous wonder. Her unshakable commitment to experiencing the world around her in real-time was coupled with a powerhouse voice that could seemingly do anything. Critic Walter Kerr famously called her "the square root of noisy sex," a description that prompted her reply: "My goodness, mathematicians are going to be furious!"

Tab Hunter
In 1964, Mr. Hunter made his sole Broadway appearance in a short-lived revival of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, starring as Christopher Flanders opposite Tallulah Bankhead's Mrs. Goforth. The production used a script somewhat revised by Williams following the work's Broadway premiere just a year earlier. Mr. Hunter continued to appear in films through the 1980s, including two memorable screen performances opposite drag legend Divine. Polyester, directed by John Waters, was released in 1981. The two next co-starred in 1985's Lust in the Dust, a western comedy film that also featured Lainie Kazan. As substitute teacher Mr. Stuart in 1982's Grease 2, Mr. Hunter once again sang on screen, leading the song "Reproduction."

Gertrude Jeannette
She made her Broadway debut in 1949 in the original cast of Lost in the Stars, and went on to originate roles in The Long Dream, Nobody Loves an Albatross, The Amen Corner, and in Tennessee Williams’ penultimate Broadway play, Vieux Carré. Though she had only two lines in the play, Jeanette was influential in the creation of her character, Nursie, an African-American maid. Williams, feeling he would be unable to write authentically for a black character, sought Jeanette’s input throughout the rehearsal process.

Jeff Loeffelholz
He made his Broadway debut with Chicago when the sold-out City Center Encores! staging of Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a 20th anniversary revival in October 1996. He was the last remaining member of the original 1996 opening night cast to still be part of the long-running hit.

Gillian Lynne
She made her Broadway debut choreographing the musical comedy The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd in 1965 and Pickwick later that year. In 1967, she choreographed How Now, Dow Jones for Broadway, as well. But it was in 1981 with the production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats that Lynne broke through as one of the definitive choreographers of the musical theatre canon. Helping humans to inhabit the lives of cats based on T.S. Eliot poetry, Lynne earned her first Tony nomination. Her dance introduced a new movement vocabulary and is considered a milestone achievement. She earned the 1981 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals for Cats in London.

John Mahoney
He made his Broadway debut in 1986 with Lincoln Center Theater’s The House of Blue Leaves, earning a Tony Award for his performance as Artie Shaughnessy. Mr. Mahoney returned to the Broadway stage in 2007 in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Prelude to a Kiss.
The actor was perhaps known to most for his performance as Martin Crane on NBC’s long-running Frasier, playing father to Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce. He was nominated for Emmy Awards in 1999 and 2003 for his work on the comedy. His additional screen credits include Moonstruck, Say Anything…, Flipped, and Barton Fink.

Vivian Matalon
Mr. Matalon first directed on Broadway with 1967’s After the Rain, following an already established career working with myriad stage luminaries in the U.K., including Noël Coward. The two collaborated on the triple bill Suite in Three Keys the year prior to Matalon’s Broadway debut; a year after Coward’s death in 1973, Mr. Matalon directed two of the collection’s three titles on Broadway as Noël Coward in Two Keys.

Jan Maxwell
Her myriad accolades include five Tony nominations, with two in the same season: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2005), Coram Boy (2007), Lend Me a Tenor (2010), The Royal Family (2010), and Follies (2012). With the most recent, Ms. Maxwell became the fourth performer in Tony Awards history to be nominated in all four possible acting categories. She won Drama Desks for both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Royal Family. Two days after her Follies Tony nomination was announced, she reprised her performance as Phyllis Rogers Stone in Los Angeles when the production played Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre.

Rick McKay
Perhaps his greatest contribution to the theatre community was Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There, a project that McKay began filming interviews for in 1998. The film features discussions with several Broadway legends, including Barbara Cook, Carol Burnett, Bea Arthur, Celeste Holm, Angela Lansbury, Shirley MacLaine, and Jerry Orbach. Their memories and anecdotes together form a first-person picture of the so-called "golden age" of Broadway, from the 1920s to 1959.

Donald McKayle
McKayle continued as a performer through the mid-'50s in such productions as House of Flowers and Cooper and Brass. His first associate choreographer credit on Broadway was for the 1959 Gwen Verdon musical Redhead. He subsequently choreographed the Broadway productions of Golden Boy, A Time for Singing, and I'm Solomon. In fact, it was his work for the 1964 musical Golden Boy, based on the Clifford Odets play, that earned McKayle his first Tony nomination for Best Choreography. In 1973 McKayle directed and choreographed Raisin, the musical version of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. McKayle earned Tony nominations for both his direction and choreography.

