Onna White


Broadway and Oscar-winning choreographer Onna White died April 8 in Los Angeles of natural causes. She was 83.

White received eight Tony nominations as choreographer of such musicals as “Mame,” “Irma La Douce,” “Bye, Bye Birdie” and “The Music Man.” Although choreography is not a regular category for the Academy Award, White’s work in “Oliver!” was considered so outstanding that the Academy gave her an Honorary Oscar at the 1969 ceremony.

She was known for her large-scale, intricate dance routines and her meticulous planning When she began work on “Oliver!,” for example, she reread Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” to better design dances for the show’s characters.

Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, White began dance lessons at the age of 12 and began her career with the San Francisco Ballet Co. She became a featured dancer in the original Broacast cast of “Finian’s Rainbow,” continuing to perform in “Regina,” “Arms and the Girl,” “Guys and Dolls,” where she also became assistant to choreographer Michael Kidd, and “Silk Stockings.” She rose to the position of full choreographer on “Carmen Jones” and, in l955, choreographed a rvival of “Finian’s Rainbow,” her first Broadway musical as a performer.

Subsequently, she choreographed both the Broadway and film productions of “The Music Man,” “Mame,” and “l776”, as well as the Broadway musicals including “Irma LaDouce,” “Half a Sixpence,” ” “Gigi,” “Goodtime Charley,” and “The American Dance Machine.” Her films also included “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The Great Waltz” and “Pete’s Dragon.”

She won Tony nominations for the Broadway productions of “I Love My Wife,” “Ilya Darling,” “Mame,” “Half a Sixpence,” “Irma La Douce,” “Take Me Along,” “Whoop-Up” and “The Music Man.” She was honored in l999 with the “Gypsy” award by the Professional Dancers Society, an affiliate of The Actors’ Fund of America.

White was married to Broadway musical star Larry Douglas, who died in 1996. She is survived by two children and two grandchildren.

Donations may be made to The Actors’ Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, New York City, N.Y. 10019.

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