William F. Brown Book Writer For The Wiz Eases’s Down The Road
Best known for writing the book to the 1975 Broadway hit The Wiz, William F. Brown, the Tony Award-nominated playwright and librettist, died June 23 in Westport, Connecticut, at age 91. His wife and longtime collaborator, Tina Tippit told the press.
Like many shows in New York The Wiz was not an immediate critical success, but word of mouth had the production selling out within two weeks of its opening night. The Wiz ran for over four years on Broadway and in 1978 Michael Jackson and Diana Ross turned it into a film.
Brown received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical, and The Wiz went on to win seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Brown made his playwriting Broadway debut in 1967 with The Girl in the Freudian Slip, which ran for only four performances at the Booth Theatre. Next he served as head writer for the Broadway revue Leonard Stillman’s New Faces of 1968, and wrote the book for the Off-Broadway musical How to Steal an Election, which featured a score by folk artist Oscar Brand. He was also the book writer for A Broadway Musical. The Broadway production closed on opening night. In the early ’70s Brown was approached by Ken Harper, a former radio DJ, who was developing a contemporary re-telling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Featuring an all-black cast, an a original score incorporating the sounds of Motown and other Top 40 hits.
Brown never found the success he did with The Wiz, his other works include A Single Thing in Common, Damon’s Song, Twist, and The Nutley Papers, as well as the musical revues Coconuts, Straight Up With a Twist, and Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: The World Says Good-Bye To Tina Turner
Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll has died, after a long illness at 83. Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and underwent a kidney transplant in 2017.
Her life story was told in the 1993 smash film What’s Love Got to Do with It and in the 2019 Broadway musical Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, starring Adrienne Warren in a career-making performance.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, TN, Turner became famous in the late 1960s as the singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Their major hits included: “River Deep – Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.”After leaving husband Ike Turner following years of physical and emotional abuse, she staged what remains one of the greatest comebacks in pop music history, scoring massive hits in the 1980s such as “What’s Love Got To Do With it”, “Private Dancer” and “The Best,” with an estimated 180 million albums sold worldwide, 12 Grammy Awards won and sold-out stadium tours around the world.
Turner scored another smash single in 1985 with “We Don’t Need Another Hero, from the Mel Gibson-George Miller threequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She played the ruthless leader of Bartertown in the movie and delivered the memorable line, “Welcome to another edition of Thunderdome!”
She returned to the Top 20 later that year with “It’s Only Love,” a duet with Bryan Adams from his Reckless album, and also was part of the global smash “We Are the World.” That 1985 famine-relief single — written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones and credited to USA for Africa.
Turner also appeared at the intercontinental charity concert Live Aid that summer, performing a raucous, sexually charged duet with Mick Jagger in Philadelphia on a medley of his solo single “State of Shock” and the Rolling Stones’ “It’ Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).”
Turner’s status as a musical pioneer extended to 1980s television when she became a staple of MTV.
A private funeral ceremony is expected for family and close friends and family.
Ken Fallin's Broadway
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Remembering Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot Jr. died May 1, 2023. He was a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music. He is credited with helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.
Lightfoot’s songs, including “For Lovin’ Me”, “Early Morning Rain”, “Steel Rail Blues”, “Ribbon of Darkness”—a number one hit on the U.S. country chart. His cover of Marty Robbins’s “Black Day in July”, was about the 1967 Detroit riot, and brought him wide recognition in the 1960s. He topped the US Hot 100 or AC chart with the hits “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), “Sundown” (1974); “Carefree Highway” (1974), “Rainy Day People” (1975), and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976), and had many other hits that appeared in the top 40.
Several of Lightfoot’s albums achieved gold and multi-platinum status internationally. His songs were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, the Grateful Dead, Olivia Newton-John, and Jim Croce. The Guess Whor ecorded a song called “Lightfoot” on their 1968 album Wheatfield Soul; the lyrics contain many Lightfoot song titles.
