I’m sad to share the news that Broadway director/choreographer Chet Walker passed away peacefully on Friday from a glioblastoma tumor.
Through his extensive work on Broadway, the West End, and Internationally, Chet created a timeless legacy, revolutionizing Theater Dance, shaping stars, and bringing the rich history he holds into the modern era.
Perhaps best known as Creator and Co-Choreographer of the Tony Award and multi-international-award-winning Fosse, Chet also choreographed the 2013 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Pippin, for which he won the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Astaire Awards and received a Tony™ nomination for Best Choreography for the production directed by Diana Paulus.
Chet began his Broadway career at the age of sixteen when he appeared in the first revival of On the Town. That was followed by Lorelei, The Ambassadors, and four Bob Fosse musicals: The Pajama Game, Pippin, Dancin’, and Sweet Charity.
Chet inspired and drew out the best from thousands of theatre artists, including me.
I first met Chet in late 1990 in New York City when I auditioned for a production of A Chorus Line he was directing and choreographing in Lake Tahoe in early 1991.
By that point, I’d performed in two major national touring companies – CATS from 1986 to 1988, and A Chorus Line in 1989. I returned to NYC near the end of 1989 feeling pretty confident about my skills and ready for what would be next. But the universe needed to humble me a bit. Even though I auditioned for everything I could, I didn’t work in theatre at all for the entirety of 1990.
Having come off of two back-to-back first class national companies, a year of unemployment was not what I expected. But I went into the audition for Chet thinking I had a pretty decent shot.
After making it though the dance combinations, I was called back to sing. The second I finished my song, Chet calmly said from behind the casting table, “Well, I can tell you now you’ve got the job. And how would you feel about assisting me on putting the show up?”
Not only was I no longer unemployed, but I was going to get to assist this man that everyone in Broadway circles adored??? Take that, universe…
Long story short, Chet and I found working together to be a beautiful, seamless creative experience. The show was a huge success and was extended. When I returned to NYC in late Spring of 1991, Chet asked me to work with him on choreography for a new production of Funny Girl he was staging in Amsterdam.
During those rehearsals, Chet shared his idea of an anthology piece of Bob Fosse’s work. As a way to ‘workshop’ the idea, he was thinking about teaching classes at Broadway Dance Center consisting of the Fosse catalogue. I remember him asking me, “Do you think anyone would come?” Boy did they…
Those classes became extremely popular and packed full – especially among dancers working on Broadway. And the ideas workshopped there eventually became the multi-award-winning Broadway hit, Fosse.
The last time I saw Chet, I was standing in the Music Box Theater in 2013, waiting for the curtain to rise on his dazzling revival of Pippin. His choreography for the show, incorporating Fosse style with circus elements, was thrilling.
We both happen to see each other at the same time in the back of the house from about 100 feet away. We couldn’t get to each other fast enough for that hug and all those smiles. With Chet, time and space never mattered. Our friendship was always there.
At the time of his death, Chet was surrounded by the love of his family – husband Jack and daughter Charlie.
You can read an extensive profile of his work on Broadway World here.
RIP dear Chet Walker. And thank you for the chance to dance…so many times.