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Tony-Winning 'Hello, Dolly!' Lyricist Dies

September 22, 1987|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Michael Stewart, the author and lyricist who won Tony awards for such successful Broadway shows as "Hello, Dolly!" and "Bye, Bye Birdie," has died of pneumonia in a Manhattan hospital.

Stewart, who was nominated for five additional Tonys, was 63 when he died Sunday at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

Stewart graduated from Yale University in the 1950s and quickly caught the attention of New Yorkers with a series of revues he wrote in that decade.

(He once said the theater became his chosen profession after he saw Ethel Merman in Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" when he was 10.)

His first professional writing credits were for the revues "Razzle Dazzle," "The Shoestring Revue," "The Littlest Revue" and "Shoestring 57."

He worked on the classic television series "Your Show of Shows," which starred Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and featured a writing staff that included Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Neil Simon.

In 1961, Stewart and director Gower Champion collaborated on the show "Carnival!" That production won the New York Drama Critics Circle award.

With composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams, Stewart next penned a musical based on the emerging force of rock 'n' roll. Tentatively titled "Let's Go Steady," the play went to Broadway under Gower Champion's direction and starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera and Paul Lynde.

By then the title had been changed to "Bye, Bye Birdie" and Stewart, Strouse, Champion and Adams all won Tonys.

Stewart's next collaboration also was with Champion and composer Jerry Herman on "Hello Dolly!" It opened in January, 1964, at New York's St. James Theater.

Stewart received his second Tony for that adaptation of Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" and over the years was nominated for "Carnival!" in 1961, "Mack and Mabel" in 1975 (a critical but not a commercial success); "I Love My Wife" in 1977, "Barnum" in 1980 and "42nd Street" in 1981.

His other tributes included two Grammy nominations for "I Love My Wife" and "Barnum."

Since 1974 Stewart's most frequent collaborator was Mark Bramble, who said Monday that his longtime partner's death was "the end of an era in my life."

Despite his long and successful career, Stewart told The New York Times in 1979 that "I don't know why any bright person would want to be a musical-book writer. You're scorned by critics, you get no recognition from the public and the money isn't that good either."

He is survived by his mother, a sister and a brother.

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