This article was kindly given to us by Stephen Hanks and we publish this in memoriam.
As a musical theater librettist, lyricist, and lifelong connoisseur of Broadway and Hollywood musicals, Frank Evans would have been extremely sad to learn about the passing of screen legend Debbie Reynolds on December 28. But given his sense of humor and ability for self-deprecation, Evans might have also gotten a perverse kick out of knowing he died on the same day as one of his film favorites.
Franklin G. Evans, 70, died last Wednesday evening at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn, due to complications from multiple strokes that ravaged his brain over the last couple of months of 2016. Evans, who also suffered from Parkinson’s-related dementia and diabetes, had spent the last year rehabilitating from a serious concussion sustained in mid-December 2015.
“Count the marvelous Frank Evans amongst the many greats we lost this year,” wrote composer/lyricist David Austin on Facebook. “He may not have been a household name, but if you wrote new musicals, Frank was famous to you.” Added composer/arranger Dan Acquisto: “Frank was a gentle and soft-spoken mentor, supporter, and brilliant lyricist who helped a number of unknown writers have their voices heard over the years.”
“The York Theatre Company will miss Frank Evans, its friend and frequent collaborator,” said James Morgan, the York’s Producing Artistic Director. “Frank was a gentleman’s gentleman, as well as a wise and talented writer. We are deeply saddened by his passing.”
“Frank Evans was a supportive fellow artist and I’m so sad about his passing,” said songwriter Kristen Anderson Lopez, who with husband Robert Lopez wrote the songs for the Academy Award winning Walt Disney animated musical, Frozen. “I remember when Bobby and I had our first daughter, Frank’s advice was, “Don’t be afraid to get babysitters–it’s the only way you will keep writing.” His words rang in my head and now I pass them on to pregnant mom writers.”
Frank Evans was born on September 26, 1946 in Cleveland, OH. He attended Antioch College where he earned a BA in Theater. After moving to New York in his early 20s, he worked as a stage manager at McCarter Theatre in New Jersey and at New York’s Town Hall, among other venues. As a budding lyricist, Evans was named to the Steering Committee of the prestigious BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in 1980 and over his 36 years with the organization he produced many formal and informal presentations of new musicals, as well as special events.
With his long-time domestic partner Ron Sproat (who was a prominent TV soap opera writer from the mid 1960s-early ‘70s, including the iconic show Dark Shadows), Evans wrote two successful off-Broadway musicals, Back Home: The War Brides Musical (score by Christopher Berg) and Abie’s Island Rose (score by Doug Katsaros, additional lyrics by Richard Engquist), which featured Heather Mac Rae in the original New York cast.
In 2002, BMI presented Evans with the Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre for his work with librettist Julie Gilbert on Dinner at Eight (music by Ben Schaechter), a musical based on the George S. Kaufman/Edna Ferber classic play. Evans again collaborated with Gilbert in 2010-2011 on the play PUMA (directed by New Jersey Repertory artistic director SuzAnne Barabas), which depicted the three-decade long love affair between “All Quiet on the Western Front” author Erich Maria Remarque and international film star and chanteuse Marlene Dietrich. The play received rave reviews from the New York Times, Back Stage, and the Asbury Park Press, among others.
“Frank was a dream collaborator who was overwhelmingly generous,” said Gilbert, who became one of Evans’ closest friends. Evans even served as matchmaker for Gilbert and her husband Bob Holof, a film producer. “Frank was very funny and made you feel that you were funny.”
In 2000, Evans became co-Artistic Director of Musical Mondays Theatre Lab (now Manhattan Musical Theatre Lab), a non-profit organization fostering the development of new musicals founded by Richard “Bick” Goss in 1999. During Frank’s 16 years with MMTL, the group presented dozens of fledgling works, including the first readings of the Brian Yorkey/Tom Kitt Tony Award-winning musical Next To Normal when it was still entitled Feeling Electric. Under Evans and Goss (who died in 2013), MMTL also championed the work of Tony Award winners Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and 2009 Ed Kleban Prize Winners Eric Weinberger and Beth Falcone (Wanda’s World).
Under Evans’ artistic guidance, MMTL sometimes offered new musicals multiple presentations as the shows continued developing. For example, The Dirty Hippie Jam Band Project, featuring music and lyrics by Daniel Israel and Pheobe Kreutz (with book by Rob Ackerman) had three readings with MMTL, most recently in 2013.
“Frank took our work very seriously and would attend rehearsals, offer feedback, and was always the kind, supportive figure that we needed,” said Israel, who in 2015 became MMTL Board President. “Everyone connected with our show loved him. Frank’s heart, kindness, friendship, and classic laugh made him uniquely special in the musical theater world.”
In the months before his death, Evans had been serving as lyricist and book doctor for a musical about the legendary Howard Hughes, with music by James Scully. Last January, in spite of still recovering from his concussion, Evans attended an industry-only reading of HOWARD at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center.
Former MMTL Board President Stephen Hanks, who was Evans’ caregiver during his yearlong illness, said that a memorial service is being planned for early spring, with details to be announced at a later date.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Escape To Margaritaville
Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter, author, sailor and entrepreneur whose roguish brand of island escapism on hits like “Margaritaville” and “Fins” made him something of a latter-day folk hero, especially among his devoted following of so-called Parrot Heads, died on Friday. He was 76.
