February 23, 2003
Rusty Magee, Theater Composer, Actor and Cabaret Performer, Dies at 47
usty Magee, a composer and lyricist for the theater and a cabaret artist, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 47 and lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa.
The cause was colon cancer, said his wife, Alison Fraser, an actress.
Among Mr. Magee's work for the theater was the score for Frank McCourt's history in song, "The Irish . . . and How They Got That Way." He also performed in the show, and in Woody Allen's film "Hannah and Her Sisters."
He won a New York Outer Critics Circle Award in 1993 for the music and lyrics he wrote for an adaptation of Molière's "Scapin," which has been presented by the CSC Repertory Theater, Yale Repertory Theater and companies in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
Mr. Magee first reached New York audiences in the 1980's, composing music for the theater, movies and television as well as for commercials. He also appeared as a comedian and presented musical entertainment at places like the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street.
He was the music director of Manhattan's Irish Repertory Theater, and was associated with Moonwork, a downtown troupe known for its spirited adaptations of the classics.
He composed the music for "The Green Heart," presented by the Manhattan Theater Club in 1996, and for the children's Christmas opera "Flurry Tale," performed by American Opera Projects at Lincoln Center in 1999.
He wrote the music for the Moonwork production of "What You Will," an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," and for Moonwork's farcical reworking of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1999. Peter Marks of The New York Times called the music for that production "witty and surprisingly melodious."
Benjamin Rush Magee was born in Washington and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1973. He majored in music at Brown University, graduating in 1978, and worked as a music consultant for three years at Yale Repertory, which produced his first musical, "1919: A Baseball Opera."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Magee is survived by their son, Nathaniel; his mother, Bettie Morris Magee of Natick, Mass.; and two brothers, Kenneth, of Portland, Ore., and James, of Natick.