January 21, 2021

In Memoriam: A Look at the Theatre Artists We Lost in 2020


As a year marked by devastation across all fields comes to an end, Playbill commemorates those we’ve lost in the theatre community. Though marquees have been dim for most of 2020, their memories will help relight theatres as audiences return. Click through to read more in the individuals’ full Playbill obituaries.

Margo Lion
October 13, 1944–January 24, 2020
The independent producer helped shepherd the Hairspray musical from an initial idea to a Tony-winning hit. She also worked frequently with George C. Wolfe, including on such projects as Jelly’s Last Jam, Angels in America, and Caroline, or Change. (Read more.)

Terry Hands
January 9, 1941–February 4, 2020
The Olivier winner, a longtime artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is remembered for helming many of the Bard’s works, as well as the infamous musical adaptation of Carrie. (Read more.)

Kirk Douglas
December 9, 1916–February 5, 2020
In addition to being a three-time Oscar nominee, he appeared on Broadway frequently during the early stages of his career before returning to the stage in 1963 in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Read more.)

Kevin Conway
May 29, 1942–February 5, 2020
The performer appeared on Broadway in such dramas as The Elephant Man and Of Mice and Men. (Read more.)

Orson Bean
July 22, 1928–February 7, 2020
The stage and screen regular earned a Tony nomination for the early 1960s musical comedy Subways Are for Sleeping. (Read more.)

Mirella Freni
February 27, 1935–February 9, 2020
The Italian soprano navigated both lyric and dramatic roles throughout her five-decade career, spanning from Carmen’s Micaëla to Eugene Onegin’s Tatyana. (Read more.)

Lynn Cohen
August 10, 1933–February 14, 2020
The Richard Seff Award winner and Off-Broadway regular was well-known for her work as Magda on Sex and the City. (Read more.)

Zoe Caldwell
September 14, 1933–February 16, 2020
The prolific performer one Tony Awards for her work in Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea, and, finally, as Maria Callas in Master Class. (Read more.)

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Claudette Nevins
April 10, 1937–February 20, 2020
The stage and screen regular was known for her work in the original Broadway production of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite. (Read more.)

Peter Saide
October 2, 1983–February 26, 2020
The Australian-turned-New-Yorker appeared Off-Broadway in 2018’s Desperate Measures, as well as Last Days of Summer at the George Street Playhouse. (Read more.)

James Lipton
September 19, 1926–March 2, 2020
The prolific interviewer was the host of the long-running Inside the Actors Studio and wrote the book and lyrics to two Broadway musicals: Nowhere to Go But Up and Sherry!. (Read more.)

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Mart Crowley

Joseph Marzullo/WENN


Mart Crowley
August 21, 1935–March 7, 2020
The trailblazing playwright of The Boys in the Band had received a Tony Award the year prior for the Broadway revival; a film adaptation was released earlier this year. (Read more.)

Merwin Foard
September 16, 1960–March 9, 2020
The performer was remembered for his work as a standby in such shows as The Addams Family, Aladdin, and Sweeney Todd. (Read more.)

Gerald Freedman
June 25, 1927–March 17, 2020
The director and writer helmed over a dozen productions on Broadway, including The School for Scandal, The Grand Tour, and The Robber Bridgegroom; he also mounted the original Off-Broadway production of Hair at what is now the Public Theater, having served as artistic director of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival from 1967–1971. (Read more.)

Julia Miles
January 24, 1930–March 18, 2020
Ms. Miles wounded Women’s Project Theater (now NYC’s WP Theater) in 1978 with the goal of combating the underrepresentation of women in the art form. (Read more.)

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Terrence McNally

CBS


Terrence McNally
November 3, 1938–March 24, 2020
The two-time Tony-winning playwright frequently explored contemporary gay life and classical music through such works as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Mother and Sons, and The Lisbon Traviata, as well as the books to Anastasia and Ragtime. (Read more.)

Mark Blum
May 14, 1950–March 25, 2020
The frequently working stage mainstay last appeared on Broadway in 2013, in Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties; he earned an Obie Award for his performance in Gus and Al Off-Broadway. (Read more.)

David Schramm
August 14, 1946–March 28, 2020
The founding member of The Acting Company appeared on Broadway in the 2009 revival of Finian’s Rainbow, Bedroom Farce, and in a quartet of 1975 repertory productions from the company: The Three Sisters, The Time of Your Life, Edward II, and The Robber Bridegroom. (Read more.)

Adam Schlesinger
October 31, 1967–April 1, 2020
The Emmy-winning and Tony-nominated composer is remembered for such works as the Cry-Baby musical and the musical comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; at the time of his death, he was at work on the stage adaptations of Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter and The Nanny. (Read more.)

Diane Rodriguez
June 22, 1951–April 10, 2020
The Los Angeles artist held leadership positions at such organizations as Center Theatre Group, Theatre Communications Group, and the National Council on the Arts. (Read more.)

Wynn Handman
May 19, 1922–April 11, 2020
The founder of American Place Theatre was recently subject of the documentary It Takes a Lunatic. (Read more.)

