Director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, who will always be remembered for her groundbreaking work for musicals Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, has died at the age of 92.
Theatres across London’s West End will be dimming their lights at 7pm on Monday 2 July as a tribute by the theatre industry and audience members to the legendary choreographer. The tradition of dimming theatre lights has long been performed in the West End to pay respects to theatre’s most renowned contributors.
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre, said:
“Dame Gillian Lynne’s contribution to theatre was inestimable. Her career, which spanned over seven decades, encompassed performance, choreography and directing. She worked across so many of the West End and Broadway’s top venues and productions and won numerous awards and accolades. We are proud to celebrate her extraordinary legacy tonight in the West End.”
On 22 June 2018 Lynne attended a reception to officially re-open the New London Theatre as The Gillian Lynne Theatre. Joined by friends, family and colleagues from shows such as Cats, Phantom of the Opera and School of Rock the Musical – Lloyd Webber’s current show at the theatre – Andrew Lloyd Webber with Cameron Mackintosh celebrated with speeches from the stage as well as a presentation to Lynne of the official key to the theatre.
Lynne’s husband of 40 years, Peter Land, posted news of her death on Twitter, writing: “Rest In Peace my darling Gillie. I am heartbroken to write that Dame Gillian Lynne DBE and my dearest wife and friend and love for 40 years passed away at 6.20pm tonight 1 July 2018 at the Princess Grace Hospital. She leaves behind a huge legacy.”
Rest In Peace my darling Gillie. I am heartbroken to write that Dame Gillian Lynne DBE & my dearest wife & friend & love for 40 years passed away at 6.20pm tonight 1st July 2018 at the Princess Grace Hospital. She leaves behind a huge legacy&is adored by many espec @peterland_uk pic.twitter.com/Rn3182mRPt
— Dame Gillian Lynne (@Gillian_Lynne) July 1, 2018
Among the tributes that have poured in from all corners of the industry are those below:
Matthew Bourne: “You supported and inspired me from the very beginning… your spirit and love of dance and dancers lives on in all of us who share that love.”
RIP Dear Gillie… you supported and inspired me from the very beginning… your spirit & love of dance & dancers lives on in all of us who share that love ❤️ @Gillian_Lynne #DameGillianLynne all love to @peterland_uk x pic.twitter.com/g2jzQwNaGf
— Matthew Bourne (@SirMattBourne) July 1, 2018
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Farewell dearest Gillie, three generations of the British musical owe so much to you.”
Born in Bromley, Kent, Lynne began her 50-year career in showbusiness by joining Sadler’s Wells Ballet during the Second World War and while there had roles created for her by Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann.
Not long afterwards, she began to earn an international reputation for her innovative stage work, including bringing jazz dance to England with Dudley Moore and her company Collages, and directing the first working-class musical The Matchgirls. She was responsible for staging and choreographing more than 50 Broadway, West End and international stage productions in addition to her work on 11 feature films and as an award-winning television director (The Muppet Show, Half a Sixpence).
As a choreographer and director, she worked with the Australian Ballet, Royal Opera House, RSC and ENO in addition to Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love. Lynne was made a dame in 2014 and received a special Olivier Award in 2013.