Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gerald Schoenfeld (1924-2008)

Gerald Schoenfeld (1924-2008)

One of the tough things about being away on vacation is that you don't have the opportunity to sit down and write stories the way you'd prefer, especially when important and/or sad news breaks. Such was the case on both counts last week, when I had already pre-written each post here before leaving for a week in London.

During my week away, I learned that 84 year old theatre impresario extraordinaire Gerald Schoenfeld died Tuesday of a massive heart attack. He passed away not long after taking in the premiere of the film "Australia."

A 50 year veteran of the Shubert Organization, including 36 as its leader, Schoenfeld was so beloved within the Broadway community -- after all, he helped save the Great White Way from ruin -- that this Runyonesque figure (as called by The New York Times) became one of those rare figures who had a Main Stem theatre named after him. In 2005, the Plymouth Theatre officially became the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Personally, it has been a sincere privilege seeing both Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life and the current revival of All My Sons, knowing I was seated in a theatre named in his honor.

Affectionately known as "The Chairman," Schoenfeld helped usher in a new era of Rialto theatre after taking over the reins of the Shubert Organization 36 years ago with Bernard B. Jacobs. Together, they produced hundreds of shows, including the three credited with rescuing Broadway: Pippin (1972-1977), Equus (1974-1977) and that singular sensation A Chorus Line (1975-1990). After Jacobs' death in 1995, Schoenfeld ran the Shubert Organization in a solo capacity, using what The New York Times' Bruce Weber characterizes as "combativeness and charm."

Schoenfeld's enormous contributions to Broadway, as well as to his enduring vision for live theatre, will be missed.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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