Brian Dennehy
July 9, 1938–April 15, 2020
The actor was particularly known for his interpretations of Eugene O’Neill, Samuel Beckett, and Arthur Miller, having won Tonys for both Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. (Read more.)

René Buch
December 19, 1925–April 19, 2020
The Cuban-American artistic leader co-founded and served as director of Off-Broadway’s Repertorio Español; he was also a lawyer, editor, and painter. (Read more.)

Shirley Knight
July 5, 1936–April 22, 2020
The Oscar nominee earned a Tony Award in 1975 for Kennedy’s Children; she was nominated again two years later for Horton Foote’s The Young Man From Atlanta. (Read more.)

Terence Frisby
November 28, 1932–April 22, 2020
The British playwright penned There’s a Girl in My Soup and appeared on stage in the West End’s Nookery Rook. (Read more.)

Bernard Gersten
January 30, 1923–April 27, 2020
The theatre titan worked extensively in the non-profit theatre world, including as a managing director at The Public Theater and executive producer at Lincoln Center Theater. (Read more.)

Rosalind Elias
March 13, 1930–May 3, 2020
The opera star made her Broadway debut at the age of 81, appearing as Heidi in the 2011 revival of Follies. (Read more.)

Jerry Stiller
June 8, 1927–May 11, 2020
Though known for his portrayal of Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, the comedian’s myriad Broadway credits included The Golden Apple, The Ritz, Hurlyburly, and What’s Wrong With This Picture?. (Read more.)

John McCormack
April 13, 1959–May 18, 2020
The non-profit advocate began his career at Ensemble Studio Theatre before going on to lead Naked Angels, Zipper Theater, Summer Shorts, All Seasons Theater, and INTAR Theater. (Read more.)

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Larry Kramer

Joseph Marzullo/WENN


Larry Kramer
June 25, 1935–May 27, 2020
The writer woke many to the threat of HIV/AIDS in the early days of the epidemic through such works as The Normal Heart and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Destiny of Me. Through his activism he helped found the coalition ACT UP NY. (Read more.)

Chris Trousdale
June 11, 1985–June 2, 2020
The member of the former boy band Dream Street appeared on Broadway as a child in Les Misérables and The Sound of Music. (Read more.)

Ian Holm
September 12, 1931–June 19, 2020
The Tony and Olivier Award winner’s credits included The Homecoming (and subsequently the film adaptation), Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1998 production of King Lear, and Chariots of Fire and The Lord of the Rings on the screen. (Read more.)

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Nick Cordero


Nick Cordero
September 17, 1978–July 5, 2020
The Tony nominee, who appeared on Broadway in Bullets Over Broadway, Waitress, and A Bronx Tale, died at 41 after a long battle with the COVID-19; his ordeal became the face of the pandemic’s devastation in the theatre industry as his wife Amanda Kloots shared regular updates. (Read more.)

Patti Karr
July 10, 1932–July 11, 2020
Though remembered for frequently standing by for such stars as Chita Rivera, Carol Burnett, and Gwen Verdon, Karr had featured roles in My Fair Lady, Got Tu Go Disco, Irene, and more. (Read more.)

David Rosenberg
April 24, 1930–July 15, 2020
The longtime theatre critic was a co-founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle, as well as a member of the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and American Theatre Critics Association. (Read more.)

Phyllis Somerville
December 12, 1943–July 16, 2020
The stage and screen regular had most recently appeared on Broadway as Mrs. Henry DuBose in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Read more.)

Brent Carver
November 17, 1951–August 4, 2020
The Canadian-American Tony winner had starring roles in Broadway’s Kiss of the Spider Woman and Parade. (Read more.)

Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello

Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello in Parade

Joan Marcus


Salome Bey
October 10, 1933–August 8, 2020
The Obie Award winner, dubbed Canada’s First Lady of the Blues, appeared on stage in Dude; Love Me, Love My Children (previously titled Justine); and Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, in addition to performing with brother Andy Bey and Geraldine Bey (de Haas) as Andy & The Bey Sisters. (Read more.)

Kenneth Bernard
May 7, 1930–August 9, 2020
The playwright was a staple of the downtown New York scene in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, becoming a staple at Playhouse of the Ridiculous and La MaMa. (Read more.)

Howell Binkley
July 25, 1956–August 14, 2020
The two-time Tony winner was one of Broadway’s most prominent contemporary lighting designers, having worked on such shows as Jersey Boys, Hamilton, Avenue Q, In the Heights, Come From Away, and Ain’t Too Proud. (Read more.)

Ronald Harwood
November 9, 1934–September 8, 2020
The Oscar-winning The Pianist screenwriter also penned the Tony-nominated The Dresser (as well as the film adaptation, for which he received an Oscar nod; he was nominated a third time in 2008 for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.) (Read more.)

Tony Tanner
July 27, 1932–September 8, 2020
The Tony-nominated director and choreographer (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) also appeared on Broadway in Half a Sixpence and Sherlock Holmes. (Read more.)

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Diana Rigg

Joseph Marzullo/WENN


Diana Rigg
July 20, 1938–September 10, 2020
The theatre Dame, a Tony winner for Medea and an Emmy-winning screen regular known to many as Olenna Tyrell of Game of Thrones, last appeared on Broadway in a Tony-nominated turn as Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady. (Read more.)

