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Stage and Screen Legend John Raitt Passes Away at 88

Stage and Screen legend John Raitt, who made his Broadway debut playing Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, passed away today at his home in California from complications due to pneumonia. Raitt had just celebrated his 88th birthday in January.

Born in Santa Ana, California, Raitt began performing professionally with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera and was shortly thereafter signed to a contract with MGM, where he appeared in Flight Command, Billy the Kid and Ziegfeld Girl.

Raitt made his Broadway debut playing Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel singing such world reknown songs as "If I Loved You" and "Soliloquy." He went on to appear on Broadway and in national companies of Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, The Pajama Game, Zorba, Kismet, Shenandoah, The Music Man, A Joyful Noise and Man of La Mancha, among many others during his 40 plus year career. Raitt also appeared on the big screen in both The Pajama Game and Annie Get Your Gun, among others.

Raitt spent over four decades performing on both Broadway and on tour in the shows he originated, plus The Music Man, Camelot, Man of La Mancha, Kismet, Destry Rides Again, On A Clear Day, Zorva, and Sehnandoah.

Following a life on the road doing concerts, he was invited to take over for Alfred Drake in the role of Curly in the national company of Oklahoma! From there, he was cast as the star of the Broadway-bound Carousel, and he was subsequently voted "best performance of the year by an actor in a musical" by the New York Drama Critics, the Theatre World and Donaldson Awards Committee.

Raitt celebrated the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma! by singing the show's title song on the stage of Broadway's St. James Theatre, where Oklahoma! first opened. He has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. He has performed with his daughter many times, including a special PBS concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams.

Broadway theaters will dim their lights on Tuesday night at 8pm to pay tribute to the star.


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