Roger Berlind, 90, Dies; Broadway Impresario Who Amassed 25 Tonys


Roger Berlind, who produced or co-produced greater than 100 performs and musicals on Broadway, together with such important and box-office hits as “The Guide of Mormon,” “Expensive Evan Hansen,” “Metropolis of Angels” and revivals of “Guys and Dolls” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” died on Dec. 18 at his residence in Manhattan. He was 90.

His household mentioned the trigger was cardiopulmonary arrest.

Throughout a four-decade profession within the theater, Mr. Berlind backed a few of the most unique work on Broadway and amassed an astonishing 25 Tony Awards, one of many largest hauls on file. (Hal Prince, one other prodigious Tony-winning producer, collected 21.)

Mr. Berlind helped deliver buoyant musicals to the stage, just like the smash 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls” with Nathan Lane, in addition to subtle literate dramas, like the unique 1984 manufacturing of “The Actual Factor,” Tom Stoppard’s dazzling exploration of the character of affection and honesty. “The Actual Factor” swept the Tonys, successful for greatest play and greatest director (Mike Nichols) and garnering prime appearing awards for Jeremy Irons, Glenn Shut and Christine Baranski.

His path to Broadway was oblique. In a position to play the piano by ear, he fancied himself a songwriter, however his dream of constructing a residing that approach fell flat and he went to work on Wall Road.

He was a companion at a brokerage agency when tragedy struck: His spouse and three of his 4 kids have been killed in an airliner crash at Kennedy Worldwide Airport. Inside days, he resigned from his agency.

“The entire concept of constructing a enterprise and earning money didn’t make sense anymore,” he instructed The New York Occasions in 1998. “There was no extra financial motivation.”

After a interval within the wilderness, he discovered his method to Broadway, which helped him rebuild his life and set up an entire new profession.

“The numerous factor about Roger is that he made an unbelievable turnaround,” Brook Berlind, his second spouse, mentioned in a cellphone interview.

“His life was completely bifurcated by the accident,” she mentioned. “There was Act I and Act II. I don’t assume many different folks might have gone on to such success after such disaster.”

Success on Broadway got here slowly. Mr. Berlind’s first manufacturing, in 1976, was the disastrous “Rex,” a Richard Rodgers musical (with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) about Henry VIII, which the Occasions theater critic Clive Barnes mentioned “has nearly all the pieces not going for it.”

Because it occurred, the music of Mr. Rodgers bookended Mr. Berlind’s profession. His final present, of which he was one in every of a number of producers, was the darkly reimagined Tony-winning 2019 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” (That present made Broadway historical past when the actress Ali Stroker turned the primary one that makes use of a wheelchair to win a Tony.)

After “Rex,” Mr. Berlind co-produced six different reveals earlier than he had his first hit with the unique 1980 manufacturing of “Amadeus,” through which a mediocre composer burns with jealousy over the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The play, written by Peter Shaffer, directed by Peter Corridor and starring Ian McKellen and Tim Curry, took residence a number of Tonys, together with greatest play.

Two extra successes shortly adopted: “Subtle Women,” a 1981 revue with music by Duke Ellington; and “9,” a 1982 musical based mostly on the Fellini movie “8½” a couple of tortured movie director dealing with skilled and romantic crises.

Alongside the way in which have been loads of flops. Producing on Broadway is at all times dangerous, with no surefire method for a success. It turned much more difficult within the late twentieth century, as theater folks migrated to Hollywood, labor and promoting prices soared and excessive ticket costs discouraged audiences. Getting reveals off the bottom required increasingly more producers to pool their sources, and even then they have been unlikely to recoup their investments.

One among Mr. Berlind’s achievements was staying within the recreation. Regardless of the challenges, he took possibilities on reveals as a result of he believed in them, and since he might afford to lose as usually as he received.

“I do know it’s not value it economically,” he instructed The Occasions in 1998. “However I really like theater..”

His successes included “Proof,” “Doubt,” “The Historical past Boys,” the 2012 revival of “Loss of life of a Salesman” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and the 2017 revival of “Hiya, Dolly!” with Bette Midler.

Scott Rudin, who produced about 30 reveals with Mr. Berlind, mentioned that Mr. Berlind was propelled by “monumental fortitude and persistence.”

“He was not dissuaded by the obstacles that dissuaded different folks,” Mr. Rudin mentioned in an e-mail. “He had monumental positivity, which is way, way more uncommon than you may assume.”

That turned evident after the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, when Broadway went darkish for 48 hours, an indication of the financial uncertainty that hung over the town.

On the time, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani urged theaters to reopen shortly, and so they did. However a half-dozen reveals closed, and one on the verge of doing so was “Kiss Me, Kate,” through which Mr. Berlind had been deeply concerned and of which he was enormously fond. He was enthralled with Cole Porter’s music, and all the pieces within the present had clicked. The winner of 5 Tonys, together with greatest revival of a musical, “Kate” had been working for practically two years and was not scheduled to shut till Dec. 30, 2001.