Steve Carter
November 7, 1929–September 15, 2020
The writers plays, an Off-Broadway and Chicago staple, often depicted life in Black and Caribbean-American communities. (Read more.)

Tommy DeVito
June 19, 1928–September 21, 2020
The founding member of The Four Seasons was depicted in the Tony-winning musical Jersey Boys. (Read more.)

Helen Reddy
October 25, 1941–September 29, 2020
The “I Am Woman” singer made her Broadway bow in 1995’s Blood Brothers. (Read more.)

Murray Schisgal
November 25, 1926–October 1, 2020
After earning a Tony nomination for Luv, which marked his Broadway debut, the writer went on to receive an Oscar nod for penning the screenplay for Tootsie. (Read more.)

Thomas Jefferson Byrd
June 25, 1950–October 3, 2020
The performer, a regular in Spike Lee films, earned a Tony nomination for his performance as Toledo in the 2003 revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. (Read more.)

Armelia McQueen
January 6, 1952–October 3, 2020
The performer appeared in both the original and revival Broadway productions of Ain’t Misbehavin’. (Read more.)

Armelia McQueen in <i>Ain&#39;t Misbehavin&#39;</i>

Armelia McQueen in Ain’t Misbehavin’

Martha Swope/©NYPL for the Performing Arts


Tommy Rall
December 27, 1929–October 6, 2020
In addition to his stage work, the dancer is remembered for his agile turns in such movie musicals as Funny Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Pennies From Heaven, and Kiss Me, Kate. (Read more.)

Herbert Kretzmer
October 5, 1925–October 14, 2020
The Les Misérables lyricist also worked on the musicals Our Man Crichton and She, in addition to his work as a theatre critic. (Read more.)

Anthony Chisholm
April 9, 1943–October 16, 2020
A frequent interpreter of August Wilson, the actor appeared in Two Trains Running, Gem of the Ocean, Jitney, and Radio Golf on Broadway, earning a Tony nomination for the latter. (Read more.)

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Doreen Montalvo

Jennifer Broski


Doreen Montalvo
November 15, 1963–October 17, 2020
The Broadway favorite, who appeared in the original ensemble of In the Heights, was a part of the cast of Broadway’s Mrs. Doubtfire, which had begun previews shortly before the Coronavirus shutdown. (Read more.)

Marge Champion
September 2, 1919–October 21, 2020
Last seen on Broadway as Emily Whitman in the 2001 revival of Follies, Ms. Champion started her career as a live-action model for Disney animated films. She danced alongside husband Gower Champion in Show Boat, Three for the Show, Jupiter’s Darling, and more. (Read more.)

Ming Cho Lee
October 4, 1930–October 23, 2020
The artist designed more than 300 productions around the world during his career, spanning opera, dance, and theatre. He won a Tony Award in 1983 for K2 and in 2013 received a Lifetime Achievement honor from the awards. (Read more.)

Carol Arthur
August 4, 1935–November 1, 2020
The Broadway and West End alum appeared in productions of On the Town, The Music Man, and more. (Read more.)

Lawrence Clayton
October 10, 1956–November 2, 2020
The performer appeared in Dreamgirls, the revivals of Bells Are Ringing and The Color Purple, and more. (Read more.)

Israel Horovitz
March 31, 1939–November 9, 2020
The playwright, who was at the center of several sexual assault allegations in both the ‘90s and during the #MeToo movement, was a co-founder of Gloucester Stage. (Read more.)

Lynn Kellogg
Aprl 2, 1943–November 12, 2020
The stage and screen alum originated the role of Sheila in Broadway’s Hair. (Read more.)

Peg Murray
February 14, 1924–November 29, 2020
After originating the role of Fraulein Kost in Cabaret, the performer appeared on All My Children for 13 years. (Read more.)

Warren Berlinger
August 31, 1937–December 2, 2020
The character’s Broadway work included Anne Get Your Gun and Come Blow Your Horn. (Read more.)

Ann Reinking
November 10, 1949–December 12, 2020
A Tony and Olivier winner for choreographing Chicago, the dancer was a protegee (and, for a time, romantic partner) of Bob Fosse. Her additional work with him included Pippin, Sweet Charity, and the film All That Jazz. (Read more.)

Ann Reinking

Ann Reinking

Max Vadukul


Roger Berlind
June 27, 1930–December 18, 2020
As a producer, Mr. Berlind amassed a remarkable 25 Tony Awards, from 1980’s Amadeus to 2019’s Oklahoma!. (Read more.)

Lee Wallace
July 13, 1930–December 20, 2020
The stage and screen veteran appeared on Broadway in The Cemetery Club, The Apple Doesn’t Fall…, and more. (Read more.)

Rebecca Luker
April 17, 1961–December 23, 2020
The three-time Tony nominee, who shared earlier this year that she was battling ALS, is remembered for her dazzling soprano and performances in Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, The Music Man, Show Boat, and more. (Read more.)

John Babcock and Rebecca Luker in <i>The Secret Garden</i>

John Babcock and Rebecca Luker in The Secret Garden




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