Paul Phillips, Broadway Stage Manager for Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, Dies at 95

Paul Phillips
Courtesy of BHBPR

Paul Phillips

He worked behind the scenes on 'Sweet Charity,' 'Pippin,' 'Chicago' and Judy Garland's 'At Home at the Palace.'

Paul Phillips, a stage manager on such legendary Broadway productions as Sweet Charity, Mame, Pippin and Chicago, died Saturday of natural causes in Naples, Florida, a family spokesman said. He was 95.

Phillips began his career as a Broadway stage manager in 1959 when George Abbott employed him for the musical Fiorello!, starring Tom Bosley. The famed directed then rehired him for his next play, Take Her, She's Mine, starring Art Carney, in 1961.

After working on The Rehearsal in 1963 and a City Center revival of Guys and Dolls in 1965, Phillips was asked by actress-dancer Gwen Verdon to join her next Broadway show, Sweet Charity.

When the musical comedy closed in 1967 after more than 600 performances, producer Sid Luft came calling, asking him to work on his wife's historic monthlong engagement, Judy Garland's At Home at the Palace.

Phillips took over as stage manager on the original production of Mame, starring Ann Miller, and worked on a 1970 revival of The Boy Friend, starring Sandy Duncan, before he collaborated with Bob Fosse on the nearly five-year run of Pippin and then, Chicago.

Phillips served on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, a revival of Mame starring Angela Lansbury in 1983 and Open Admissions, his final Broadway play, in 1984. He then managed stage productions at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City until his 1986 retirement.

Phillips and Verdon were very close, and he accompanied her to the Tony Awards, to Lincoln Center and to her appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, etc., until her death in October 2000.

Phillips was born on Oct. 1, 1925, in Pleasantville, New York. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and was deployed to the South Pacific during World War II. After the service, he moved to Hollywood to work as an actor before returning to New York.

Phillips also served as a stage manager in summer stock productions featuring the likes of Charlton Heston, Groucho Marx, Ethel Waters, Don Ameche, Tallulah Bankhead and Billie Burke.

After moving to Naples, Phillips was a founding board member of TheatreZone, a professional Actors' Equity Association company. He remained on its artistic advisory board until his death.

Survivors include his three nieces and a nephew. Donations in his memory can be sent TheatreZone at 2430 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 108-167, Naples, FL 34109 or by visiting here.