Lawrence Hamilton, Broadway’s leading man, makes his transition

4/10/2014, 10:58 a.m.
Lawrence Hamilton

Lawrence Hamilton, an elegant and commanding musical theater artist and one of Broadway’s leading men, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday, April 3 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City due to complications following bypass surgery. He was 59.

Hamilton, born and raised in Foreman, Ark., studied music at Henderson State University in Arkansas and began his professional career in the late ’70s as a singer, dancer and actor on Broadway in “Timbuktu!” starring Eartha Kitt. He also appeared in “The Wiz,” “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Truly Blessed,” “Uptown, It’s Hot” and “Hot Mikado,” and received critical acclaim for his standout performances in “Ragtime,” “Play On!” and the solo theater piece “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder.” His featured duets with legendary singers Lena Horne, Della Reese and international opera star Jessye Norman won him international renown. In addition to being an accomplished pianist and vocal coach, Hamilton was also a television and film actor.

In the ’80s, he was the musical director for the pop singing group New Kids on the Block. In collaboration with Norman, he provided musical direction for Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music concert starring Norman at Saint John the Divine in Manhattan. He was also the associate musical director, along with Broadway conductor Linda Twine, at the historic St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem.

Hamilton was director of cultural affairs and an associate professor of humanities at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. He is in the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.

Funeral services will be held in his home state of Arkansas. A memorial service is being planned for New York City in the near future.