Fred Ebb
Fred Ebb
Lyricist Fred Ebb, whose collaboration with composer John Kander yielded the scores for such musicals as Cabaret (1966) and Chicago (1975), suffered a massive heart attack at his Manhattan home yesterday morning and died shortly thereafter. His age was uncertain but he is thought to have been somewhere between 72 and 76.

Kander and Ebb wrote the scores for 11 Broadway shows and were instrumental in the career of Liza Minnelli, who made her Broadway debut in the team's Flora, the Red Menace (1965). Minnelli later starred in the film version of Cabaret and briefly replaced Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart in the original Broadway production of Chicago. Among Kander and Ebb's other Broadway credits are Zorba (1968); Woman of the Year (1981), which starred Lauren Bacall; The Rink (1984), which starred Minnelli and Chita Rivera; and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), which starred Rivera. The team also wrote songs for the films Funny Lady (starring Barbra Streisand) and New York, New York (starring Minnelli and Robert DeNiro).

The fact that Ebb died on September 11 is ironic in that the title song from New York, New York, which initially achieved popularity through recordings by Minnelli and Frank Sinatra, became something of an anthem for the city in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. Kander and Ebb won Tony Awards for their scores for Cabaret,Woman of the Year, and Kiss of the Spider Woman, and the 2002 film version of Chicago won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Born in New York, Ebb attended both New York University and Columbia, earning a master's degree in English literature from the latter institution. His first Broadway show was the revue "From A to Z (1960), to which he contributed lyrics. He began his collaboration with Kander in the 1960s and one of their first songs as a team, "My Coloring Book," was recorded by Streisand. Cabaret has been revived twice on Broadway since the original production, and a Broadway revival of Chicago that opened in 1996 is still running. The two most recent musicals written by Kander and Ebb, Over and Over (based on Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth) and The Visit (based on the play of the same title by Friedrich Duerenmatt), were produced regionally but have not yet been seen in New York. The team's most recent Broadway show, Steel Pier, had a brief run in 1997.

Ebb is survived by no immediate family members. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, September 14.

********************

[To access Jim Caruso's two-part 2001 interview with Fred Ebb for TheaterMania.com, click here and here.]