Micki Grant Credit: James E. Alexander photo

When a kind, beautiful, talented, gifted and generous spirit has been in your midst you celebrate having known this lovely person, and that is exactly what everyone at Riverside Church did for the late Ms. Micki Grant. Grant, a celebrated playwright, lyricist and composer for “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” passed away at the age of 92 on Aug. 21, 2021. Her family and friends, many from the theater community, came out in grand fashion to remember and honor their beloved “Micki.”

It was a who’s who of theater as Lin-Manual Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” composer Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Godspell,” “Pippin”), Woodie King Jr. and Elizabeth Van Dyke of Woodie King Jr’s New Federal Theatre, choreographer/director George Faison, actress/ playwright/director Marie Thomas, director Dean Irby, actresses Barbara Montgomery, Hope Clarke, Dr. Gloria Van Scott, Debbi Blackwell Cook, and Tina Fabrique, along with casting director Lawrence Evans and actress Yvette Heyliger, gathered with a host of others to celebrate a life well lived. Grant’s was a life of creation and a life full of caring for the needs of her Black people. She championed Black issues and solutions throughout her decades-long career.

At a dinner held before the official church ceremony in the Cathedral, many shared what Micki meant to them and what her legacy truly is. Barbara Montgomery said of her long-time friend, “She was a grand symbol of an artist. To write the lyrics, to write the roles.” Her legacy according to Montgomery: “Continue being a pilgrim on your path. It’s there to support you, just stay on it and keep going.”

Marie Thomas, who was in the original cast of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” as Grant’s understudy, said of Grant, “She was an inspiration. She did everything.” Her legacy, Thomas shared: “Multi-talented—acting, music and lyrics—and she was an extraordinary person. She was so quiet and had an enormous gift she shared with everybody.”

George Faison, the choreographer for “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” remarked, “Her legacy is her humanness, it takes a whole lot of human feeling to be a human being. I love the dignity and the gentleness that she carried herself with when she was confronted with demands that we all share living in America.” 

Dr. Glory Van Scott said of her friend and colleague, “She can’t be duplicated. She had a sweetness and a steel resolution to do what she had to do as an artist and not fail.” Elizabeth Van Dyke spoke of Grant as “leaving a legacy of love, creativity and a tremendous body of work that will influence generations.” Hope Clarke, also from the original cast of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” remarked, “Her legacy was her brilliance and talent.” Tina Fabrique who performed in the 2018 revival of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” at New York City Center, shared, “Micki represented the ahead of her time kind of woman, with brilliant ideas. She was a magnificent talent. You felt warmth and love in her presence. Being around her was an honor.” Fabrique described Grant as someone who genuinely took an interest in everything you did. “I’ve done Broadway, the Apollo, and Micki was always in the first or second row supporting me.” Dean Irby, director of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” at Crossroads had only lovely praises for Micki.

Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, who was a huge fan of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” and “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God,” recalled that Grant was the first person he considered when working on the musical “Working.” “I love both of her and Vinette Carroll’s shows, and back then it was unusual to have two African American women produce these terrific, joyful and funny shows. It was a beautiful achievement. She impressed me with her ability to create three-dimensional characters.”

“Everything she wrote had an undercurrent of joy and strength. I loved her as a collaborator and human being.” Woodie King Jr. shared, “Micki meant love, involvement. I loved her tenacity and her involvement with artists. She didn’t wait for someone to say I love your work and I’ll produce it. She produced it.”

On a screen, pictures flashed of Micki with actors, friends and family during various stages and ages in her life. Actress Debbi Blackwell Cook shared that she called her Mama Micki, and sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” so movingly that her voice sent chills through the room. You could feel her deep love. Actress Nora Cole sang a lovely tribute to Micki, and Lori Minor, Grant’s personal assistant for the final two and a half years of her life, tearfully talked about how “God assigned her to me. I thought of her as my grandmother. We adopted each other.” Jasmine Collins, a young opera singer and musician, talked of Micki’s consistent inspiration in her life and then she blessed us with “Give Me Jesus” delivered through a stunning operatic instrument. 

Micki touched the lives of so many people; some of those included Sherry Reid, her caregiver. “I loved the way that she loved me,” Reid emotionally shared. “She would kiss me and tell me how much she appreciated me. I said, my God, she was a phenomenal woman.”

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