Ann Crumb, Broadway Star of 'Aspects of Love,' 'Anna Karenina,' Dies at 69

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Ann Crumb

She was the first American actress and singer chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber to originate a starring role.

Ann Crumb, the Broadway and West End star of Aspects of Love, The Goodbye Girl, Nine, Les Miserables, Chess and Anna Karenina, has died. She was 69.

Crumb died Thursday at her parents' home in Media, Pennsylvania, after a four-and-a-half year battle with ovarian cancer.

She was the first American chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber to originate a starring role when she appeared as Rose Vibert in the London and Broadway productions of Aspects of Love, and she earned a Tony nomination for her title role in Anna Karenina.

Bill Schuman, Crumb's longtime vocal coach, in a statement said she "was a unique and rare talent. Stylistically she could go from the highest Broadway belts to beautiful legitimate operatic head tones. That’s why so many composers sought her out."

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 25, 1950, Crumb early on learned to play the violin, with an eye to a concert career. She attended college and graduate school at the University of Michigan with degrees in music.

But a fall from a horse ended her hopes of being a musician. Instead, Crumb acted and sang on the side while preparing for a career in clinical medicine. It was only later, while working as a clinician in Philadelphia, that she took a job in the national tour of El Grande de Coca Cola.

From that was born her musical theatrical career, which led to leading roles on Broadway and London’s West End for which she received the Tony nom, a Barrymore Award, three other Barrymore noms and an extensive list of credits, including everything from the classics and post-modernist theater, from Shakespeare to Shepard and Ionesco.

She starred opposite John Cullum in the national tour of Man of La Mancha and the off-Broadway revival of Rags, and her TV credits included Law & Order and One Life to Live.

Crumb was a lifelong advocate for animal rescue and adoption. In December 2009, she coordinated a "dog lift" of more than 50 dogs, all slated for euthanasia at shelters in the Midwest, to no-kill rescues in the Northeast, where homes could be found for them. She co-founded and was president of The Rescue Express, a nonprofit animal rescue organization.

Crumb is survived by her father, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Crumb; her mother, the violinist Elizabeth Crumb; and her brothers, composer David Crumb and Peter Crumb.