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Seymour "Red" Press, Prolific Music Contractor for Hundreds of Broadway Shows, Dies at 98

As of his death, Press had six shows running on Broadway.

Seymour "Red" Press
(© David Gordon)

Seymour "Red" Press, one of Broadway's most prolific behind-the-scenes music-makers, has died at the age of 98.

He was a music contractor, responsible for hiring all members of a show's orchestra pit. He began his career as a musician himself, playing saxophone in a small band at the local YMHA. He joined Benny Goodman's orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria in 1957, the same year he made his Broadway debut in the pit of the musical The Body Beautiful. His next show was the original production of Gypsy. He transitioned into his contractor position in the 1970s, when he was hired by the Palace Theatre to fill the orchestra for Shirley MacLaine's engagement there.

Press's prolific career — with more than 100 productions to his name — was filled with hits: the original productions of Dreamgirls, Nine, Drood, the 1990s revival of Guys and Dolls, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Chicago, and The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, Hair, Shuffle Along, and Sunday in the Park With George in the 2000s. There were flops along the way, too: Bring Back Birdie, Nick and Nora, Rags, Roza, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, and many others. He was a founding member of New York City Center Encores!, working on more than 75 productions during his tenure, only officially stepping down at the end of the 2022 season.

As of his death, Press had six shows on Broadway: Chicago, The Music Man, Funny Girl, Into The Woods, KPOP, and Almost Famous. He received a Tony honor in 2007.

Press is predeceased by his wife, Nona, and is survived by daughter Gwynn Press Anidjar, stepson Edward Finkenberg, and several grandchildren.

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