Jack F. Lee (born John Francis Lee), musical director of both stage and screen, died March 2 in his home at the age of 86.
Lee was one of Broadway’s leading conductors and musical directors, having worked with composer-lyricists John Kander & Fred Ebb, Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields, Jule Styne, Richard Rogers, Stephen Sondheim, Charles Strouse, Alan Jay Lerner, Maury Yeston, Robert Wright & George Forrest, Sandy Wilson, Bob Merrill, Betty Comden & Adolph Green and Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones.
His Broadway, Off Broadway and tour credits include “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” with Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker; “Knickerbocker Holiday” with Burt Lancaster; “Funny Girl” with Marilyn Michaels; “No Strings,” directed by Joe Layton; “Irene” with Debbie Reynolds, directed by John Gielgud and Gower Champion; “Sweet Charity” with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse; “Irma La Douce” with Juliet Prowse; “George M” with Joel Grey; “Applause” with Lauren Bacall; “Annie Get Your Gun” with Debbie Reynolds, directed by Gower Champion; “Peter Pan” with Sandy Duncan; “My One and Only” with Tommy Tune and Twiggy; “Grand Hotel,” directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune; “Nick and Nora” with Barry Bostwick, Joanna Gleason and Christine Baranski, directed by Arthur Laurents; “My Fair Lady” with Richard Chamberlain; and “Mad About the Boy,” the all-star Noel Coward centennial celebration at Carnegie Hall.
In 1998 Lee conducted the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids concert at Avery Fisher Hall with all the women who played Sweet Charity during its runs (Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, Donna McKechnie & Debbie Allen) plus Robert Goulet, Whoopi Goldberg, Dom DeLuise and Charles Nelson Reilly.
Lee put acts together for Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Gibbs, Juliet Prowse and Tommy Tune.
He served as musical supervisor on the filming of “Sweet Charity” and coached Shirley MacLaine in “Postcards From the Edge.” Lee wrote the dance music for Carol Burnett’s television special “Calamity Jane.”
Mr. Lee was still teaching as adjunct professor in the drama department of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU last year. Up until the very end, Lee was working on various projects, including “All That Glitters, the Liberace Musical,” “Zarra, the Musical” and a new opera by Laurence Guittard.
Lee was born in Lakewood, Ohio. He studied piano, singing and drama at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music. He worked as an actor himself in many productions at the Cleveland Playhouse and Cain Park Theatre and was cast in the role of “Doc” on the CBS soap opera “Love of Life.” He also played Cosme McMoon in the Off Broadway production of “Souvenir,” starring Judy Kaye.
Jack is predeceased by Charles Kakatsakis, his collaborator on the musical theater workshops they successfully conducted together in New York for many years.
He is survived by his loved ones Connie Coit Kitchens, Benjamin Lee Kitchens, June Squibb and Harry Kakatsakis.
The Jack Lee Music Theatre Collection will be housed in a newly dedicated space at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music. Donations to support this effort as well as the Jack Lee Music Theatre Scholarship may be sent to:
Baldwin Wallace University Development Office
Baldwin Wallace University
Jack Lee Memorial Fund
275 Eastland Road
Berea, OH 44017
Online gifts may be submitted here. Select “other” and add Jack Lee Memorial Fund.