His musical, Escape to Margaritaville, opened at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on March 15 under the direction of Tony winner Christopher Ashley. The production closed on July 1 after 29 previews and 124 regular performances. A national tour launched in Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall of 2019.
Of the over 30 albums Buffett released, eight are certified gold and nine are certified platinum or multiplatinum.
Aside from his career in music, Buffett was involved in two restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs; he owned Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant chain.
After entering hospice care just five days prior, Buffett died on September 1, 2023, at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, at the age of 76 from skin cancer (diagnosed in 2019) that had turned into lymphoma.
Saying Good-Bye to Actor Ron Cephas Jones
Ron Cephas Jones passed away August 19th from a long-standing pulmonary issue. He was 66. Jones was best known for his role as William Hill in the drama series This Is Us (2016–2022), which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award; along with four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning twice for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2020.
Jones appeared in television series such as Mr. Robot (2015–2016), The Get Down (2016–2017), Luke Cage (2016–2018), and Truth Be Told (2019–2023). He also appeared in a number of films, including Half Nelson (2006), Across the Universe (2007), Glass Chin (2014), The Holiday Calendar(2018), Dog Days (2018), and Dolemite Is My Name (2019).
In film he was in He Got Game (1998), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Half Nelson (2006), and Across The Universe (2007).
Jones was in a play based on the Billie Holiday song “Don’t Explain”. His performance caught the attention of a casting director, which led to Jones being offered the lead role in the Tazewell Thompson production of the Cheryl West play Holiday Heart in 1994. Jones has performed in several theatrical productions with the Steppenwolf in Chicago. H appeared as the title character of Shakespeare’s Richard III with The Public Theater. In 2022, he was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play at the 75th Tony Awards, for his performance in the Broadway play Clyde’s.
The Fantaticks Composser Tom Jones Passes On
The Fantasticks was a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones. It ran off-Broadway for 42 years (until 2002) and 17,162 performances, making it the world’s longest-running musical. The musical’s original cast included Jones as Henry, the Old Actor, and Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, the narrator, who sang Jones’ and Schmidt’s memorable “Try to Remember.”
Many productions followed, as well as television and film versions. The Fantasticks was a staple of regional, community and high school productions since its premiere, with approximately 250 new productions each year. The show was revived off-Broadway from 2006 to 2017. The show was originally written for a summer theater at Barnard College.
Tom Jones along with Schmidt also wrote 110 in the Shade, Celebration and I Do, I Do!, The original 110 in the Shade starred powerhouse Inga Swenson.
Their first Broadway show, 110 in the Shade, was revived on Broadway in a new production starring Audra McDonald.
I Do! I Do!, their two-character musical starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston, was a success on Broadway and is frequently produced around the country and the world.
Jones passed away on Friday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut, following a battle with cancer. He was 95.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Saying Good-Bye To Paul Reubens
Paul Reubens was an American actor and comedian, best known for creating and portraying the character Pee-wee Herman.
Reubens joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings in the 1970s, and started his career as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. It was with the Groundlings that Reubens developed the Pee-wee character. After a failed audition for Saturday Night Live, Reubens debuted a stage show starring Pee-wee, The Pee-wee Herman Show, in 1981. Pee-wee became an instant cult figure and, for the next decade, Reubens was completely committed to his character, doing all of his public appearances and interviews as Pee-wee. He produced and wrote a feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), directed by Tim Burton, which was a financial and critical success. Its sequel, Big Top Pee-wee (1988), was less successful. Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred as Pee-wee in the CBS Saturday-morning children’s program Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
In 1991, Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. The arrest set off a chain reaction of national media attention, though he received support from people in the entertainment industry. The arrest postponed Reubens’s involvement in major projects until 1999, when he appeared in several big-budget projects including Mystery Men (1999) and Blow (2001). Reubens subsequently started giving interviews as himself rather than as Pee-wee. After 2006, Reubens made cameos and appearances in numerous film and television shows. In 2010, he revived The Pee-wee Herman Show, which he performed in Los Angeles and on Broadway. In 2016, he co-wrote and starred in the Netflix original film Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, reprising his role as Pee-wee Herman.
Reubens’s Pee-wee character maintained an enduring popularity with both children and adults. Playhouse garnered 15 Emmy Awards during its initial run, and was aired again on late-night television in the 2000s, during which TV Guide dubbed it among the top ten cult classic television programs. Reubens died in 2023 from cancer, a diagnosis which had been undisclosed to the public.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: We Say Good-Bye To The Legendary Tony Bennett
19 Grammys, he recorded 60 studio albums and dozens of live albums and compilations, he had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and now at 96th he has joined God’s choir. Astoria-born jazz legend Tony Bennett was one of the most popular interpreters of jazz, pop and Broadway standards, he died Friday in New York City, his rep confirmed to CBS News. .
A cause of death hasn’t been provided. Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, Hiswere held with at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in celebration of his 95th birthday in 2021.
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