Robin Wagner, Scenic Designer of A Chorus Line, The Producers, and More, Dies at 89

Wagner won three Tonys over his illustrious career on Broadway.

Robin Wagner (right) with his set model of Dreamgirls
(© Martha Swope/New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)

Robin Wagner, one of Broadway’s pioneering scenic designers of musical-theater, died Monday, May 29 in his sleep at the age of 89.

In any artist’s career, a single Broadway hit is something to aspire to; Wagner had multiple productions which became part of theatrical history: the bare stage with a single line of white tape on the floor of A Chorus Line, the shifting towers of lights in Dreamgirls, the train of On the Twentieth Century, the Shubert Theatre facade in The Producers. Out of 10 nominations, he won the Tony for Best Scenic Design three times.

Wagner was a pioneer of automated scenery on Broadway, becoming the first designer to use the technique in Promises, Promises. His extensive resume also includes the original productions of HairJesus Christ SuperstarThe Great White HopeLennySeesawMack and Mabel42nd StreetChessJerome Robbins’ BroadwayCity of AngelsCrazy For You, BigThe LifeSide Show, Angels in America, and The Boy From Oz. His final two Broadway outings were Young Frankenstein and Leap of Faith.

Regionally, Wagner designed operas, ballets, and even Herbert Blau’s famous production of Waiting for Godot at San Quentin State Prison in 1957.

Born August 31, 1933, Wagner is survived by partner Susan Kowal, children Kurt, Leslie, and Christie, and grandaughter Clementine.