British choreographer and director Gillian Lynne, whose numerous credits include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Aspects of Love, as well as ballet, theatre and opera productions, has passed away at age 92.
The news of her death was released by her husband Peter Land on Twitter.
Rest In Peace my darling Gillie. I am heartbroken to write that Dame Gillian Lynne DBE & my dearest wife & friend & love for 40 years passed away at 6.20pm tonight 1st July 2018 at the Princess Grace Hospital. She leaves behind a huge legacy&is adored by many espec @peterland_uk pic.twitter.com/Rn3182mRPt
— Dame Gillian Lynne (@Gillian_Lynne) July 1, 2018
Lynne’s death on July 1 follows an announcement less than two weeks ago on June 22 from Lloyd Webber that the New London Theatre, which was home to Cats from 1981 to 2002, was to be renamed in her honour – the first time a woman had had a West End theatre named after her. Speaking at the occasion, Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of Cats, said: “The two things I learnt on the first day of rehearsals was that you had the wickedest sense of humour ever and you liked to get your own way.” He added: “You’ve made many stars look wonderful over your career, but today you are the star of this theatre.” The Gillian Lynne as it is now called is currently hosting Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock.
Over a career spanning more than five decades, Lynne worked for companies including the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Opera, and The Australian Ballet for whom she created the company’s first television commission in 1975, Fool on the Hill to music by the Beatles. She was involved with more than 60 productions in the West End and on Broadway, as well as 11 films and more than 100 television programs, including numerous episodes of The Muppet Show. In opera, she was involved with productions including The Trojans, The Flying Dutchman and Parsifal among others.
Born in Bromley, Kent in 1926, Lynne began her career as a ballerina, dancing with Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which later became The Royal Ballet). At age 20, she danced her first major solo in Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House. Her best known roles included the Black Queen in Checkmate and Queen of the Wilis in Giselle. She choreographed and directed ballet before moving to musical theatre.
She made her Broadway debut in 1965 with the musical comedy The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, but it was her work on Cats in 1981 that catapulted her to international fame. She won a 1981 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals, while the show also won her a Tony Award nomination.
The many other musicals that she choreographed include The Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, The Secret Garden, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She met her husband in 1978 while co-directing a production of My Fair Lady.
RIP Dear Gillie… you supported and inspired me from the very beginning… your spirit & love of dance & dancers lives on in all of us who share that love ❤ @Gillian_Lynne #DameGillianLynne all love to @peterland_uk x pic.twitter.com/g2jzQwNaGf
— Matthew Bourne (@SirMattBourne) July 1, 2018
In 2013, Lynne received a Lifetime Achievement Special Olivier, and was made a Dame the following year for services to Dance and Musical Theatre.
Tributes have poured in. Renowned choreographer Matthew Bourne said on Twitter that Lynne had “supported and inspired” him, while performer John Owen-Jones described her as “one of a kind”.