Jack F. Lee (born John Francis Lee), beloved musical director of both stage and screen, passed away peacefully on March 2, 2016 in his home at the age of 86. Mr. Lee was one of Broadway’s leading conductors and musical directors who worked with composers/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 Jack 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.
Mr. Lee put acts together for Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Gibbs, Juliet Prowse, and Tommy Tune.
Mr. Lee served as musical supervisor on the filming of Sweet Charity and coached Shirley MacLaine in Postcards From The Edge. Mr. Lee wrote the dance music for Carol Burnett’s television special, Calamity Jane.
Last year’s winter term Mr. Lee was still teaching as adjunct professor in the drama department of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Up until the very end Mr. Lee was working on various projects, including All That Glitters, the Liberace Musical, Zarra, the musical and a new opera by Laurence Guittard.
Jack Lee was born in Lakewood, Ohio on July 30, 1929. He studied piano, singing and drama at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music. Jack 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 the role of Cosme McMoon in the Off-Broadway production of Souvenir, starring Judy Kaye.
His focus as musical director was always for the music to serve the actor and not the other way around. He would help actors make the music and lyrics their own and communicate honestly in their natural voice.
Jack is predeceased by his collaborator Charles Kakatsakis, his collaborator on their musical theatre 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. Many friends, students and colleagues who had the profound pleasure of knowing Jack and sharing his humor, friendship and passion for music, theater and life, also survive Jack Lee and will miss him greatly.
The Jack Lee Music Theatre Collection will be housed in a newly dedicated space at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music. Donations in Jack’s memory 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 at:
Select “other” and add Jack Lee Memorial Fund