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Geoffrey Johnson, Tony Award Winning Casting Director, Has Passed Away

Geoffrey formed the legendary Johnson-Liff Casting in 1975 and cast the three longest running Broadway shows, Cats, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera.

By: Nov. 28, 2021
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Geoffrey Johnson, Tony Award Winning Casting Director, Has Passed Away  Image

Geoffrey Johnson, renowned casting director, passed away Friday, November 26th in his sleep of respiratory failure at Henry J Carter Hospital, NY, NY at the age of 91.

Geoffrey was born in New York City on June 23, 1930 and raised in Larchmont NY. His mother Agatha Gennette Johnson Hagelston was a high school teacher and his father, Dr. Alfred Ashton Johnson was an obstetrician.

He received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Geoffrey worked as an actor, appearing in Saint Joan on Broadway in 1956, He was also the stage manager of several Broadway shows including Cactus Flower and I Do, I Do.

His work as a stage manager led him to Noël Coward with whom he worked on the Broadway production of Sail Away. This relationship continued with Geoffrey serving as Noël's US representative and trusted friend and colleague until Coward's death in 1973.

He worked with David Merrick as a stage manager and casting director, and with casting directors Linda Otto and Geri Windsor before forming the legendary Johnson-Liff Casting in 1975.

With his business partner Vincent Liff he went on to cast the three longest running Broadway shows, Cats, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera. Johnson-Liff enjoyed enormous success working with Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Cameron Mackintosh and were responsible for casting scores of Broadway shows including The Elephant Man, Dreamgirls, Miss Saigon and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

In 2003 he and Vincent Liff were awarded a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre as well as the Hoyt Bowers Award and several Artios Awards from the Casting Society of America. Many NY theater professionals had their start at Johnson-Liff, including casting directors Andrew Zerman, Tara Rubin and Jamibeth Margolis as well many others who went on to become producers and agents.

Geoffrey was predeceased by his long-time life partner Jerry Hogan, whom he met at the St Louis Muny Opera in the 1950s. Jerry founded the talent agency Henderson-Hogan.

Geoffrey continued to be an active member of the theatre community after the Johnson-Liff office closed in 2002. He served on the Tony nomination committee for several years and was a trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and the Life President of the Noël Coward Archive Trust.

In 2016 he established the Geoffrey Ashton Johnson/ Noël Coward Scholarship at the Yale School of Drama to honor Noël Coward's contribution to the art form and his legacy as playwright and performer.

He is survived by his niece Valerie Cortalano (Bruce) in Garrison, NY; nephew Bruce Johnson in Wilton Manors, Florida; great nephews Charles Cortalano (Elizabeth) in White Plains, NY; Geoffrey Cortalano (Christine) in Cold Spring, NY; Nicholas Cortalano in Garrison, NY; Ryan Johnson in Palm Coast, Florida and cousins and many friends in the US and England. Pre-deceased by his brother Alfred Ashton Johnson, sister Patricia Johnson Friedman, nephew Craig Johnson, and life partner Jerry Hogan.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:

The Noël Coward Foundation

Calvary Hospital

The Actors Fund