Marvin Hamlisch, composer of “A Chorus Line,” dead at 68

Marvin Hamlisch, composer of “A Chorus Line,” dead at 68

Playbill is reporting that Marvin Hamlisch, who achieved theatre immortality as the composer of the iconic musical A Chorus Line, died Aug. 7 following a brief illness. He was 68.

Mr. Hamlisch’s other theatre works included They’re Playing Our Song, Jean Seberg, Smile, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. His latest musical, The Nutty Professor, recently opened in Tennessee.

But it was with the groundbreaking A Chorus Line, which told of the frustrations and worries of a group of anonymous dancers trying out for a Broadway musical, that he made his mark as a theatre figure.

He was already famous as an all-around wunderkind when he began work on A Chorus Line. A child prodigy, he was accepted into Juilliard before he was seven. Before he was 30, he had received Oscars for his score and song to “The Way We Were” and his adaptations of Scott Joplin ragtime tunes in “The Sting,” which helped usher in a Joplin revival.

Mr. Hamlisch is one of only 11 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. On top of this, he also won the Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line.

I did 2 National Touring companies of A Chorus Line and due to that, I was fortunate to perform with Marvin a few times at benefit galas when the cast would be invited to perform the finale “One” and the most famous song from the show “What I Did For Love.” Marvin was always very easy to be around, but it was clear that he was a genius. And not in a cranky or showy kind of way. He was just brilliant at what he did and made things look easy – even when you knew they were not.

In an interview in July, Mr. Hamlisch talked about the emotional investment he put into each piece of music he composed.

“I’m not one of those people who says, ‘I never read reviews,’ because I don’t believe those people,” Mr. Hamlisch said. “I think they read ‘em. These songs are my babies. And I always say, it’s like having a baby in a hospital, taking a Polaroid and going up to someone and saying, ‘What do you think?’ And he goes, ‘I give you a 3.’ That’s what criticism is like. You’ve worked on this thing forever – ‘I give you a 3.’ And it’s part of you. That’s the bargain you’ve made.”

For years we’ve all seen Marvin do “celebrity music director” duty on major television specials and galas. And there was good reason for that. He really was “one singular sensation.”

Rest in peace Marvin Hamlisch.