Tony-Winning Cabaret Librettist Joe Masteroff Has Died

The celebrated writer and Theatre Hall of Fame inductee was 98 years old.

Joseph Masteroff, award-winning librettist of She Loves Me and Cabaret, has died at 98.
Joseph Masteroff, award-winning librettist of She Loves Me and Cabaret, has died at 98.
(© Tricia Baron)

Joseph Masteroff, the Tony-winning librettist of the international musical classics, Cabaret and She Loves Me, died on September 28 at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey. He was 98 years old.

Born on December 11, 1919, in Philadelphia, Masteroff went on to graduate with an English degree from Temple University. During World War II, served in the United States Army and following the war, as a veteran, he qualified for free classes at the American Theatre Wing's Professional School, where he studied playwriting.

In 1959, Masteroff made his Broadway playwriting debut with The Warm Peninsula starring Julie Harris. Following the success of that play, Harold Prince tapped Masteroff to write the book for Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's She Loves Me, which premiered on Broadway in 1963 starring Barbara Cook.

Prince reached out to Masteroff again soon after, this time to adapt John Van Druten's I Am a Camera along with songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb. The resulting work, Cabaret, earned the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1967 and has gone on to be revived on Broadway three times — most recently Roundabout Theatre Company's 2014 revival at Studio 54. She Loves Me was also revived by Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54 in 2016, with Laura Benanti performing the role that Barbara Cook originated.

Masteroff's other musicals include 70, Girls, 70, another Kander-Ebb collaboration which reached Broadway in 1971, as well as two with composer Howard Marren (Georgia Avenue and Paramour), and three with composer Edward Thomas (Desire Under the Elms, Six Wives, and Anna Christie). He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2016.

Masteroff is survived by his niece, Judith Weiner of Boca Raton, Florida.