When I turned my phone on after seeing Strawdog’s The Conquest of the South Pole last night, a text popped through. It was a message from my dear friend Jamie, which simply read, “Arthur Laurents died!”
I did a quick search, which wasn’t hard as many of my friends were twittering and facebooking links to his obits. After all, this was the man who wrote the books to two of the best musicals in the history of musical theatre: West Side Story and Gypsy — the latter of which is my absolute most favorite musical ever.
Wow. Death at 93 seems like a life long-lived, but this famously cantankerous guy seemed indestructible. At 89 years old in 2007, he made a major comeback directing Patti LuPone in a landmark production of Gypsy at City Center — a production that eventually led to the 2008 Broadway revival which earned all three of its leading players Tony Awards (LuPone, Laura Benanti as Louise/Gypsy and Boyd Gaines as Herbie).
And that production almost didn’t happen because of a long rift between LuPone and Laurents, which I won’t go into here — most of you already know the tale anyway.
But what some might not know is the main reason Laurents decided to swallow his pride, mend fences and revive Gypsy with LuPone is because his long-time partner, Tom Hatcher, while on his deathbed, essentially requested Laurents do so.
If that’s not love, what is?
He then directed a well-received revival of West Side Story in 2009 (the national tour based on that production is coming to Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre in July).
Cantankerous old man or not, Laurents was a fiercely passionate artist and his death signifies the end of an era. I hope he’s having a wonderful reunion with Tom up in that great white way in the sky.