Elizabeth McCann, 90, Dies; Broadway Producer With a Formidable Track Record

Elizabeth McCann, a theater producer identified for what one journalist known as her “steel and wit” who in a dizzying four-decade profession received 9 Tony Awards, lots of them as half of McCann & Nugent Productions, and gave New York audiences greater than 60 Broadway productions, together with such hits as “Equus,” “Amadeus” and “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” died on Wednesday within the Bronx. She was 90.

Her loss of life, in a hospital, was introduced by her longtime affiliate and good friend Kristen Luciani, who mentioned Ms. McCann had most cancers.

McCann & Nugent, which Ms. McCann shaped in 1976 with Nelle Nugent, had a outstanding five-year successful streak, taking the Tony for both finest play or finest revival yearly from 1978 to 1982. The first was for “Dracula,” a horny variation on the basic vampire story; the remainder had been for dramas or satires.

These included “The Elephant Man” (1979), the story of a bodily disfigured man in Victorian England; “Amadeus” (1981), concerning the composer Antonio Salieri’s bitter musical rivalry with Mozart in 18th-century Vienna; and “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” (1982), an eight-and-a-half-hour adaptation, imported from London, of Charles Dickens’s 19th-century social satire.

After her partnership with Ms. Nugent ended within the mid-1980s, Ms. McCann received 4 extra Tonys: finest revival for productions of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” (1998) and “Hair” (2009), one of many few musicals she produced, and finest play for Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” (2000) and Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” (2002).

Her producing relationship with Mr. Albee additionally included Off Broadway productions of “Three Tall Women,” “Painting Churches” and “The Play About the Baby.”

“Getting ahead in business means having an ability to compromise your conscience, and you get better at it the older you get,” Ms. McCann instructed the enterprise newspaper Crain’s, at the very least partly tongue in cheek, in 2007. At the identical time, she mentioned in a number of interviews, she nonetheless felt a childlike thrill in with the ability to stroll into theaters with out a ticket.

Ms. McCann was honored by the Tony Awards as a part of a “60 Years of Excellence” celebration in 2006. She received 9 Tonys in her profession, lots of them as half of McCann & Nugent Productions.Credit…G. Gershoff/WireImage

Elizabeth Ireland McCann was born on March 29, 1931, in Manhattan, the one little one of Patrick and Rebecca (Henry) McCann. Her father was a subway motorman, her mom a homemaker. Both her mother and father had been born in Scotland.

Though the McCanns lived in Midtown Manhattan — Elizabeth recalled roller-skating all through the garment district as a little one — they weren’t a theatergoing household. Elizabeth was 14 when she noticed her first Broadway present, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” starring José Ferrer; she went solely as a result of a cousin from New Jersey had an additional ticket and her mom insisted that she go. Luckily and fatefully, she mentioned many years later, the play, for which Mr. Ferrer received a Tony, “blew me away.”

Giving some thought to instructing drama, she graduated from Manhattanville College in 1952 and earned a grasp’s diploma in English literature from Columbia University two years later. She labored in theater for about 10 years, starting as an unpaid intern for Proscenium Productions, a firm primarily based on the Cherry Lane Theater in Lower Manhattan. (“Eventually they paid me $25 a week,” she recalled.) Frustrated along with her lack of development, she determined that training theatrical regulation is perhaps a option to go.

“By the time I got out of law school, I was 35,” she recalled in 2002 in a CUNY-TV interview. After receiving her regulation diploma from Fordham University in 1966 and passing the New York bar, she briefly labored for a Manhattan regulation agency and took some jobs in theater administration.

Her massive break was not a authorized job: In 1967, she was employed by James Nederlander as managing director of the Nederlander Organization. Ms. Nugent was a co-worker there.

After teaming as much as discovered their very own agency, Ms. McCann and Ms. Nugent grew to become normal managers of six productions of their first two years collectively, together with the unique Broadway staging of “The Gin Game.” They then tried their hand at producing.

Ms. McCann with, from left, the tv journalist Pia Lindstrom, former Mayor David N. Dinkins and Woodie King Jr., the founding director of the New Federal Theater, at a profit for the theater in New York in 2011.Credit…Walter McBride/Corbis through Getty Images

Their first present, “Dracula” (1977), starring Frank Langella, ran two and a half years and received two Tonys, one for costume design and one for finest revival. (The class was known as “most innovative revival” that 12 months.) Ms. McCann thought-about it a signal of fine luck when she discovered that her mom, who had immigrated from Glasgow in her youth, had sailed on the passenger liner Transylvania.

Another notable Broadway hit was “Morning’s at Seven” (1981), about 4 aged sisters within the Midwest. Though seemingly bucolic, the manufacturing had its darkish aspect. As Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, the play might need seemed like a Norman Rockwell portray, however its soul was Edward Hopper’s.

When Ms. McCann and Ms. Nugent started their enterprise, they had been casually referred to within the business as “the girls.” After their successes began rolling in, that modified to “the ladies.” But Ms. McCann noticed gender as only one side of a difficult image.

“Sure, we’re women. But you could look at it another way,” she mentioned in an interview with The Times in 1981. “Most of the men in the theater business are Jewish, and I’m Irish Catholic. You could say, ‘How the hell did an Irish Catholic — or a New Jersey Protestant like Nelle — ever get in?’”

In an business “desperate for success and product and ideas,” she concluded, “I don’t think anybody cares as much where those things come from as they think they care.”

There had been bumps alongside the way in which. Investors sued Ms. McCann and Ms. Nugent for fraud after their 1985 present “Leader of the Pack” did not recoup its funding (the destiny of some 80 % of Broadway productions). A federal jury discovered the producers not responsible, and a relieved Ms. McCann instructed the information media afterward: “Nobody’s out to cheat investors. God knows it’s hard enough to find them.”

After the companions went their very own methods — Ms. Nugent pursued a solo profession as effectively and went on to supply many exhibits on Broadway — they’d a temporary reunion in 2002, collectively producing the darkish comedy “The Smell of the Kill” on the Helen Hayes Theater. It was not a success and closed after 60 performances.

In the early 2000s, Ms. McCann additionally produced six Tony Awards telecasts, three of which received Emmys.

She by no means married and leaves no rapid survivors.

Her final producing credit score was Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen,” which had been scheduled to open on Broadway on March 19, 2020, however closed after 13 previews, together with each different Broadway manufacturing, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms. McCann’s producing philosophy was easy. “Producing is really about insisting that everybody pay attention to detail,” she instructed The Times in 1981. “The Titanic probably sank because nobody ordered binoculars for the crow’s nest.”