Stage Door News

Toronto: Royal Alex to dim its marquee lights in honour of producer S. Roger Horchow

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

To honour the life of Broadway producer S. Roger Horchow, the marquee lights of the Royal Alexander Theatre will be dimmed on Thursday, May 21 at 8 PM. 

Mr. Horchow, who died on May 2 at his home in Dallas, TX, at age 91, co-produced with David and Ed Mirvish the Canadian premiere production of Crazy For You, which played from 1993 to 1995 at the Royal Alex.

David Mirvish said: “Roger was the classic gentleman producer, someone who came to work in the theatre late in life in order to fulfill a lifelong passion of creating a new work that celebrated the music of George Gershwin. Everything he did, he did with the utmost respect for the artists and to preserve the legacy of one of the world’s greatest composers. It was a joy to know and work with him."

The son of a lawyer and concert pianist, Mr. Horchow was born in 1928 in Cincinnati. It wasn’t unusual for his mother to have fellow musicians over to the family home. One night, he woke in the night to a beautiful piano melody. When he went downstairs he found the man at piano who was playing the music. That man was George Gershwin and his music left an indelible impression on Mr,. Horchow.

Soon, he learned more about Gershwin and discovered the great songs the composer had written with his lyricist brother, Ira. He also discovered the many Broadway musical comedies the Gershwin brother had written, including one called Girl Crazy, which premiered in 1930 and starred Ethel Merman and made a star of the then unknown Ginger Rogers. It later was adapted into a 1943 film starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

After graduating from Yale University and servicing in the Korean War, Mr. Horchow became a merchandise director for Neiman Marcus department store. He turned his success at his job into founding a new business, the Horchow Catalogue, which revolutionized the retail business by offering luxury jewellery, household goods, decor and furniture strictly by mail order. It was the first of its kind because it wasn’t affiliated with a bricks-and-mortal store. In fact, it was decades ahead of its time, foreshadowing the online retail business that now thrives.

When the Horchow Catalogue grew too big for Mr. Horchow to be able to have full control, he sold it to Neiman Marcus in 1988 for $117 million.

He now had the time to turn his full attention to fulfilling his dream of producing Girl Crazy on Broadway. He collaborated with veteran Broadway producer Elizabeth Williams on the project. He was involved in every aspect of the production, from choosing the songs to casting the show. When the show opened in 1992, it had a new book by Ken Ludwig (with a new plot) and a score comprised of some of the Gershwin’s greatest songs (with many that were not in the original Girl Crazy). It also had a new title — Crazy For You — and made a star of choreographer Susan Stroman and costume designer William Ivey Long, two monumental talents that were then fairly early in their careers and have gone on to create dozens of important shows.

The show opened to rave reviews and went on to win the Tony for Best Musical. It ran four years on Broadway. Besides the Toronto production, which ran for two years and won the 1994 Best Musical Dora Award), the musical also had  a London West End production, where it ran for three years and won the 1994 Best Musical Olivier Award. The musical also had a multi-year North American tour and many other productions around the world.

Having fulfilled his dream, Mr, Horchow went on to produce other Broadway musicals, including acclaimed revivals of Kiss Me Kate and Annie.

Photo: S. Roger Horchow. © 1976 Joe Laird.