Happy Birthday Thommie Walsh

Two-time Tony Award winner Thommie Walsh
Two-time Tony Award winner Thommie Walsh

I originally posted this on March 15, 2011.

I think of my funny, talented, and dear friend Thommie Walsh so often I can’t tell you.

Today would have been Thommie’s 71st birthday.

This is a very personal post for me, and so I share this each year to celebrate his beautiful spirit.

Dear Thommie, love and miss you madly.

**********************************************************

Thommie Walsh was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways.

As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out.

His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer.

As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards (A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine; My One And Only).

Thommie’s accomplishments and honors were many, too numerous to mention them all.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend.

In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her then-developing one-woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me.

Every day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and assisted when I could. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

Thommie was immensely supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. Some years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway, he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of taking me to dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. My wonderful, funny, talented friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong.

I reached out to everyone I could. At one point, on Christmas eve, I stood outside a holiday dinner in the freezing cold on the phone with a close friend of Thommie’s. The news was not good. I was distraught. I frantically asked the friend to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was very slow to come over the next several months. I did all I could to stay in the loop from across the country.

Then, on a hot summer night – June 16, 2007 – this boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called: “Did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath in silence. I didn’t want to know.

Several heartbeats went by.

I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong. Please let me be wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. But, the news had come.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “Beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Just so dang funny.

I would play his role in A Chorus Line several times, and I always thought of Thommie when I did.

Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that read, “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy, did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it boundless.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best.

So, as Thommie would close his letters, from me to the fabulous Thommie Walsh: “Love you madly – always.”

On The 45th Anniversary Of ‘A Chorus Line’

Me as ‘Mark’ in the national touring company of A Chorus Line

“Who have you been with my son?”

Funny you should ask…

Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, listening to original Broadway cast recordings, I somehow discovered A Chorus Line.

It was dynamic and cool, and mysterious (“Give me somebody to dance for…”) and…..some stuff I didn’t understand (yet).

And then I saw the show on Broadway at the Shubert Theater and it flew by! Like the album on steroids. So fast!

And all the stories! Brilliant and raw and funny and, and, and, and somewhere up there, I saw…me.

Who would guess in a few years I’d be cast in the national tour company with the original Tony Award winner, Donna McKechnie? Directed by original cast member Baayork Lee?

The show became an enormously important part of my life. Not one performance went by that I didn’t look up to ‘the second balcony’ during the 11 o’clock number “What I Did For Love” and thank the universe for the ‘chance to dance.’

Today is, incredibly, the 45th anniversary of the opening night of A Chorus Line on Broadway. What an incredible gift this show has been to me.

From ‘Mark’ to ‘Bobby’ to directing the show and passing on what I learned from Donna, Baayork, Kay Cole (original ‘Maggie’), and my dear wonderful Thommie Walsh, I say thank you.

#whatididforlove

p.s. If you know the show, you know the monologue I quote to begin this post 😉

Happy Birthday Thommie Walsh

I originally posted this on March 15, 2011.  This is an important post for me, which I’ve now shared for the past four years.  And I plan to post it every year in dear Thommie’s memory.

I think of Thommie Walsh so often I can’t tell you. Today would have been Thommie’s 65th birthday.

Love and miss you madly, Thommie.

**********************************************************

Thommie was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways. As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out. His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer. As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards: for “A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine” and “My One And Only.”

Many, many other accomplishments and awards came Thommie’s way. Too numerous to mention.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend. In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her developing one woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me. Every single day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and did what I could to help. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

He was constantly supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. A few years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of meeting me for dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. I honestly loved this man. My wonderful friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong.

I reached out to everyone I could. At one point – on Christmas eve – I stood outside a holiday dinner in the cold on the phone with Cynthia Onrubia who had assisted him on some shows. The news was not good. I was distraught. I practically begged this woman who barely understood who I was to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was slow to come over the next several months.

Then, on a hot summer night, June 16, 2007, he passed away. This boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called me and said “did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath in silence as long as I could. I didn’t want to know. Perhaps if I stopped breathing it wouldn’t be true.  Several heart-beats went by. Please let it be anything other than what I felt I already knew in my gut. I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. But the news had come.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Isn’t that funny?

I was honored to play his role in A Chorus Line several times and always thought of Thommie when I did. Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that said “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy – did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie every time I think of him, which is often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it without boundaries.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you still. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best. So, to steal a phrase from Thommie – “love you madly – always.”

Happy Birthday Thommie Walsh

I originally posted this on March 15, 2011.  This is an important post for me, which I’ve now shared for the past three years.  And I plan to post it every year in dear Thommie’s memory.

I think of Thommie Walsh so often I can’t tell you. Today would have been Thommie’s 64th birthday.

Love and miss you madly, Thommie.

**********************************************************

Thommie was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways. As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out. His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer. As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards: for “A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine” and “My One And Only.”

