Lucy Simon, the third woman in history to compose a Broadway musical, passed away after an extended battle with breast cancer October 20. She was 82.
Born May 5, 1940 to publishing heavyweight Richard Simon and his wife Andrea, Ms. Simon was the second oldest of four children. Raised on the music of Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Benny Goodman, she wrote her first song at 14 to memorize Eugene Field's poem "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod". In 1964, she recorded the song "Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod" with her sister Carly, reaching number 73 on the Billboard Charts. Carly would later find immense success in the popular music world, while Ms. Simon would leave the live music circuit to attend nursing school.
In 1967, Ms. Simon married David Levine, a psychiatrist, and they had two children, Jamie and Julie. Ms. Simon returned to music once her children reached school age, recording two solo albums, Lucy Simon (1975) and Stolen Time (1977) for RCA under the condition that she not have to tour far from her family. Ms. Simon and her husband produced two Grammy-winning children's albums, In Harmony (1981) and In Harmony 2 (1983) prior to Ms. Simon finding her spiritual home on the theatrical stage.
Ms. Simon initially acquired the rights to adapt the children's classic Little House On The Prairie for the stage, but she and lyricist Susan Birkenhead later abandoned the project. Her next attempt, 1991's The Secret Garden, would prove far more fruitful.
Ms. Simon was paired with book writer and lyricist Marsha Norman for that project, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel about a young girl sent to live with her reclusive, grieving uncle in Yorkshire after an outbreak of cholera claims her entire family in British-occupied India. Though most adaptations of the work aimed themselves more for child audiences, Simon and Norman's version leaned into the novel's themes of rebirth in the wake of profound loss with an adaptation that placed the characters' departed loved ones on stage as an ensemble of ghosts following them around the dark and secluded Misselthwaite Manor. Behind the scenes, the musical made history for its unusually (for the time) female-centric creative team, which included Norman and Simon along with director Susan H. Schulman, scenic designer and producer Heidi Ettinger, costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, and lighting designer Tharon Musser; the work also made Ms. Simon only the third-ever woman to compose a score for Broadway.
The musical would garner seven 1991 Tony nominations including a nod for Ms. Simon's score, with young star Daisy Eagan winning Best Featured Actress in a Musical and becoming the youngest actress to win a Tony Award at the age of 11. In the years since, The Secret Garden has become one of the most produced musicals in the canon at schools and community and regional theatres around the country. A new Broadway-aimed revival is set to make its debut at Center Theater Group in Los Angeles, California early next year.
In 2015, Ms. Simon returned to the Broadway stage with Doctor Zhivago, a passion project inspired by her love of poetry. Ms. Simon worked on the piece for nearly 20 years before the Broadway run, and it has since had successful productions in Germany, Austria, Poland, and Korea. A concert version starring Ramin Karimloo will be presented by The Palladium in London on May 9, 2023.
Prior to her passing, Ms. Simon had been working with Susan Birkenhead and Emily Maan on a musical adaptation of Our Souls At Night, now called On Cedar Street. Ms. Simon had to bow out of the project as her cancer progressed, but her music will be retained as the project moves forward. The project is expected to be directed by Tony winner Victoria Clark.
Ms. Simon is survived by her husband Dr. David Y Levine, her children, Julie Simon and James Levine, her sister Carly Simon, and her grandchildren Sophie Levine, Ben Knight, Charlie Levine, and Evie Knight.