Layton, Joe, 1931-

Variant names

Hide Profile

Joe Layton (1931-1994) was an Emmy and Tony award-winning American choreographer, director, and producer of stage productions, television specials, and live concerts. The Joe Layton papers (1931-1992) document his professional career and his marriage to actress Evelyn Russell. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, production binders, scrapbooks, and scripts.

Joe Layton (1931-1994) was born Joseph Lichtman in Brooklyn, New York to James and Sadie Lichtman. As a child, Layton took singing and dancing lessons, and performed in school plays, local theater productions, and at resorts in the Catskills. When Layton was sixteen, he had his first break as a dancer, appearing in Oklahoma! on Broadway. He went on to dance in High Button Shoes (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Miss Liberty (1949), Michael Todd's A Night in Venice (1952), and Wonderful Town (1953).

In 1953, Layton joined an Army Special Services Unit in Colorado Springs, CO, where he choreographed and directed shows on the base. He was discharged in 1954 and went to Europe to work as choreographer, director, and dancer for George Reich's company Les Ballet Ho in Paris.

Layton returned to the United States in 1956 where he got a job at the renowned Taminent Playhouse in the Poconos choreographing summer stock productions. He soon began directing as well, an activity he found naturally interconnected to choreography. In 1959, Layton received his first major choreographic debut, choreographing a revival of Once Upon a Mattress, starring Carol Burnett. That same year, he also choreographed On the Town and The Sound of Music, and married actress Evelyn Russell. In 1960, he choreographed Tenderloin and Greenwillow, receiving his first Tony Award nomination for the latter. In 1962, Layton had his Broadway directorial debut with the critically acclaimed No Strings, which he also choreographed. His choreography for No Strings won a Tony Award.

Layton became known as an innovative and imaginative choreographer and director, and went on to choreograph and direct numerous stage productions including Drat! The Cat! (1965), George M! (1968), for which he won a second Tony Award, Dear World (1969), Bette Midler's Clams on the Half Shell Revue (1975), and Platinum (1978). He directed The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963), Peterpat (1965), Sherry! (1967), The National Theatre of the Deaf (1969), Two by Two (1970), An Evening with Diana Ross (1976), Barnum (1980), for which he won two more Tony Awards, Bring Back Birdie (1981), The Three Musketeers (1984), Harrigan n' Hart (1985), and a re-staged, national tour of Woman of the Year (1983) with Lauren Bacall.

In 1964, Joe Layton began his first year as director of The Lost Colony, a symphonic outdoor drama performed yearly on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Layton refreshed the production, which had been staged since 1937, improving light and staging techniques. He continued to direct the production for over twenty years, until the mid-1980s.

Layton traveled to Japan in 1969 to direct the Tokyo production of Scarlett, a musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind, in Japanese. In 1972, he directed a translation of Scarlett at the Theatre Royal in London and, in 1973, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. While the Tokyo production was a popular success, the London and Los Angeles shows garnered mostly negatives reviews.

In addition to his work on stage musicals, Layton began doing work for television, first choreographing a Mary Martin Thanksgiving special (1960) and The Gershwin Years (1961), before directing four specials starring Barbra Streisand. He won an Emmy in 1962 for the first special My Name is Barbra. Subsequent shows were Color Me Barbra (1966), Barbra Streisand...and Other Musical Instruments (1973), and The Belle of 14th Steet(1967). Layton went on to do television specials for Hal Linden (1968), Olivia Newton-John (1976), the Carpenters (1976), Paul Lynde (1977-1979), Cher (1979), and for a Dolly Parton and Carol Burnett show, Dolly & Carol in Nashville (1979). Layton also worked with feature films, doing the choreography for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and producing the film version of Annie (1982).

Layton directed a live concert for Raquel Welsh in Las Vegas called Really, Raquel, as well as concerts for Lionel Richie and Diahann Carroll. Additionally, he staged two Commitment to Life Benefits, raising funds for the Los Angeles AIDS Project.

Layton did not completely abandon his work in ballet. He choreographed Double Exposure (1972) for the Robert Joffery Ballet Company, O.W. for the London Royal Ballet, and Grand Tour for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Layton died in 1994. Russell died earlier, in 1976, from cancer. The couple had one son, Jeb Layton.

From the guide to the Joe Layton papers, 1931-1992, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Playhouse Photographs, 1920s-1987 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Higgins Family papers, 1923-1971 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Herman, Jerry, 1931-. Musical comedies. Dear world. [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
referencedIn Tamiment Playhouse. Tamiment Playhouse photographs [graphic]. © 2011 New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Rome, Harold, 1908-1993. The Harold Rome papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
creatorOf Loesser, Frank, 1910-1969. Musical comedies. Greenwillow [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Stewart, Michael, 1929-1987. Bring back Birdie, 1980 Nov. 14 / book by Michael Stewart ; lyrics by Lee Adams ; music by Charles Strouse ; directed and choreographed by Joe Layton. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Rome, Harold, 1908-1993. The Harold Rome papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
creatorOf Layton, Joe, 1931-. Musical comedies. Drat! the cat! [Program] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Joe Layton papers, 1931-1992 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Frederick Brisson papers, 1934-1984 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Beaton, Cecil, 1904-1980. Musical comedies. Tenderloin [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Mattox, Matt. Musical comedies. Once upon a mattress [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
referencedIn The Harold Rome Papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Playhouse Records, 1927-1987 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Layton, Joe, 1931-. Joe Layton papers, 1931-1992. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Rodgers, Richard, 1902-1979. Musical comedies. Sound of music [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Layton, Joe, 1931-. Musical comedies. Barnum. [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Herman, Jerry, 1933-. Jerry Herman collection 1950-2003 (bulk 1960-1990). Library of Congress
creatorOf Coward, Noel, 1899-1973. Musical comedies. The girl who came to supper [Programs] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Brisson, Frederick, 1912-1984 person
associatedWith Harold Rome person
associatedWith Herman, Jerry, 1933- person
associatedWith Higgins family family
associatedWith Rome, Harold, 1908-1993. person
associatedWith Russell, Evelyn, . 1976 person
associatedWith Tamiment Playhouse. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Broadway (New York, N.Y.)
United States
Broadway (New York, N.Y.)
New York (State)--New York
Subject
Musicals--Production and direction
Musicals
Musical films
Concerts
Musical theater
Choreography--20th century
Musical theater--New York (State)--New York
Choreography--United States--20th century
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1931-05-03

Death 1994-05-05

Americans

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6fn1xqc

Ark ID: w6fn1xqc

SNAC ID: 33538283