Many, many other accomplishments and awards came Thommie’s way. Too numerous to mention.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend. In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her developing one woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me. Every single day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and did what I could to help. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

He was constantly supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. A few years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of meeting me for dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. I honestly loved this man. My wonderful friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong. I reached out to everyone I could. At one point – on a cold Christmas eve – I stood outside a holiday dinner in the cold on the phone with Cynthia Onrubia who had assisted him on some shows. The news was not good. I was distraught. I practically begged this woman who barely understood who I was to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was slow to come over the next several months. And then, on a hot summer night, June 16, 2007, he passed away. This boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called me and said “did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath in silence as long as I could. I didn’t want to know. Perhaps if I stopped breathing it wouldn’t be true.  Several heart-beats went by. Please let it be anything that didn’t manifest in my imagination. I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. But the news had come.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Isn’t that funny?

I was honored to play his role in A Chorus Line several times and always thought of Thommie when I did. Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that said “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy – did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie every time I think of him, which is often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it without boundaries.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you still. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best. So, to steal a phrase from Thommie – “love you madly – always.”

Happy birthday Thommie Walsh

I originally posted this on March 15, 2011.  This is an important post for me, which I’ve now shared for the past two years.  And I plan to post it every year in dear Thommie’s memory.

I think of Thommie Walsh so often I can’t tell you. Today would have been Thommie’s 63rd birthday.

Love and miss you madly, Thommie.

**********************************************************

Thommie was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways. As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out. His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer. As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards: for “A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine” and “My One And Only.”

Many, many other accomplishments and awards came Thommie’s way. Too numerous to mention.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend. In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her developing one woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me. Every single day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and did what I could to help. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

He was constantly supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. A few years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of meeting me for dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. I honestly loved this man. My wonderful friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong. I reached out to everyone I could. At one point – on a cold Christmas eve – I stood outside a holiday dinner in the cold on the phone with Cynthia Onrubia who had assisted him on some shows. The news was not good. I was distraught. I practically begged this woman who barely understood who I was to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was slow to come over the next several months. And then, on a hot summer night, June 16, 2007, he passed away. This boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called me and said “did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath in silence as long as I could. I didn’t want to know. Perhaps if I stopped breathing it wouldn’t be true.  Several heart-beats went by. Please let it be anything that didn’t manifest in my imagination. I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. But the news had come.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Isn’t that funny?

I was honored to play his role in A Chorus Line several times and always thought of Thommie when I did. Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that said “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy – did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie every time I think of him, which is often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it without boundaries.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you still. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best. So, to steal a phrase from Thommie – “love you madly – always.”

In memory of Thommie Walsh

I originally posted this last year on March 15, 2011. I miss Thommie Walsh so often I can’t tell you. This will be an annual post for me. Today would have been Thommie’s 62nd birthday.  Love you madly, Thommie.

**********************************************************

Thommie was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways. As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out. His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer. As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards: for “A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine” and “My One And Only.”

Many, many other accomplishments and awards came Thommie’s way. Too numerous to mention.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend. In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her developing one woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me. Every single day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and did what I could to help. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

He was constantly supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. A few years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of meeting me for dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. I honestly loved this man. My wonderful friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong. I reached out to everyone I could. At one point – on a cold Christmas eve – I stood outside a holiday dinner in the cold on the phone with Cynthia Onrubia who had assisted him on some shows. The news was not good. I was distraught. I practically begged this woman who barely understood who I was to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was slow to come over the next several months. And then, on a hot summer night, June 16, 2007, he passed away. This boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called me and said “did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath as long as I could. I didn’t want to know. Several heart-beats went by. Please let it be anything that didn’t manifest in my imagination. I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. She was sad to report the news.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Isn’t that funny?

I was honored to play his role in A Chorus Line several times and always thought of Thommie when I did. Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that said “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy – did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie every time I think of him, which is often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it without boundaries.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you still. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best. So, to steal a phrase from Thommie – “love you madly – always”

In memory of Thommie Walsh

March 15, 2011. Would have been Thommie Walsh’s 61st birthday.

Thommie was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.

Thommie came into my life in so many ways. As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out. His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer. As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards: for “A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine” and “My One And Only.”

Many, many other accomplishments and awards came Thommie’s way. Too numerous to mention.

But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend. In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her developing one woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me. Every single day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and did what I could to help. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.

He was constantly supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. A few years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of meeting me for dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”

His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. I honestly loved this man. My wonderful friend.

In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong. I reached out to everyone I could. At one point – on a cold Christmas eve – I stood outside a holiday dinner in the cold on the phone with Cynthia Onrubia who had assisted him on some shows. The news was not good. I was distraught. I practically begged this woman who barely understood who I was to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.

News was slow to come over the next several months. And then, on a hot summer night, June 16, 2007, he passed away. This boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called me and said “did you hear about Thommie?”

I held my breath as long as I could. I didn’t want to know. Several heart-beats went by. Please let it be anything that didn’t manifest in my imagination. I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong.

I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. She was sad to report the news.

Gone.

But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Isn’t that funny?

I was honored to play his role in A Chorus Line several times and always thought of Thommie when I did. Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that said “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”

Boy – did the world notice Thommie.

I miss Thommie every time I think of him, which is often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it without boundaries.

I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.

Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.

Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you still. I always will.

Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best. So, to steal a phrase from Thommie – “love you madly – always”