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Lawrence Kasha; TV and Stage Writer, Director

October 01, 1990|PAUL LIEBERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lawrence Kasha, a writer, director and producer for both the stage and television, died Saturday in Los Angeles at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 57.

The Tony-award winner, whose credits included the stage shows "Applause" and "Woman of the Year," in recent years was the producer of the long-running television series "Knots Landing." He died of brain cancer, a spokesman said.

A child actor who performed in musicals like "Brigadoon," Kasha was still a student at Brooklyn's James Madison High School when he created his first musical, "Sing." He then began producing plays in Greenwich Village while studying at New York University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In 1964, with partner Hal Prince, he produced his first Broadway musical, "She Loves Me."

After directing Barbra Streisand in the London production of "Funny Girl," Kasha garnered a "Best Musical" Tony in 1970 as producer of the Broadway production, "Applause," starring Lauren Bacall. In 1981, he produced "Woman of the Year," winning four more Tonys.

He explained his emphasis on musicals some years ago by noting that "audiences don't really want drama in the theater anymore. They seem to get all they want on TV and at the movie theater. The musical has become the predominant theatrical form in the United States."

But, turning his attention to television, he later wrote and directed many episodes of "Knots Landing," for which he was co-executive producer. He took pleasure this spring in recounting how the CBS show had endured when many of the other popular prime-time soap operas, like "Dynasty," had died out.

"We keep the show as middle-class as possible," he said. "They are not rarefied people or spoiled rich people. They share all the problems that everybody can identify with--marriage relationships, raising kids. Our rule is whatever happens on life could happen on 'Knots.' "

In 1987, he returned to the theater to direct the national touring company of "Singin' in the Rain." Most recently, he produced "At Wit's End," a one-man show about Oscar Levant.

Kasha, a resident of Beverly Hills, is survived by his younger brother, Al Kasha, an Oscar-winning motion picture score composer; his sister-in-law, Ceil, and a niece, Dana. The family has asked that remembrances be sent to the American Cancer Society.

Kasha is to be buried Tuesday at Hillside Memorial Chapel in Los Angeles. Memorial services in both New York and Los Angeles are to be announced.

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