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Tony-Winning Producer Joe Sirola, the "King of the Voice-Overs," Dies at 89

He starred in The Unsinkable Molly Brown on Broadway and coproduced the Tony-winning musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

Joe Sirola, stage and screen actor, has died at the age of 89.
(© Curran McLure Reid)

Joseph A. Sirola, the stage and screen actor and producer who was named "The King of the Voice-Overs" for his ubiquitous vocal appearances in commercials, died on February 10 from complications of respiratory failure, according to his partner Claire Gozzo. He was 89.

Born in Carteret, New Jersey, on October 7, 1929, to Croatian émigré parents Anton and Ana, Sirola, a Korean War veteran, came to acting relatively late, enrolling in an acting course at Hunter College when he was 28 and going to auditions while working a sales promotion manager job at Kimberly-Clark.

After making his first off-Broadway appearance in the play Song for a Certain Midnight, he made his Broadway debut as Christmas Morgan in The Unsinkable Molly Brown opposite Tammy Grimes. Later, he would star in the Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gormé hit Golden Rainbow, and play Ludlow Lowell in the 1976 Broadway revival of Pal Joey, among others.

After a long absence from the stage, Sirola returned to Broadway as a producer of Donald Margulies's Time Stands Still, which led to a string of producing credits including recent revivals of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful and A.R. Gurney's Love Letters. He would win a Tony Award as a producer of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

During that long hiatus from the boards, Sirola appeared in films such as Strange Bedfellows (1965) along with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Hang 'Em High (1968) alongside Clint Eastwood. He also appeared on television as the star of series such as The Montefuscos and The Magician, and made many guest appearances on popular shows such as Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, NYPD Blue, and more.

But it was as a voice-over artist in commercials for brands like Vicks Formula 44, Wendy's, Boar's Head, GE, Club Med, and many more that Sirola made his reputation, earning him the nickname "The King of the Voice-Overs" from the Wall Street Journal.

Sirola is survived by Gozzo; his daughter, Dawn Bales; and granddaughters Eva, Isabel, and Sofia Van Diest.

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