The Broadway community mourns the loss of Geoffrey Holder, the 1975 Tony Award-winning director and costume designer of The Wiz who died on Sunday at the age of 84. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory Friday, October 10th, at exactly 7:45pm for one minute.
Geoffrey Holder was a multi-talented stage and film artist who directed and designed the original Broadway production of The Wiz for which he won two 1975 Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design. In 1978, Mr. Holder directed and choreographed the Broadway musical Timbuktu!, receiving a 1978 Tony Award nomination for Best Costume Design.
“No one who saw The Wiz will ever forget the memorable experience, in large part thanks to the direction and design brought to the Broadway stage by Geoffrey Holder,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League. “An incredibly talented artist seen in many mediums, his visual creativity and influence was unforgettable.”
Mr. Holder made his Broadway stage debut in House of Flowers, the 1954 musical by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote. 1957, he played Lucky in an all-black production of Waiting for Godot. In 1964 he supported Josephine Baker in a Broadway revue built around the legendary performer.
In the 1950’s, Holder was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York. As a choreographer, Holder has created dance pieces for many companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Movie career highlights include: All Night Long, Doctor Dolittle, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Boomerang, Live and Let Die. In the 1982 film version of the musical Annie, Holder played the role of Punjab. He was also the voice of Ray in Bear in the Big Blue House and provided narration for Tim Burton’s version of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Holder was a spokesman for the 1970’s 7Up soft drink “uncola” advertising campaign. He reprised his role as the 7Up spokesman in the 2011 season finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice”.
Holder was a prolific painter, art collector, book author and music composer. As a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship in fine arts in 1956. In 1955, Holder married dancer Carmen de Lavallade, whom he met when both were in the cast of the musical House of Flowers. They had one son, Leo Anthony Lamont. Holder’s brother was artist Boscoe Holder.
He is survived by his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, and their son, Léo.
Click below to read my tribute article, and Holder’s son Léo’s intimate account of his last days.
Geoffrey Holder, Artist, Actor, Dancer, Choreographer, Two-Time Tony Award-winning Director and Costume Designer for The Wiz, Dies at 84; Son Pens Intimate Account of Last Days
Other articles by Lia Chang:
THE WIZ Turns 40- Photos from Original Broadway Production and BC/EFA Gypsy of The Year Celebration Featuring André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ken Page, Charl Brown, Carly Hughes, Christina Sajous, Alton Fitzgerald White, Lillias White and More
Oct. 10: Sir Geoffrey Holder Dimming of Broadway Lights Observation at the Majestic Theatre by Black Stars of The Great White Way at 7:30P.M.
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Crafting a Career
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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