Playwright, director and screenwriter Arthur Laurents passed away today. Musical theatre fans will remember him for writing the books of West Side Story, Gypsy, Hallelujah Baby! and La Cage aux Folles and for directing, in particular, the most recent revivals of the first two musicals in that list. For a more detailed overview of his career, go and read this tribute at Playbill.
While I certainly have my issues with some of the things Laurents said and did in the his life, in relation to theatre and otherwise, he certainly deserves praise for writing one of the most solid librettos in musical theatre (Gypsy) and for assisting in pushing the form forward in his early career with West Side Story. Where it gets messy, is that Laurents will also be remembered by some as a terrible man and as one of the most egocentric minds in the history of musical theatre. His absence will not go unnoticed in that regard either, especially by the numerous people he tormented and traumatised during his lifetime. That said, I sincerely hope that those who are close to him can find comfort at this time.
As a tribute to Laurents, here is a recording of Ethel Merman’s rendering of the dialogue scenes in Gypsy from the final night of the original Broadway run.
Rest in peace.