Theatre World Mourns The Passing Of Theatre Under The Stars And 5th Avenue Theatre Founder, Frank M. Young
Frank M. Young, 77, the founder of Houston's Theatre Under The Stars, Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre Company, and the New York-based National Alliance for Musical Theatre, died Wednesday in Palm Springs, California. Young directed the activities of TUTS from its inception in 1968 until his retirement in 2006. For two years in a row he was named by the national Theatre Week magazine as "one of the 100 most powerful people in American theatre."
Three years ago Young moved to Palm Springs, where he was a partner in the ownership and management of Colt's Lodge, a resort hotel. Born May 22, 1940, in Pasadena, Texas, the son of Frank S. Young Sr. and Ruth Marie Rossi Young, Young graduated in 1958 from Pasadena High School, where he was captain of the Pasadena Eagle Band. An irrepressible showman even in his youth, he performed at the legendary Theatre Inc. He attended the University of Houston, the University of Texas, and UCLA, where he earned a degree in psychology. After military service as an Army medic, he joined Houston Grand Opera as production manager and appeared as an occasional company singer and conductor.
In 1968 Young established Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) with a single performance of the musical Bells Are Ringing, free to the public, at Houston's new Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. TUTS continues to present free performances to the public, as it has done every year since 1968. Young led the company to its rank among the largest and most acclaimed musical theatre producers in the nation.
He produced-and sometimes also wrote, directed, choreographed, and/or conducted-more than 300 productions, including 12 world premieres-among them the original companies of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Jekyll & Hyde, Zorro: the Musical, the Arthur Kopit-Maury Yeston Phantom, Ninfa!, Scrooge, Sir Jack, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? He also produced international tours of Mame starring Juliet Prowse, Man of La Mancha with Robert Goulet, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Debbie Reynolds.
In 1972 the company expanded with indoor performances at Houston's Music Hall, and also added a professional training school, the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. In 2002 Young realized his dream-a new, state-of-the-art home designed expressly for musical theatre and named the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Young founded Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre in 1990 and served as its producer/artistic director until 2001, simultaneously with his leadership of TUTS.
In 1985 Young founded and served as first president of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, an organization that today comprises 160 musical theatre companies. The Alliance honored him in 1990 as "Producer of the Year."
Deemed "David Merrick of the provinces" by The New York Times, Young received commendations from President George H. W. Bush, Texas Governor Ann Richards, five Houston mayors and the mayor of Seattle; the first City of Houston "Leadership in the Arts" Award; the "Corporate Arts Award" from Texas Nonprofit Theatres; Downtown Houston's 1995 "Heart of the City" Award; Houston's 1996 "Cultural Leadership" Award; Actors' Equity Association's 1998 Lucy Jordan Award; the 1998 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees AFL-CIO "Justice for Workers" award; a 2006 "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the American Federation of Musicians; the 2007 "American Musical Theatre Award" (presented to him by former President George H. W. Bush); and the 2012 "Distinguished Alumnus Award" of Pasadena High School.
Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.