Tony Tanner, Who Introduced ‘Joseph’ to Broadway, Dies at 88
Tony Tanner, a flexible actor, author and director whose largest Broadway success was directing “Joseph and the Superb Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 1982, a manufacturing that helped make that musical a staple of American group and highschool theater, died on Sept. 8 at his house in Los Angeles. He was 88.
His husband and solely quick survivor, Henry Selvitelle, confirmed the loss of life however didn’t specify the trigger.
“Joseph” was maybe the excessive level of Mr. Tanner’s respectable if not flashy profession in each his native Britain and the US. A colourful telling of the biblical story of Joseph, it had began out within the Sixties as a college challenge by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) and had been carried out in Britain and the US over time. However Mr. Tanner’s Broadway model elevated its profile significantly.
The present began Off Broadway on the Entermedia Theater within the East Village earlier than transferring to Broadway, the place it ran for greater than a 12 months and a half and earned Mr. Tanner two Tony Award nominations, for greatest route of a musical and greatest choreography. Its most lasting impact — very important to highschool and faculty theater departments in all places — was its casting a lady within the a part of the Narrator, a task as vital as that of Joseph himself; it’s now commonplace follow.
Most, although not all, earlier productions had made the Narrator male. Mr. Tanner, in an essay on his web site, mentioned that that had initially been his idea as effectively.
“Somebody did it in Brooklyn with a Black man enjoying the Narrator, in order that’s what we regarded for,” he wrote. “Imagine it or not, couldn’t discover the fitting one in New York Metropolis. ‘Convey within the ladies,’ I mentioned.”
The position went to Laurie Beechman, who would in 1984, as a substitute participant, step into one other Lloyd Webber musical, “Cats,” within the position of Grizabella. (The character sings the well-known “Reminiscence.”) Her work in “Joseph” earned her a Tony nomination for greatest featured actress in a musical.
“We discovered Laurie Beechman with the hovering, searing voice and we had it made,” Mr. Tanner wrote.
Regardless of claims on the contrary, Mr. Tanner maintained that casting a lady was his thought.
“Later the producer of the present claimed the thought, since adopted by all subsequent producers of the present, was his,” he wrote, with out naming the particular person (the present had a number of producers). “It wasn’t.”
Anthony Roy Tanner was born on July 27, 1932, in Hillingdon, England, west of London, to Herbert and Frances Tanner. He attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Artwork in London.
Within the Fifties, he labored in British repertory firms, enjoying, as he put it, “Saint Peter, Jimmy Porter in ‘Look Again in Anger,’ a cigar-smoking American Air Drive colonel (at age 21) and the entrance finish of a cow in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’” amongst different roles.
Within the early Sixties, he changed Anthony Newley as Littlechap, Mr. Newley’s signature position, in “Cease the World, I Wish to Get Off” on the Queen’s Theater in London. He additionally performed the half in a 1966 movie model.
An opportunity to interchange Tommy Steele within the lead position of the 1965 Broadway manufacturing of “Half a Sixpence” took Mr. Tanner to the US. His subsequent activate Broadway was in 1973, in a number one position in “No Intercourse Please, We’re British,” a play that didn’t final lengthy however gave him an opportunity to make use of every little thing in his comedic bag of tips.
“Tony Tanner,” Clive Barnes wrote in Gadget Clock, “within the main position of the absurd pal, pulls faces with vigor, whines in a nasal, distorted and effeminate cockney, has a humorous trick attempting to get from a chair whereas loaded down with a pile of books, and jumps by home windows with a lovely disregard for private security.”
Mr. Tanner directed and choreographed “One thing’s Afoot” on Broadway in 1976, then returned two years later as director of “Gorey Tales,” a piece by the author and artist Edward Gorey. The piece had obtained a robust evaluate in The Occasions when it opened the earlier 12 months Off Broadway below Mr. Tanner’s route: Mel Gussow known as it “a merrily sinister musical collage of Goreyana.” The evaluate, Mr. Tanner wrote on his web site, led the producers to maneuver the present to the Sales space Theater on Broadway.
“I used to be kicking and screaming all the way in which,” he advised The Los Angeles Occasions in 1992, when he restaged the work in Hollywood. “The Sales space is simply too huge a theater. Individuals paying $27.50, or regardless of the value was then, don’t wish to be advised to make use of their creativeness. They wish to see it.”
Not serving to issues was that there was no New York Occasions rave — by October 1978, when the Broadway model opened, the paper was on strike. Different evaluations have been usually blended.
“The day after we opened,” Mr. Tanner recalled, “we bought phone calls from the theater to come back decide up our make-up as a result of we weren’t going to be enjoying that evening,” he added. “It’s a type of pleasant experiences that actually does make you wish to go into promoting cosmetics door to door.”
Mr. Tanner had a late-career success with a one-man present that he wrote and carried out, “Charlatan,” in regards to the life and instances of the Russian ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, who had fascinated Mr. Tanner since he learn a e-book about him when he was 12. He carried out the present at theater festivals in the US and overseas.
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