Allyn Ann McLerie
Ms. McLerie made her Broadway debut at the age of 16 in the dancing ensemble of 1943's One Touch of Venus. She then appeared in the original production of On the Town, marrying co-star Adolph Green the following year (they divorced in 1953). She next starred in Frank Loesser and George Abbott's Where's Charley? opposite Ray Bolger. Her performance as Amy Spettigue (who sings the soprano staple "The Woman In His Room") earned Ms. McLerie a 1949 Theatre World Award.

Liliane Montevecchi
Although she had made her Broadway debut in 1958 in La Plume de Ma Tante and appeared in the 1964 musical revue Folies Bergère, Montevecchi's breakthrough role was playing producer Liliane La Fleur in Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Nine, which was directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune and won the 1982 Tony Award for Best Musical. Montevecchi, who stopped the show with the appropriately titled “Folies Bergeres,” was also honored with the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical—a category that included two of her Nine co-stars, Karen Akers and the late Anita Morris.

Patricia Morison
During World War II, she toured with the USO entertaining American troops in the field. It was on one of these tours that she met and began to sing for composer Cole Porter. When it came time to cast his 1948 musical about a feuding divorced husband-and-wife acting team (built around Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew), Porter insisted that Morison was the one he wanted for the female lead, Lilli Vanessi. She got the part over the objections of his producer and partners, who wanted a more recognizable Broadway name. Kiss Me, Kate was described by critic Martin Gottfried as “one of the greatest of all musical theatre scores.” It also was the first show to win the Tony Award as Best Musical.

John Morris
Morris worked on a number of Broadway musicals throughout his long career, mostly as a composer of dance arrangements and incidental music. Some of his credits include the Jerry Herman musicals Dear World with Angela Lansbury (1969) and Mack & Mabel with Bernadette Peters (1974), as well as Wildcat starring Lucille Ball (1960), Hot Spot with Judy Holliday (1963), Baker Street (1965), and Hamlet (1975).

Tom Murphy
Mr. Murphy's myriad plays included On the Outside, A Whistle in the Dark, Conversations on a Homecoming, Bailegangaire, Famine, The Morning After Optimism, The Sanctuary Lamp, She Stoops to Conquer, A Crucial Week in the life of a Grocer’s Assistant, The Wake, The Patriot Game, The Blue Macushla, Epitaph Under Ether, and The Gigli Concert.

Brian Murray
He received a Drama Desk nomination for his performance as Charlie Now in 1978's Da, and was part of the Drama Desk-winning ensemble in 1983's Noises Off, playing the temperamental Nothing On director Lloyd Dallas. He was Tony-nominated and won a Drama Desk Award for his performance as Benjamin Hubbard in the 1997 revival of The Little Foxes starring Stockard Channing, and received his third Tony nomination playing Deputy-Governor Danforth in the 2002 revival of The Crucible.

Leah Napolin
Ms. Napolin’s Yentl, about a young Jewish woman who disguises herself as a man in order to study the Talmud, premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1974 before bowing at Broadway’s Eugene O’Neil Theatre the following year, running for over 200 performances. The production earned Tovah Feldshuh a Tony nomination for her performance in the title role.

Winston Ntshona
Mr. Ntshona originated the title role in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, playing a man who takes on the identity of a dead man in order to find work. In The Island, he and Kani portrayed inmates of Robben Island, the infamous South African prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. The plays became touchstones of Mr. Ntshona and Kani’s theatrical careers—a relationship they forged while acting together in high school. They spent more than three decades touring Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island across the world, including productions on Broadway and the West End.

Russell Nype
It was Nype's duet with Merman on “You're Just in Love” that stopped performances of the 1950 Irving Berlin hit Call Me Madam nightly. For his performance, Nype received a Theatre World Award as well as his first Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Nype followed that Tony-winning turn with a role in the comedy Wake Up, Darling, which played five performances at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1956, and a 1957 revival of Carousel that cast him as Enoch Snow.

Joe Pintauro
After a series of short, one-act plays about Italian-Amiercan life, Pintauro's first full-length play Snow Orchid premiered in 1982 at New York City's Circle Rep starring Olympia Dukakis, Peter Boyle, and Robert LuPone. The play, a family drama set in Brooklyn during the ’60s, was revived in London at the Gate Theatre in 1993 starring a young Jude Law and Paola di Ognisotti, and subsequently at Off-Broadway’s Lion Theatre in 2015 starring Tony nominee Robert Cuccioli and Angelina Fiordellisi. Pintauro’s 1992 play Men’s Lives, an adaptation of Peter Matthiessen’s book about the struggles of Long Island’s baymen, inaugurated the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, where the playwright lived. The play received a reading at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, in 2016.

