Tony Award-Winning Casting Director For ‘Cats’And ‘Les Miserables’Was 91

Geoffrey Johnson was behind the roles through Johnson-Liff casting. Cats, Les Miserables,  Phantom of the Opera Broadway’s three longest-running shows, died Friday, Nov. 26. He was 91 years old and died from respiratory failure at Henry J. Carter Hospital, New York.

Johnson’s log career saw him appear on Broadway as an actor. He also worked with David Merrick as a stage manager and casting director and served as Noël Coward’s US representative.

Born in New York City on June 23, 1930, and raised in Larchmont NY, he received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

After graduating from college, he became an actor. Saint Joan on Broadway in 1956,

He was also the stage manager for several Broadway shows, including Cactus Flower and I Do, I Do.

His work as a stage manager led him to Noël Coward, with whom he worked on the Broadway production of Sail Away. The relationship continued after that, with Johnson serving as Coward’s US representative until the actor’s death in 1973.

After working with David Merrick as a stage manager casting director, he formed Johnson-Liff Casting in 1975 with business partner Vincent Liff and fellow casting directors Linda Otto and Geri Windsor.

One of their successes was casting the three longest-running Broadway musicals. Cats, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera. They worked with Andrew Lloyd-Webber Cameron Mackintosh and were responsible for casting scores of Broadway shows, including The Elephant Man and Dreamgirls, Miss Saigon Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

Johnson and Vincent Liff received the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre in 2003. They also received the Hoyt-Bowers Award and several Artios Awards of the Casting Society of America.

Johnson was an active member in the theatre community even after Johnson-Liff closed its doors in 2002.  He served on the Tony nomination committee for several years, and was a trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and the Life President of the Noël Coward Archive Trust.

In 2016, he established the Geoffrey Ashton Johnson/ Noël Coward Scholarship at the Yale School of Drama to honor Coward’s contribution to the art form and his legacy as playwright and performer.

He is survived by His niece Valerie Cortalano, (Bruce), was born in Garrison (NY); his nephew Bruce Johnson was born in Wilton Manors (Florida); great nephews Charles Cortalano, Elizabeth, in White Plains (NY); Geoffrey Cortalano (Christine), in Cold Spring (NY); Nicholas Cortalano, in Garrison (NY); Ryan Johnson in Palm Coast (Florida); and many cousins and friends from the USA and England. He was preceded in death by his brother Alfred Ashton Johnson (sister Patricia Johnson Friedman), nephew Craig Johnson (fiancé), and life partner Jerry Hogan.

An announcement will follow about a memorial service. You can make donations to The Noël Coward Foundation, the Calvary Hospital FoundationOr The Actors Fund. 

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