RIP Arthur Laurents

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.

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9 Responses to RIP Arthur Laurents

  1. Nick Morrison says:

    Goodnight to a genius.

  2. Julia-Anne Smith says:

    So sad.

  3. We also can’t forget his brilliant screenplay to Rope, in my opinion Hitchcock’s finest film.

  4. Charles Alonzo Early says:

    Wait, he wrote that movie? I never knew that.

  5. Jennifer Lynn says:

    And the screenplay for Ingrid Bergman’s Anastasia.

    RIP, Arthur. You wrote my favorite classic musical and the one that “started it all” as far as my love of musical theatre goes.

    Hold my hand and we’re halfway there,
    Hold my hand and I’ll take you there,
    Somehow…
    Someday…
    Somewhere…

  6. Nick Morrison says:

    Stephen Sondheim is coming to give a talk here on Friday and I can’t decide if it would be too soon to ask him to speak about Laurents. Thoughts?

  7. I think it would depend on what you wanted to ask him.

  8. David Fick says:

    Based on the way that Sondheim wrote about other theatremakers in Finishing the Hat, I doubt he would answer it if the question dealt with anything personal or any kind of real analysis of his work. Even the memory he supplied to The New York Times for their official tribute is a deflection, more a story about Barbra Streisand than Laurents himself.

  9. Dan Davison says:

    Whatever faults Laurents might have had as a person, I respect the culturally significant achievements he made and am saddened by his loss.

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