Manheim Fox, a producer of the 1980s Broadway hit “Sophisticated Ladies” who worked with a variety of musical and theatrical artists, including George Burns, Barbra Streisand and Johnny Cash, died from a heart condition in Phoenix, Ariz., on Sept. 23. He was 77.
Fox produced a five-LP retrospective of Duke Ellington’s music that eventually led to the musical “Sophisticated Ladies,” starring Gregory Hines, based on Ellington’s work.
“Sophisticated Ladies” ran for 767 performances on Broadway in the early 1980s and was Tony nominated for best musical in 1981.
Fox produced five subsequent productions of “Sophisticated Ladies” throughout the world.
His record career included numerous anthology albums including Orson Welles’ famous broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”; “The Golden Age of Comedy,” narrated by George Burns; and “Showstoppers” — 50 performances by the original casts in Broadway musicals including Ethel Merman, Rex Harrison, Barbra Streisand and Ezio Pinza. TV credits include “The Best of Broadway” for CBS and “Enchanted Evenings With Rodgers and Hammerstein” for PBS.
More recently Fox produced three original children’s musicals, “On Our Own,” “Relatively Speaking” and “Questionable Quest,” which was performed at Broadway’s Beacon Theater.
Fox was born and raised in New York. His first major New York offering was a show called “The Roots of Jazz” at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village in 1959. Thereafter he presented jazz festivals with Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan and folk festivals at Carnegie Hall featuring a theatricalization of Carl Sandburg’s “The American Songbag” with Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Staple Singers.
Fox also presented “A Happening With Salvador Dali” at Lincoln Center, with Salvador Dali painting on a huge scrim onstage and facing the audience while ballet dancers improvised to a live jazz band.
During the years he lived in Puerto Rico, Fox hosted a weekly radio show called “From Here to Broadway,” and wrote a weekly newspaper column for the San Juan Star called “Diary of a Producer.”
He is survived by his four sons and three grandchildren.