However due to a pointy drop in ticket gross sales, the manufacturing was going to shut early. A time limit of Sept. 23 was introduced.

Simply earlier than the curtain rose on what was speculated to have been the ultimate efficiency, Mr. Berlind, a modest man who evinced little of the showmanship typical within the theater, took to the stage. He held the closing discover in his hand and ripped it up.

“The present will go on,” he declared, to an already emotional viewers.

The solid and crew had agreed to surrender 25 % of their pay and to donate one other 25 % to purchase tickets to the present for rescue employees. The transfer allowed “Kate” to maintain working till its scheduled Dec. 30 closing.

“That was my Merrick second,” Mr. Berlind later instructed The Guardian of London, referring to David Merrick, one in every of Broadway’s famously outsize showmen.

The Guardian went on to reward Mr. Berlind’s exuberant London manufacturing of “Kate,” which opened that October, as “an emblem of the indomitability and beauty underneath stress of a group, certainly a metropolis, that has been reeling since 11 September.”

Roger Stuart Berlind was born on June 27, 1930, in Brooklyn to Peter Berlind, a hospital administrator, and Mae (Miller) Berlind, an beginner painter who gave portray classes whereas elevating her 4 sons.

The household moved to Woodmere, on Lengthy Island, when Roger was 3. He attended Woodmere Academy and went on to Princeton, the place he majored in English.

His campus life revolved across the theater. He joined the Triangle Membership, which performs student-written comedies, and Theatre Intime, a student-run theatrical group. Years later, in 1998, he donated $3.5 million to construct the 350-seat Roger S. Berlind Theater as a part of an enlargement of Princeton’s McCarter Theater.

After graduating in 1952, he joined the Military and served within the Counterintelligence Corps in Germany. At one level he was on a troop ship with Buck Henry, the comedian actor and author who died this 12 months, and the 2 recurrently created reveals for the troopers.

When Mr. Berlind returned to New York in 1954, he was decided to change into a songwriter.

“He liked the big-band music of the ’40s, he might play nearly any tune from the American songbook and he had a fantastic reminiscence for lyrics,” his son William mentioned in a cellphone interview. His personal tunes ran to the straightforward and nostalgic, as mirrored by their titles, “Lemon Drop Girlfriend” and “Isn’t It a Rainbow Day?” amongst them. However Tin Pan Alley was uninterested, and, needing a job, Mr. Berlind was pointed by mates to Wall Road.

“I had by no means had an economics course in faculty,” he instructed Playbill in 2005, “and I had 26 or 28 interviews earlier than anybody would rent me.”

He labored for 4 years at an funding home, then in 1960 co-founded a brokerage agency, Carter, Berlind, Potoma & Weill, which went by way of varied iterations till it was acquired by American Specific in 1981. His companions alongside the way in which included Sanford I. Weill, who turned chairman and chief govt of Citigroup, and Arthur Levitt Jr., the long run chairman of the Securities and Alternate Fee.

It was a heady time for Mr. Berlind. However on June 24, 1975, his world stopped.

He had gone to the airport that day to satisfy his spouse, Helen Polk (Clark) Berlind, and three of their kids — Helen, 12; Peter, 9; and Clark, 6 — who have been returning to New York from New Orleans after visiting Helen Berlind’s mom in Mississippi.

Whereas on strategy to Kennedy in a extreme storm, the Boeing 727, Japanese Air Strains Flight 66, was swept down by a wind shear and crashed, killing 113 of the 124 folks on board, together with Mr. Berlind’s household.

Their son William, 2, was at residence in Manhattan together with his nurse on the time. As he grew up, he had unresolved points round what had occurred.

“Roger was so broken by the accident that he didn’t spend as a lot time with William on this topic as he might have,” Ms. Berlind, who married Mr. Berlind in 1979, mentioned.

Lastly, a psychiatrist instructed Mr. Berlind that he wanted to reply William’s questions, even when he requested the identical factor again and again. Ultimately, this proved therapeutic for each father and son.

“He was current and robust for me,” mentioned William Berlind, a former reporter at The New York Observer and author for The New York Occasions Journal, who adopted his father to Broadway and collaborated with him on a number of reveals.

“He was marked by the tragedy,” he added, “but it surely didn’t devour him, and he persevered.”

Along with his spouse and son, Mr. Berlind is survived by two granddaughters and a brother, Alan.

In time, mates linked Mr. Berlind with folks within the theater, and he was quickly immersing himself in your entire means of placing on a present. He had a status for typically being extra conscious than many producers about not interfering with the artistic course of.

However Mr. Berlind at all times insisted that the work he backed have advantage. Whereas he stored a chilly eye on the underside line, he might be seduced by sheer artistry.

“He had been a troublesome and profitable businessman, however in his theater life he was besotted by expertise, and that’s what he invested in,” Rocco Landesman, who produced “Guys and Dolls,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Proof” with him, mentioned in an e-mail.

“He liked his flops nearly as a lot as his hits,” Mr. Landesman added. “And every time one in every of his reveals closed, Roger was ‘out there’ once more.”



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