Philip Rose, who produced “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway as well as “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?,” “Purlie” and “Shenandoah,” died Tuesday, May 31, in Englewood, N.J. He was 89.
In 1959 “A Raisin in the Sun,” Rose’s first show as a theatrical producer, made Broadway history as the first Rialto production addressing the black experience. It was also the first of a work by a black playwright (Lorraine Hansberry) and the first to be staged by a black director (Lloyd Richards).
Rose was involved as a director, producer and/or author of many Broadway productions, drawing three Tony nominations for the musical “Purlie” as director, producer, and co-author. “Shenandoah” received six nominations and won two Tonys, including best book for Rose.
Rose was born on the Lower East Side into a poor Jewish family. He became a music producer and a denizen of Manhattan’s progressive political circles.
Rose had met Hansberry when both worked summer jobs in the Catskills; in the mid-1950s, she showed him part of a play about a poor black family living in Chicago.
Though he’d never produced a play before, Rose became bent on bringing Hansberry’s work to Broadway. He cast Sidney Poitier in the lead role, and the pair would remain close friends until the end of Rose’s life.
In 1964 Rose generated a brouhaha on Broadway with his nonconventional casting in “The Owl and the Pussycat,” with the black actress Diana Sands appearing opposite Alan Alda.
Rose’s memoir “You Can’t Do That on Broadway! ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and Other Theatrical Improbabilities” was published in 2004.
In response to the book, Maya Angelou said, “Philip Rose was in the right place so many times and he was the right person to be in those places.”
Rose is survived by his wife, actress Doris Belack; three sisters; and a brother.