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Cy Feuer, Broadway producer, dies at 95

Broadway lights will dim Thursday in Tony-winner's honor
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cy Feuer, who with Ernest H. Martin produced some of Broadway’s biggest hits including “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” as well as the movie version of “Cabaret,” died Wednesday at home. He was 95.

His death was announced by Jed Bernstein, head of the League of American Theatres and Producers, the Broadway trade organization where Feuer once served as president and later chairman. No cause of death was given.

Feuer and Martin (that’s how they were always billed) were the stuff of Broadway legend. The duo had five hit musicals in a row, starting in 1948 with “Where’s Charley?” It was followed by “Guys and Dolls” (1950), “Can-Can” (1953), “The Boy Friend” (1954) and “Silk Stockings” (1955).

Nominated for nine Tonys, Feuer won three, one for “Guys and Dolls” and two for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He received a lifetime achievement Tony in 2003.

Feuer and Martin, who died in 1995, met through Feuer’s brother in Los Angeles. The two men made their Broadway producing debut with “Where’s Charley?” — hiring a Hollywood songwriter, Frank Loesser, to compose the score.

The show, based on the farce “Charley’s Aunt” and starring Ray Bolger, was panned by most critics. But it became a hit after Bolger began leading the audience in singing what became the musical’s best-known song, “Once in Love with Amy.”

The two producers collaborated next with Loesser on “Guys and Dolls,” considered one of the greatest of all Broadway musicals. Based on a Damon Runyon short story, it chronicled the colorful characters of Times Square. “Guys and Dolls” ran for 1,200 performances and had a successful Broadway revival in the 1990s.

In 1953, Feuer and Martin produced Cole Porter’s “Can-Can,” which also was derided by critics. Yet the show was embraced by audiences because of Porter’s score, which included “I Love Paris” and “C’est Magnifique,” and because it featured a blazing new dance talent, Gwen Verdon.

The following year, Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in “The Boy Friend,” Sandy Wilson’s gentle spoof of 1920s musicals. And in 1955, Feuer and Martin produced Porter’s last Broadway musical, “Silk Stockings,” which was based on the Greta Garbo film “Ninotchka.”

A flop finally caught up with the producing team in 1958 with “Whoop-Up,” a rowdy tale set on an Indian reservation. It collapsed in less than two months.

Success is ‘a completely mystifying thing’The duo bounced back in 1961 when they again collaborated with Loesser and Burrows on “How to Success in Business Without Really Trying,” which starred Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee. It told the story of a disarming young man who works his way up the corporate ladder to become chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Co.

The musical, which ran for 1,417 performances, won the Tony as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

Among the other musicals the two men produced were “Little Me” (1962) starring Sid Caesar, “Skyscraper” (1965), “Walking Happy” (1966) and “The Act” (1977) starring Liza Minnelli.

Besides the film version of “Cabaret,” Feuer and Martin produced the movie version of “A Chorus Line.”

Born Jan. 15, 1911 in Brooklyn, Feuer studied music at Juilliard. He worked as a trumpet player at Radio City Music Hall, among other theaters, and later became head of the music department at Republic Pictures in the 1930s and into the ’40s.

In his autobiography, “I Got the Show Right Here,” published in 2003, Feuer mused on the vagaries of Broadway hits and misses.

“It is a completely mystifying thing, success,” he wrote. “What works and what doesn’t. You can apply faultless logic, work with geometric precision, allow for every single pitfall, have the perfect cast and the perfect story, and still turn out a dud. There are so many complicating intangibles. It’s like the chaos theory. The miracle is that it sometimes works.”

The lights on Broadway marquees and other theaters around the country will be dimmed Thursday in Feuer’s honor.

Feuer is survived by two sons, Jed and Bob. His wife, Posy, died last year.