By PENNY LANDAU **** The theatre and music worlds lost a great friend and mentor with the passing of Michael Larsen, who was instrumental in shaping the careers of many stars of theatre, film and television. Larsen died suddenly on Thursday, October 26, 2017, after suffering with a heart condition for many years. He was 57.
Michael grew up in New York, as an only child and went to New Hyde Park Memorial High School. “Michael loved his time there because he found an amazing community with the theatre kids. He said those were among the best years of his life,” said his childhood friend Shari Wallack. “He had found a place where he truly belonged.”
With 24 seasons as the Director and Master Teacher of acting and musical theatre at Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Center in Loch Sheldrake, NY (his last 11 seasons as Co-Artistic Supervisor), Michael helped to create and maintain the musical theatre program, which touched the lives and influenced the careers of stage, television and film actors. Those who learned and fine-tuned their craft with Michael at Stagedoor were Natalie Portman, Josh Charles, Zach Braff, Jon Cryer, Mandy Moore, Robert Downey, Jr., Lea Michele, Julia Murney, Danny Gurwin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mary Stuart Masterson and many, many others.
Among the performers that Michael conducted/arranged for included Theodore Bikel, Larry Kert, Elaine Stritch, Judy Kaye, Hal Linden, Gloria DeHaven, Melissa Manchester and– for over 20 years — the late Bruce Adler. Michael Larsen and Avi Hoffman shared the stage in various capacities for nearly 30 years.
Michael amassed many Broadway and Off-Broadway credits, from Annie, Nine and 42nd Street to Shlemiel the First, Little Shop of Horrors, The Golden Land and Perez Hilton Saves the Universe. He also spent many years in regional theatre with Stormy Weather (Leslie Uggams/ Pasadena Playhouse), Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Ogunquit Playhouse), Shlemiel the First (ACT San Francisco, Geffen LA), literally playing from coast to coast. He also had many directing credits, including Only a Kingdom and, during a long residence in Florida, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A New Brain and Ruthless!, winning Carbonell Award nods for all three. Last season, Michael was proud to conduct and music direct The Producers for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. He was the director AND musical supervisor of the major hit show, Menopause the Musical, now in its 11th year at the Luxor in Las Vegas. He also directed Menopause in 17 cities in the US as well as in Toronto and London’s West End. Michael was also on the faculty of Primary Stages ESPA School of Theatre, where he taught with Randy Graff and Daniel Goldstein. He is survived by his mother, Phoebe Larsen.
Funeral services for Michael Larsen were set for Monday, October 30 at 1:30 PM at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel, 5808 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, Florida, with a reception following the service at The Wick Theatre (7901 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton). All were welcome and celebrate the life of this beautiful man.