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05/05/2011

Tony-winning playwright Arthur Laurents dies in New York

May 5, 2011 |  6:34 pm

ArthurLaurents Arthur Laurents, a Tony Award-winning playwright and director who wrote the books for the classic Broadway musicals "West Side Story" and "Gypsy" and later wrote the hit movies "The Way We Were" and "The Turning Point," died Thursday. He was believed to be 93.

Laurents died in his sleep at his home in New York City after a short illness, said his agent, Jonathan Lomma.

For his work on Broadway over more than six decades, Laurents won two Tony Awards — in 1968 as author of the book for best musical Tony winner "Hallelujah, Baby!" and in 1984 as best director of a musical for "La Cage aux Folles."

But he is best known for writing the books for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," both of which were Tony Award nominees for best musical and later were turned into movies.

"West Side Story," with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The contemporary Romeo and Juliet love story involving rival New York street gangs ran on Broadway from 1957 to 1959.

It was followed by the Robbins-directed "Gypsy," with music by Jule Styne  and lyrics by Sondheim. "A musical fable suggested by" stripper Gypsy Rose Lee's memoir and focusing on her driven, larger-than-life mother, Rose, played by Ethel Merman, "Gypsy" ran on Broadway from 1959 to 1961.

The complete Arthur Laurents obituary is here.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Arthur Laurents holding his screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film "Rope," an image taken from Laurents' memoir "Original Story."

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