Robin Wagner, one of Broadway’s most prolific and celebrated set designers with three Tony Awards and a roster of major credits including Angels in America, Dreamgirls, A Chorus Line, The Producers and Jelly’s Last Jam, died Monday in his sleep in New York City. He was 89.
Wagner’s death was announced through a spokesperson by his daughter Christie Wagner Lee.
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Born in San Francisco, Wagner developed his interest in set design while attending the Palace of Fine Arts (now the California School of Fine Arts). He did some early work for San Francisco theaters before moving to New York in the early 1960s, quickly finding work on both the Off Broadway and Broadway scenes.
His major Broadway breakthrough came with the original and acclaimed production of Hair in 1968. From there he would go on to design sets for productions from the memorable to the landmark, with a remarkable roster of credits including Jesus Christ Superstar, Angels in America, Victoria/Victoria, The Producers, The Boy From Oz, A Chorus Line, 42nd Street and Dreamgirls. In all, he designed 63 Broadway plays and musicals between 1961 and 2012.
Of 10 Tony nominations, he won three (On the Twentieth Century in 1978, City of Angels in 1990 and The Producers in 2001).
On London’s West End, Wagner designed Crazy For You and Chess. He also designed sets for both opera and ballet, including the Metropolitan, Vienna State, Royal Swedish, Royal Opera Covent Garden, and New York City Ballet. Wagner has served as a trustee of the Joseph Papp Public Theater and he is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame. He received a Lumen Award for his design of The Rolling Stones 1975 Tour of the Americas.
Wagner has served on the Theatre Advisory Committee for the New York International Festival of the Arts and was a founding member as a playwright of Ensemble Studio Theater. He taught in the graduate theatre arts program at Columbia University and New York University.
He is survived by his partner, Susan Kowal, and children Kurt Wagner, Leslie Wagner and Christie Wagner Lee (and her husband Richard), and granddaughter Clementine Lee. He was previously married to Joyce Wagner and producer Paula Wagner.
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