Charlotte Rae
The Facts of Life star's early Broadway credits included Three Wishes for Jamie (1952), The Golden Apple (1954), The Littlest Revue (1956), Li’l Abner (1956), and The Beauty Part (1962). She received Tony nominations for her next two Broadway outings: Mrs. Bardell in the musical Pickwick in 1965 and Gertrude, Beryl, and Filigree Bones in Israel Horovitz’s Morning, Noon and Night in 1968. Her final Main Stem credits were Murray Schisgal’s short-lived The Chinese and Dr. Fish in 1970 and David Rabe’s In the Boom Boom Room in 1973.

Rachel Rockwell
Rockwell had a longstanding relationship with Chicago Shakespeare, as well as a number of theatres in and around the Chicago area. Her long list of credits included a new production of Brigadoon at The Goodman Theatre, Shrek The Musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Ragtime at the Drury Lane, as well as the world premiere of October Sky and Mamma Mia!, both at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

Connie Sawyer
Prior to an extensive film career, Ms. Sawyer made her Broadway debut in 1948’s Hilarities. She went on to understudy Shirley Booth in The Time of the Cuckoo in 1952 before her breakout performance in 1957’s A Hole in the Head. Frank Sinatra subsequently produced and starred in a film adaptation, bringing Sawyer on to reprise her role, marking her motion picture debut.

Robert Scheerer
Scheerer directed The Danny Kaye Show (1963–1964), for which he won an Emmy Award, the Fame series (1982–1984), The American Film Institute Salute to Bette Davis, and episodes of Live from Lincoln Center; he also directed Barbra Streisand in A Happening in Central Park and Shirley MacLaine in If They Could See Me Now. Scheerer, who was born in Santa Barbara, started his career as a young dancer in Hollywood films. He made his debut in What's Cookin' and went on to appear in a string of films for Universal (1942–1945).

Harvey Schmidt
As a composer, Mr. Schmidt was the most idiosyncratic of the generation that gave us Stephen Sondheim, Kander & Ebb, Bock & Harnick and Strouse & Adams. That may have come from the fact that Mr. Schmidt never had formal musical training, and, indeed, never learned to read or write music. He invented his own style, and became more experimental as he grew older. Like Irving Berlin, Mr. Schmidt had a transcriber write down his melodies as he played them. But Mr. Schmidt also had a prodigious memory, playing piano for workshop productions of his in-progress musicals entirely off the top of his head.

David Ogden Stiers
Mr. Stiers made his Broadway debut as a member of the City Center Acting Company, appearing in simultaneous repertory productions of The Three Sisters, The Beggar's Opera, Measure for Measure, Scapin, and Next Time I'll Sing to You in 1973 and early 1974.
Two months after the limited engagement, he went on to appear in Ulysses in Nighttown before starring in the long-running Stephen Schwartz musical The Magic Show. Mr. Stiers played "Feldman the Magnificent," an eccentric nightclub magician. He later returned to the stage in 2009's White Christmas as General Henry Waverly, marking his final Broadway performance.

Sammy J. Williams
Williams created the role of Paul in A Chorus Line and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance. Crafted from the true stories of Broadway’s chorus members, Michael Bennett’s seminal work also starred the actors behind these stories. The character of Paul was largely based on the experiences of co-writer Nicholas Dante, while Williams’ story about going to dance class to follow in his sister’s footsteps and realizing “I can do that!” became the storyline for Mike.

Craig Zadan
His skill as a classic showbiz producer and precise balance of showmanship and business acumen gained him the trust of major network and studio executives, who were willing to put millions behind his projects. Meanwhile, his respect and admiration for talent emboldened such artists as Midler, who took on Rose in the made-for-television adaptation of the 1959 Broadway Golden Age musical Gypsy, and Whitney Houston, who joined him and Neil Meron on Disney’s 1997 television remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. He remained determined and optimistic in a frequently cynical industry, always believing in the ability of musical theatre to reach new audiences and expand to new media. With producing partner Meron, Zadan helped revitalize the musical as a television event with a series of live broadcasts on NBC.

Louis Zorich
Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Zorich studied drama at the Goodman Theater before making his Broadway debut in 1960 in Becket, sharing the stage with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. He went on to appear on Broadway 18 more times, including a Tony-nominated turn in Hadrian VII, the original production of The Odd Couple (standing by for Walter Matthau), the 1993 and 2001 revivals of She Loves Me and Follies, and, in 2003, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

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