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Obituaries

Tony Award Winning Actor Dick Latessa Passes Away at Age 87

Tony Award Winning Actor Dick Latessa Passes Away at Age 87 BroadwayWorld is saddened to report the passing of Tony Award Winner Dick Latessa, who is fondly remembered for his timeless Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning performance as Wilbur Turnblad in the original Broadway production of Hairspray.

A native of Cleveland, Dick Latessa had been active on and off Broadway for over forty years in both musicals and stage plays. He made his Broadway debut in the role of Giovanni Pastora in the 1968 musical, The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N.

Latessa divided his time between stage and small screen. In 1970, he originated the role of Major-Domo in Stephen Sondheim's Follies and then appeared in a string of Neil Simon stage plays before performing in his next musical, the ill-fated Strouse and Schwartz vehicle, Rags, which ran for only four performances before closing in 1986.

In 1991, he originated the role of Clem Rogers in The Will Rogers Follies, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Dick Latessa later appeared in a number of musical revivals on Broadway, including Damn Yankees (1994), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1996), and was a replacement for Herr Schultz in the 1998 Roundabout revival of Cabaret.

Latessa also appeared off Broadway, in the New York City Center "Encore!" revival production of Music in the Air, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. He also played Dr. Dreyfuss in the revival of Promises, Promises with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes in 2010. His final Broadway production was Vineyard's transfer of The Lyons in 2012.

BroadwayWorld extends our condolences to his fans and all who knew him.

Harvey Fierstein took to Facebook to comment on his passing:

"I've never had an acting partner quite like Dick Latessa. Whenever one of the kids in the show had a problem we'd send them up to Dick's room for a lesson on how to be a pro and keep their heads on straight in our crazy business. I loved and adored him and, no insult to any other actor opposite whom I performed HAIRSPRAY, there was no one like Latessa. He was so filled with love and mutual respect...

Well, have a look at this version of the song and note what he did 45 seconds into this tape. That kiss on my shoulder, a detail most of the audience would never notice, gave me the courage and chutzpah to sing and dance on a Broadway stage with abandon. Oh, Dick, there was only one you and I'll be forever grateful that I got you all to myself for nearly a thousand performances.

Sincerest condolences to Jonathan, Shirley and his beloved daughters.
Dick Latessa... You are timeless to me!"


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