Lightfoot was married three times and had six children. Throughout his life, he struggled with alcoholism, had difficulty maintaining close relationships and revealed in a biography that he paid a price for letting his career take over his personal life. Ultimately he sobered up, married happily, and continued touring and writing songs into his 80s.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Dame Edna
Did you know Dame Edna paid tribute to Barry Humphries in self-penned obituary?
Australian comedian Barry Humphries died in a hospital in Sydney on Saturday April 22 at age 89 after experiencing “serious health problems” following a recent hip replacement.
Humphries most well-known comedy personas Dame Edna, recognizable for her lilac hair, cat eye glasses (“face furniture”); her favourite flower, the gladiolus (“gladdies”); and her boisterous greeting “Hello, Possums!” As Dame Edna, Humphries wrote several books, including an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life; appeared in several films; and hosted several television shows (on which Humphries also appeared as himself and other alter-egos).
In the 2002 motion picture Nicholas Nickleby Dame Edna plays the role of Mrs. Crummles, an actress and wife of the manager of a provincial theatre company. Barry Humphries also appears in the film as Mr. Leadville.
In 2010, Dame Edna collaborated with cabaret pianist and singer Michael Feinstein for a two-person revue in the United States, titled All About Me, based on the premise that the pair were rivals who were forced to work together for the show’s sake. The show opened as the second production for the newly refurbished Henry Miller’s Theatre.
Ahead of his death, Humphries wrote a memorial essay for himself from Dame Edna’s perspective.
Published in The Telegraph, the short, tongue-in-cheek letter details how Humphries and the Dame’s professional relationship began and how her star eclipsed his.
“It is true that he put me on stage for the first time in December 1955, but it was in order to belittle me and get cheap laughs at my expense and ridicule the great Australian way of life,” Dame Edna “writes”.
“How the tables were turned! I became the star and he merely a footnote to my spectacular career.”
Edna Also warned of what happens when artists don’t achieve success – “Hitler, for example – they either become interior decorators or mass murderers.” She added: “He had a lovely family and my heart goes out to them as well as to his unfortunate wives and numerous stage-struck research assistants.”
T2C Says Good-Bye to Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 96. Belafonte made a splash in Hollywood in the 1950s, becoming a star with his hit songs Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) and Jump in the Line.
That success ultimately led to leading roles in films like Carmen Jones and Island in the Sun.
But as he became more and more of a household name, Belafonte started to speak out against the racism and became a civil rights icon
Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. (whose father later changed the family’s name) was born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants in March 1927. Belafonte dropped out of high school to join the Navy. While stationed in Virginia, Belafonte met Marguerite Byrd, they married in 1948, and had two children together.
Following his discharge, Belafonte became interested in acting and enrolled under the GI Bill at Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop, where his classmates included Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis.
He first took the stage at the American Negro Theater, where he worked as a stagehand and became lifelong friends with fellow actor Sidney Poitier.
When he divorced his wife in 1957 and married Julie Robinson, the only white member of Katherine Dunham’s dance troupe, the Amsterdam News wrote: ‘Many Negroes are wondering why a man who has waved the flag of justice for his race should turn from a Negro wife to a white wife.’
He had trouble finding roles as a black man, and turned to music. Belafonte’s album, Calypso, was said to be the first by a single artist to sell more than 1 million copies after it reached the tip of Billboard album charts in 1956 and stayed there for more than 30 weeks straight. By 1959, he was the most highly paid black performer in American history, with contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace at New York. His song “The Banana Boat Song” was a song about rebellion.
He befriended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. early in his career and put up much of the seed money to start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Belafonte was then one of the main fundraisers for the organization, as well as for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also provided money to bail out Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, and would often host the reverend at his spacious New York City apartment. Belafonte even stood with King at the historic March on Washington in 1963, as well as the Alabama march from Selma and Montgomery, and made sure King’s family was well taken care of after he was assassinated in 1968.
His 1957 film “Island in the Sun,” hinted at a romance between his character and a white woman played by Joan Fontaine generated outrage in the South, so much so that a bill was even introduced in the South Carolina Legislature that would have fined any theater showing the film.
