Thomas Meehan (writer)
Thomas Edward Meehan|
August 14, 1929
Ossining, New York, U.S.
August 21, 2017 (aged 88)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Hamilton College|
Karen Meehan (divorced)|
Carolyn Wagstaff Capstick (m. 1988)
|Works with||Mel Brooks|
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical|
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
Thomas Edward Meehan (August 14, 1929 – August 21, 2017) was an American playwright. He was best known for writing the books for the musicals Annie, The Producers, and Hairspray. Meehan also wrote the books for the musicals Young Frankenstein and Cry-Baby and co-wrote the books for Elf: The Musical and Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin.
Meehan was born in Ossining, New York, but grew up in Suffern, New York. His father, Thomas, was a businessman, and his mother, Helen Cecilia O’Neill, was an emergency department nurse. He graduated from Hamilton College.
In 1972, Meehan was asked to work on a musical based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. At first, Meehan was skeptical to accept the offer, but eventually accepted the offer after reading the strip. Meehan wrote Annie with Charles Strouse, who wrote the music. The production took five years to get to Broadway. Once the musical ran in 1977, it ran for 2,377 performances.
Additional credits include Ain't Broadway Grand; Oh, Kay!; Bombay Dreams, a musical adaptation of I Remember Mama; and Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, which was subsequently reworked and re-staged Off-Broadway as Annie Warbucks. He also wrote the libretto to the opera 1984.
In addition, Meehan was a long-time contributor of humor to The New Yorker, including the famous short story "Yma Dream"; an Emmy Award-winning writer of television comedy; and a collaborator on a number of screenplays, including Mel Brooks' Spaceballs; a remake of To Be or Not to Be; and the family drama One Magic Christmas. Meehan went on to work with Brooks on other projects on Broadway, perhaps the most notable of their adaptations was The Producers, based on the 1967 film. The show became a Broadway hit that dominated the 2001 Tony Awards and ran for more than 2,500 performances.
Meehan followed that with Hairspray, an adaptation based on John Waters’s 1988 film of the same name. It opened in 2002 and ran for 2,642 performances. He co-wrote the book, with Bob Martin, for Elf the Musical. He co-wrote the book for the production of the musical Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin which ran at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2010 and premiered on Broadway in 2012. In 2011 he revised the book originally written by Peter Stone for the Off-Broadway musical Death Takes a Holiday with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.
In 2012, Meehan wrote the book from the original screenplay by Sylvester Stallone for the musical Rocky. The show premiered in Hamburg in 2012, before transferring to Broadway in 2014.
Meehan held the distinction of being the only writer to have written three Broadway shows that ran for more than 2,000 performances. Reflecting on his work in an interview with The New York Observer in 1999, Meehan said "I wrote stories that were serious, very somber, trying to be in the style of William Faulkner. My career has always been that every time I try something really serious, it's no good, but if I try to be funny, then it works".
Meehan died on August 21, 2017, at his home in Manhattan, New York City, seven days after his 88th birthday. The cause was cancer. Five months prior to his death, Meehan had undergone surgery, which later caused his health to deteriorate.
Meehan was survived by two children from his first marriage with Karen Meehan, which ended in divorce, and two other children with Carolyn Wagstaff Capstick, whom he married in 1988 and with whom he remained until his death.
In reaction to his death, Mel Brooks wrote on Twitter: "Stunned by the news that my friend/co-writer Tom Meehan has died. I’ll miss his sweetness & talent. We have all lost a giant of the theatre." Similar to Brooks, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda released a statement on Twitter stating: "RIP to Thomas Meehan, one of the best around."
- Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
- Some other sources state 1932 and 1934 as a year of birth. The U.S. copyright office entry under his name lists 1929.
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- "Thomas Meehan Broadway Credits and Awards" playbillvault.com, accessed October 17, 2015
- "Thomas Meehan bio" Archived June 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. cityfile.com, accessed March 12, 2011. according to this biography, Meehan was born in 1929)
- "Thomas Meehan, Who Wrote the Books for Broadway Hits, Dies at 88". The New York Times. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- Gurley, George and Larocca, Amy. "Thomas Meehan, Writer – Horst of Fifth Avenue" Archived June 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., The New York Observer, November 14, 1999
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- Rothstein, Mervyn. "Troubled 'Annie 2' Closing Out of Town; Revisions Planned". The New York Times, January 16, 1990
- "Thomas Meehan". Who's Who, playbill.com, Retrieved January 30, 2011. Archived January 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- One Magic Christmas at the TCM Movie Database
- Hetrick, Adam."Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and George Wendt to Star in Elf – The Musical on Broadway" Archived August 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, August 11, 2010
- Jones, Kenneth."Limelight Musical, Starring Robert McClure and Ashley Brown, Opens at La Jolla Sept. 19" Archived November 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, September 19, 2010
- Suskin, Steven. "On the Record. Maury Yeston's 'Death Takes a Holiday' and the London Album of Styne, Comden and Green's 'Do Re Mi'" Archived March 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, October 20, 2011
- "'Rocky' musical bound for Broadway in 2014". usatoday.com. USA Today. April 28, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
- "Yo, Adrian! I'm Singin'!". nytimes.com. New York Times. December 5, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
- "Sylvester Stallone talks 'Rocky' musical". torontosun.com. Toronto Sun. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
- "'Rocky' Musical Set for a Bout With Broadway". variety.com. Variety. April 28, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- Reid Nakamura (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan, Writer of 'Annie,' 'Hairspray' and 'The Producers,' Dies at 88". The Wrap. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- "Thomas Meehan, Tony-Winning Story Writer of 'Annie,' 'Hairspray' Dies". NBC News. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- Jeremy Gerard (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan Has Died; 'Spaceballs', 'Annie', 'The Producers' Author Was 88". Deadline. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- "'Annie' writer Thomas Meehan dies at age 88". Fox News. August 22, 2017.
- "Mel Brooks on Twitter". Twitter. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- "Thomas Meehan, Tony-winning story writer of 'Annie,' dies at 88". The Los Angeles Times. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.