amBroadway | Broadway theaters to dim lights in honor of Hinton Battle

Hinton Battle
Hinton Battle
Photo courtesy of The Broadway League

On Tuesday night, March 12, the lights of all the theaters on Broadway will be dimmed for one minute at 6:45 p.m. to honor the memory of actor and dancer Hinton Battle, who died on Jan. 30 at the age of 67.

Battle won three Tony Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performances in “Miss Saigon” (1991), “The Tap Dance Kid” (1984), and “Sophisticated Ladies” (1981). Amazingly, Battle only received three Tony Award nominations – which means that he won a Tony Award each time that he received a nomination. (No other performer has won three Tony Awards in that category.) Battle also originated the role of the Scarecrow in “The Wiz” in 1975.

“If I haven’t said in absolutely specific terms, let me say it: I loved him,” André De Shields, who appeared in the original Broadway cast of “The Wiz” with Battle, told The Guardian in an interview in which de Shields described how Battle, while still a teenager, rose from being in the chorus to playing the Scarecrow during the show’s pre-Broadway tour.

I regret that I never got to see Battle perform on Broadway or on tour. His final Broadway performance was as a replacement for Billy Flynn in “Chicago” years ago. The closest I came to experiencing his work was “Evil Dead: The Musical,” a campy 2006 Off-Broadway musical which Battle co-directed and choreographed.

Curiously, the Broadway League (the trade organization which represents Broadway theater owners and producers) originally announced on Friday of last week that the lights of only nine theaters (one to represent each commercial and nonprofit landlord on Broadway) would be dimmed. However, the following day, likely in response to an uproar over the dimming being selective in nature, the organization announced that the lights of all 41 Broadway theaters would be dimmed.

“The plan that only one Broadway theatre per owner would dim their lights in memory of Hinton Battle was an absurd concept and insult to his memory and achievements,” Howard Sherman, writer and former executive director of the American Theatre Wing, wrote on social media.

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