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Producer of Hit Musical ‘Me and My Girl’ Dies

November 18, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ Richard Armitage, producer of the hit Broadway musical ″Me and My Girl,″ died Monday at his country home in Stebbing, northeast of London, his son said. He was 58.

Armitage’s son Charles told The Associated Press that his father died of a heart attack.

In the 1960s, Armitage introduced British personality David Frost to American audiences after spotting Frost as an undergraduate at Cambridge University.

This summer, Armitage made his Broadway producing debut with ″Me and My Girl.″ The $4 million production, which opened Aug. 10 to rave reviews, is playing before packed houses and is on its way to becoming the most successful Broadway musical since ″Cats.″

In London, the revival opened Feb. 12, 1985 at the Adelphi Theater and won the 1985 Olivier Award for best musical of the year.

In an age of high-technology musical extravaganzas, the 1937 show about a Cockney lad who inherits an earldom has won raves for bringing back a sense of pre-World War II innocence and unabashed, boy-gets-girl exuberance.

It made Robert Lindsay, the lead both in London and on Broadway, into a top-rank song-and-dance star.

The show’s success marked a personal triumph for Armitage, son of its composer Noel Gay. Armitage devoted himself to refashioning his father’s material for a modern, more sophisticated era. He said in an interview in April 1985 that the appeal of ″Me and My Girl″ lay in its value as spectacle.

″Audiences do not want to see small, cameo musicals. They want to see big sets, big costumes, a big orchestra,″ he said.

Not everything Armitage produced was a hit. A London revival of John Osborne’s ″The Entertainer″ closed early this summer because of poor business.

A Broadway show starring British comic Rowan Atkinson, one of Armitage’s clients, flopped in October at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

At the time of his death, Armitage was producing a stage musical of Cole Porter’s musical film ″High Society,″ based on the film ″The Philadelphia Story,″ at the Leicester Haymarket Theater in the English midlands. The show, starring Trevor Eve and Natasha Richardson, is due to transfer to London’s commercial West End in 1987.

Born on Aug. 12, 1928, Armitage was divorced twice. He is survived by a younger sister, Angela Dickson-Wright, and two children, Charles and Alex.

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