Joe Layton

Joe Layton (May 3, 1931 – May 5, 1994) was an American director and choreographer known primarily for his work on Broadway.[1]

Joe Layton
Joseph Lichtman

(1931-05-03)May 3, 1931
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 5, 1994(1994-05-05) (aged 63)
Key West, Florida. U.S.
OccupationChoreographer, dancer
Spouse(s)Evelyn Russell[1]
AwardsTony Award for Best Choreography
1962 No Strings
1969 George M!


Born Joseph Lichtman in Brooklyn, New York, Layton began his career as a dancer in Wonderful Town (1953), and he appeared uncredited in the ensemble of the original live TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957) starring Julie Andrews.[2] However, from the start, his primary interest was in musical staging. In addition to his many legitimate theatre credits, he conceived and directed Broadway concerts for Bette Midler (1975), Diana Ross (1976), Cher (1979), and Harry Connick Jr. (1990).

Joe Layton won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for No Strings (1962), starring Diahann Carroll, and for George M! (1968), starring Joel Grey.

In 1965, Layton won an Emmy Award for his work on My Name Is Barbra, the television special that introduced the public to the more sophisticated side of Barbra Streisand. It was his first of four collaborations with the star; the others were Color Me Barbra (1966), The Belle of 14th Street (1967) and Barbra Streisand ... And Other Musical Instruments (1973).

He also directed and/or produced specials for Paul Lynde, Hal Linden, Richard Pryor, and Olivia Newton-John.

Layton broke into films as the dance director for Thoroughly Modern Millie in 1967. He executive produced the first film version of Annie (1982) and reunited with Midler to choreograph For the Boys (1991).

Layton directed the 1972 West End and 1973 Los Angeles productions of Scarlett, the musical stage adaptation of Gone with the Wind, and the 1985 world première of the Jule Styne musical Pieces of Eight in Edmonton.

In 1976, Layton collaborated with Diana Ross for her one-woman international concert tour, An Evening with Diana Ross, for which the singer won a Special Event Tony Award for the concert's performance at The Palace Theater.[3] [4]

Joe Layton also choreographed a ballet for the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, London titled "Grand Tour" which received critical acclaim as well as a warm reception from the audiences around the UK. In 1984, Layton was one of the three choreographers credited with staging the dances for the Opening (the "How the West Was Won" sequence) and Closing (the break-dances in "All Night Long") ceremonies of the 23rd Summer Olympiad of Los Angeles. He was also the Director of Paul Green's symphonic outdoor drama, "The Lost Colony" from 1964-1984.

In 1985, Layton directed and choreographed a Michael Edgley revival production of Aloha: A Musical of the Islands by Eaton "Bob" Magoon[5][6][7] and Sir Robert Helpmann at His Majesty's Theatre, Auckland,[8] Auckland (New Zealand), starring Derek Metzger from the Hamilton world première production,[9][10][11] with Hollywood actress Patricia Morison. Derek Williams[12] was the orchestrator and musical director for both productions.[13] Despite being well reviewed however,[14] houses for the Aloha revival didn't measure up to those for the première production and it finished early, destined for Honolulu, Hawaii with Layton again as Director, playing at the purpose built Aloha Showroom[15] until the Gulf War destroyed its tourist patronage.

From 1989, in preparation for the Aloha production, Layton had moved to live with Magoon in Honolulu where he also directed a revival production of Magoon's 13 Daughters at the Hawaii Theatre.[16]

Personal life

He was married to actress Evelyn Russell in 1959[1]; she predeceased him in February 1976.[17] They had a son, Jeb James Layton.[1][18][19]

Selected credits

Awards and nominations

  • 1960 Tony Award for Best Choreography – Greenwillow[23]
  • 1962 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – No Strings[24]
  • 1966 Emmy Award - Musical Program - Color Me Barbra (TV)[25]
  • 1973 Emmy Award - Special - Comedy-Variety, Variety or Music - Barbra Streisand ... And Other Musical Instruments (TV)[26]
  • 1980 Tony Award for Best Choreography – Barnum
  • 1980 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Barnum
  • 1980 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography – Barnum
  • 1980 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical – Barnum


  1. Dunning, Jennifer. (9 May 1994). Page B7. 'Joe Layton, Choreographer And Director, Is Dead at 64'. Obituary. New York Times. (USA)
  2. Shulman, Arthur; Youman, Roger (1966). "Chapter V — They Called Them Spectaculars". How Sweet It Was — Television: A Pictorial Commentary. New York: Bonanza Books, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc., by arrangement with Shorecrest, Inc.
  5. 'Eaton Magoon, Jr.'. Music Theatre International. (USA)
  6. 'Eaton Magoon, Jr.'. Discogs.
  7. 'Eaton Magoon, Jr.'. Playbill. (New York, USA).
  8. His Majesty's Theatre
  9. Day, Paul. (19 October 1981). 'Hamilton Says Aloha To Musical'. The New Zealand Herald
  10. Cryer, Max. (25 October 1981). 'Hamilton produces ambitious musical' and 'Kitsch Aloha goes down a real treat'. Page 9. New Zealand Times
  11. (27 October 1981). 'Author full of praise' (Sir Robert Helpmann). Waikato Times, New Zealand
  12. Derek Williams
  13. 'The Arts'. (12 June 1985). 'Teacher Continues Aloha Association'. Page 24. The Daily Post (Rotorua, New Zealand)
  14. Kwok, E.D. (15 July 1985). 'NZ-US Talent Blends Well in Aloha.The New Zealand Herald
  15. (16 February 1991). Aloha: A Musical of the Islands. WorldCat
  16. Harada, Wayne. (12 July 1989). "Updating a Tale of '13 Daughters'" . Pages B1-B2. The Honolulu Advertiser. (Hawaii, USA).
  17. Evelyn Russell IMDb
  18. "Evelyn Russell Dies at 49, Stage and Screen Actress" The New York Times, February 6, 1976
  19. "Joe Layton papers" New York Public Library, accessed February 7, 2019
  20. Kaplan, Mike, ed. (1985). Variety Presents the Complete Book of Major U.S. Show Business Awards. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 282. ISBN 0-8240-8919-7.
  21. Kaplan, p. 119
  22. Kaplan, p. 288
  23. Kaplan, p. 280
  24. Kaplan, p. 281
  25. Kaplan, p. 120
  26. Kaplan, p. 161

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