His special Tonight With Belafonte won an Emmy in 1960, the first for a black performer, but a deal to do five more specials for the show’s sponsor, Revlon, fell apart after just one more was broadcast, when, he said, Revlon asked him not to feature black and white performers together.
A taping of a 1968 special with Petula Clark was also interrupted when she touched his arm, and a representative of the show’s sponsor, Chrysler-Plymouth, demanded a retake.
When he finally returned to acting, as both a producer and co-star of “The Angel Levine,” he had his Harry Belafonte Enterprises hire 15 black and Hispanic apprentices to learn filmmaking by working with the crew.
One of them, Drake Walker, wrote the story for Belafonte’s next film, the western “Buck and the Preacher,” also starring Poitier.
In the 1980s, he helped organize a cultural boycott of South Africa for its apartheid policy, as well as the Live Aid concert and the all-star recording of We Are the World, to fight famine in Africa.
One year later, he also created the 1986 human-chain campaign Hands Across America, to benefit the poor in the United States.
His humanitarian work ultimately saw him advocate for the release of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela in South Africa and was appointed as a cultural advisor to the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy.
Belafonte continued in film and portrayed South African bishop Desmond Tutu in Breathe in 2005. In 2018 BlacKkKlansman in 2018.
Belafonte went on to receive a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989, a National Medal of Arts in 1994 and a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2000.
In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also gave him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of his lifelong fight for civil rights and other causes.
And just last year, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
But Belafonte continued to remain political up until the end.
He died at his home in the Upper West Side with his wife Pamela by his side on Tuesday.
Belafonte is survived by his wife, Pamela, his children, Adrienne Biesner; Shari Belafonte; Gina Belafonte; and David Belafonte, stepdaughter Sarah Frank and stepson Linsey Frank, as well as eight grandchildren.
Roundabout Theatre Company’s Todd Haimes Dies
The Man Who Came To Dinner, starring Nathan Lane (2000), Big River (2004), The Pajama Game (2006), On the 20th Century (2015), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2016), and A Soldier’s Play (2020), last year’s Caroline, Or Change, Birthday Candles starring Debra Messing, The Minutes, Trouble in Mind and the years 1776 were all under Todd Haimes. Under his leadership, the Roundabout won 34 Tony Awards, 58 Drama Desk Awards, 73 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 21 Lucille Lortel Awards, and 14 Obie Awards.
The Roundabout has three Broadway venues – the American Airlines Theatre, Studio 54 and the Stephen Sondheim Theatre – and two Off Broadway venues at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, the Roundabout. With Todd Haimes at the helm the Roundabout Theater Company became one of the country’s leading nonprofit theaters. He died last night at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital of complications from osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. He was 66.
Haimes opened Roundabout’s first Broadway home at the Criterion Center in 1991. In 1993 came Anna Christie, starring Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, and New York’s first revival of She Loves Me. With the $24-million capital campaign to renovate 42nd Street’s historic Selwyn Theatre, the Roundabout took possession of what is now its primary Broadway home, the American Airlines Theatre.
The Roundabout’s greatest successes were the 1998 revival of Cabaret directed by Sam Mendes and co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall. A construction accident almost closed the highly successful revival but Haimes renovated the former dance club Studio 54, where Cabaret went on to run until 2003. During its run, Roundabout negotiated the purchase of the space, making it the company’s second Broadway venue.
Studio 54, Haimes brought in Assassins (2004) and Kiss Me, Kate(2019).
In 2009, Roundabout took over the Henry Miller Theatre, renaming it the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, where Haimes produced the Tony-winning Anything Goes(2011). The venue currently is home to the hit musical & Juliet.
Haimes is survived by wife Jeanne-Marie Haimes; daughter Hilary Haimes and her husband Jonathan Salik; son Andrew Haimes and his wife Stacy Haimes; four grandchildren; and stepdaughters Julia and Kiki Baron.
His death was announced by Roundabout’s spokesman Matt Polk. Haimes was first diagnosed with sarcoma of the jaw in 2002.
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