Obituaries
    Next Score View the next score

    Terry Allen Kramer, Tony-winning producer, dies at 85

    Ms. Kramer greeted guests at the opening night party for “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” in 2011.
    Kirsten Luce/New York Times/File
    Ms. Kramer greeted guests at the opening night party for “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” in 2011.

    NEW YORK — Terry Allen Kramer, the colorful Broadway producer who won five best-production Tony Awards in 16 years but was just as well known as the grande dame of Palm Beach, Fla., socialites, died Thursday at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in Manhattan. She was 85.

    Her New York office said Ms. Kramer had contracted pneumonia while visiting Lyford Cay in the Bahamas last month.

    Her first Tony was for Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” (2002), the unexpected story of a married architect who falls in love with a female of another species. It was named best play. Her last was for “Hello, Dolly” (2017), the widely praised Bette Midler-led production about Thornton Wilder’s 19th-century larger-than-life widowed matchmaker. It was named best musical revival. (She and Midler had worked together before, on the 2013 solo show “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers.”)

    Advertisement

    In between, Ms. Kramer won Tonys for two shows that featured drag performers as major characters: “La Cage aux Folles” (2004), best musical revival; and “Kinky Boots” (2013), best musical. She also produced the family drama “The Humans” (2016), which won four Tonys, including best play.

    Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
    A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Although she kept her awards in her Manhattan home, she was better known for her Florida residence. When La Follia, her Palm Beach estate, was put on the market last fall for $135 million, it was said to be the most expensive American property ever listed. The Italianate villa, facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, covers more than 37,000 square feet, with 13 bedrooms, a movie theater and its own fitness center.

    “I’ve been to it,” Cindy Adams, the New York Post’s gossip columnist, wrote at the time. “It’s larger than Utica.”

    Invitations to Ms. Kramer’s annual Thanksgiving dinner at La Follia were prized, and even other celebrity hosts praised her — particularly for standing at the buffet, alongside her staff, serving the guests herself. Photographs taken there and around the world showed Ms. Kramer, instantly recognizable by her signature long blond hair, deep tan, and (often) diamond earrings, with such famous friends as Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, Denise Rich, and Ivana Trump. La Follia is not far from the Trump family’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

    Friends joked that Ms. Kramer and actor George Hamilton had become close friends because they so admired each other’s suntans.

    Advertisement

    Terry Allen was born in Manhattan on June 20, 1933, the daughter of Charles Allen Jr., founder of his family Wall Street investment firm, and Rita (Friedman) Allen.

    Terry’s brothers were raised to take over Allen & Co. Marriage and children were the future her father wanted for her, she told The New York Times in 1984. She attended Vassar, and she married young, but by the time her children were in high school, she said, her father agreed that a job might not be the worst idea. “He told my husband, ‘Find Terry something to do,’” she recalled.

    Ms. Kramer was 41 when she produced her first Broadway show, “Good News,” a 1974 revival of a 1927 musical, with a cast including Alice Faye and Stubby Kaye. The show opened two days before Christmas and closed on Jan. 4.

    In 1977, things went considerably more smoothly with “I Love My Wife,” a relatively low-budget comedy that ran two years and won two Tonys and six Drama Desk Awards.

    Over the decades she showed a taste for revivals, producing Broadway returns of acclaimed hits “Fiddler on the Roof” (2004), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (2005), “Grease” (2007), “West Side Story” (2009), and “The Elephant Man” (2014). Fantasy was a favorite subject, too. Her projects also included the tempest-tossed “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” (2011), “The Addams Family” (2010), “Finding Neverland” (2015), and “Gorey Stories” (1978).

    Advertisement

    “Escape to Margaritaville” (2018), a musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett, was her last Broadway production.

    At 18, Terry Allen married James Philips, a Wall Street trader. In 1958, after their divorce, she married Irwin Hamilton Kramer, who became a partner in Allen & Co. He died in 1999.

    Nick Simunek, the British-born producer who died in 2014, is often mentioned as her third husband, but family members said they were never legally married.

    Ms. Kramer said she never regretted the years spent raising a family before beginning her entertainment-industry career.

    “All producers should be mothers,” she suggested, presumably with a smile, in a 1984 interview. “A lot of people in the theater are children.”