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Off-Broadway Theater to Be Named After Jerry Orbach

Jerry Orbach
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
The Snapple Theater Center (1627 Broadway at 50th Street) will name one of its two theater spaces after actor Jerry Orbach, who died of prostate cancer on December 28, 2004 at the age of 69. The current home of the Off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks will be named The Jerry Orbach Theater at a private dedication ceremony to be held on Thursday, June 21, from 6:30 to 7pm; an adjacent rehearsal studio will be named in honor of Orbach's widow, Elaine Cancilla-Orbach.

Sam Waterston, Orbach's colleague from TV's Law & Order, will speak at the dedication, and Karen Ziemba (Curtains) will perform. Among the other notables scheduled to attend the ceremony are Mariska Hargitay, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelly Bishop, Celeste Holm, and Anita Gillette, as well as Fantasticks co-author Tom Jones and the revival's current star, Anthony Federov.

Orbach was best known for his role as the wisecracking Detective Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order, but he was also a Tony Award-winning Broadway and Off-Broadway actor. In 1960, he created the role of El Gallo in the original production of The Fantasticks. His Broadway credits include starring roles in such musicals as Carnival, Promises, Promises, Chicago, and 42nd Street. Among the many films in which he appeared are Prince of the City, Dirty Dancing, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Disney's animated feature Beauty and the Beast, in which he provided the voice of Lumière.

"Jerry Orbach was one of the most versatile and important actors of our time," stated Snapple Theater general manager Catherine Russell. A photo of Orbach performing in The Fantasticks adorns a lobby wall at the theater where the revival is playing. That photo, along with Orbach's life-long connection to the show, inspired Russell to name the theater in his honor. She brought the idea to Orbach's widow, who involved Law & Order producer Dick Wolf.

Wolf will oversee the installation of video monitors outside the Jerry Orbach Theater; those monitors will display footage of Orbach in The Fantasticks and in his many other Broadway performances. The lobby will feature a Jerry Orbach photo gallery, and the theater will host benefits for the New York Eye Bank, the Detective's Endowment Association, and a new theater management internship program. Additionally, the theater will sponsor master classes taught by professionals including Elaine Concilla-Orbach, a veteran of such shows as the original production of Chicago -- in which, as a standby for the role of Velma Kelly, she met her future husband, who was starring as Billy Flynn.