Alan Jay Axelrod, keyboardist for Barry Manilow and later musical director of improv comedy groups The Groundlings and TheaterSports, died Feb. 4 in Los Angeles due to complications from diabetes. He was 61.
Axelrod was born in Pittsburgh, Penn. and attended Fordham U. While still in law school, he performed on the first national tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He practiced law for a year before Barry Manilow tapped him to play keyboards, and he went on to perform with Manilow for the next five years of the singer’s rising career.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1978, where he was musical director for three national tours of “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road.” In the 1980s, he signed on as musical director for The Groundlings, working with performers including Julia Sweeney and Jon Lovitz. He then served as musical director for the Los Angeles TheaterSports troupe.
His career was cut short in 1997 when he suffered a disabling brain injury in a car accident in New Mexico while on his way to a show.
He is survived by a sister, a brother and a half-brother.
Donations may be made to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which aids sick and disabled musicians.