Legit helmer Ockrent dies in New York at 53

Director recently worked on 'Terrasse'

NEW YORK — Legit director Mike Ockrent, helmer of the smash Broadway musicals “Me and My Girl” and “Crazy for You,” died Thursday at Gotham’s Sloan Kettering Hospital of acute leukemia. He was 53.

Ockrent most recently directed Manhattan Theater Club’s Off Broadway production of “La Terrasse” in the spring. He was also in pre-production on a pair of Broadway-bound new musicals, “The Night They Raided Minsky’s,” in collaboration with Susan Birkenhead and Charles Strouse; and “The Producers,” based on the Mel Brooks movie.

Other projects in development included a new theater company in Gotham, the Play Group, that he co-founded with Kate Loewald and Jack Temchin. The company is planning its first production for the new year.

Ockrent was married to Susan Stroman, the choreographer and co-author of the Broadway-bound dance play “Contact.” Both were best known for their acclaimed collaboration on the 1992 Broadway tuner “Crazy for You,” which won three Tony Awards, including best musical. “Crazy for You” was one of the season’s big hits and went on to play 1,622 performances on Broadway. It also spawned several international and road companies. Recently, a taped version of the most recent touring company was seen on PBS’ “Great Performances.”

Ockrent won a Drama Desk nod for his direction of the 1986 tuner “Me and My Girl,” which was nominated for 13 Tonys and ran for 1,420 performances on Broadway. The London production of the musical won the Olivier award for best musical.

Ockrent’s most recent Broadway production was “Big,” the flop musical version of the popular movie. Ockrent also directed the perennial “A Christmas Carol” at Madison Square Garden Theater.

Ockrent was born in London on June 18, 1946. He earned a physics degree from Edinburgh U. before switching to legit. He started his biz career as a trainee director at the Perth Theater in Scotland, where he later became associate director. He served as artistic director of the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh from 1973-76.

London productions included “Union Jack and Bozo” at the Hampstead Theater; “Once a Catholic,” which also played Broadway; “Educating Rita,” by Willy Russell, at the Royal Shakespeare Co.; and “Watch on the Rhine,” with Peggy Ashcroft, at the National Theater. Ockrent also helmed an award-winning West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” which nabbed Olivier and Evening Standard Awards, and Cameron Mackintosh’s production of “Just So.”

Ockrent also served as a consultant on the Warner Bros. movie “Quest for Camelot,” and helmed two BBC films: “Dancin’ Thru the Dark,” written with Russell, which won an award at the 1990 Venice Film Festival; and “Money for Nothing,” featuring Martin Short.

Ockrent is survived by two children from a previous marriage, Ben and Natasha. Information about services was pending.

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