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Playwright Arthur Kopit, Book Writer of the Musical Nine, Dies at 83

Kopit earned Tony nominations for Nine as well as for his plays Wings and Indians.

Arthur Kopit
(© Tristan Fuge)

Arthur Kopit, who wrote the book for 1982's Tony-winning musical Nine, died on April 2 at the age of 83.

Kopit was a three-time Tony nominee. In addition to his book for Nine, he received a nomination in 1970 for his play Indians and another in 1979 for his play Wings, both of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Born Arthur Lee Koenig on May 10, 1937, Kopit attended Lawrence High School on Long Island and later attended Harvard University. He broke onto the theater scene in 1962 with Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, which Jerome Robbins directed on Broadway while Kopit was still an undergraduate.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Kopit's plays, many of which were one-acts, received critical praise, but few caught on with the public. In 1983, he teamed up with Maury Yeston to write a musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, but Andrew Lloyd Webber's version beat theirs, Phantom, to the stage. Phantom went on to receive numerous productions, but never one on Broadway. "Arthur was one of the most uncompromisingly original writers that America ever produced," said Yeston said in a statement.

Kopit's last Broadway credit was the book for High Society in 1998.

He is survived by his wife, Leslie Garis; his children Alex, Ben, and Kat; his grandchildren Arthur, Beatrix, and Clara; and his sister, Susan.


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