Tony Walton, Award-Winning Titan of Theater and Film Has Died at 87

Tony Walton
Courtesy Bay Street Theater

Award-winning Broadway and film designer and Sag Harbor resident Tony Walton died peacefully on Wednesday, March 2 from complications of a stroke. He was 87.

Walton was an award-winning director and production designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway, film, television, ballet and opera. He was nominated fo 16 Tony Awards for his Broadway sets and/or costumes throughout his storied career, and won three for his work on Pippin, House of Blue Leaves, and Guys and Dolls. Among his 20 films, Mary Poppins, The Wiz, Murder on the Orient Express and Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz earned him five Academy Award nominations. He won the Oscar for All That Jazz in 1979, and the Emmy for the 1985 Death of a Salesman TV mini-series.

Tony Walton and Jules Feiffer at the Sound View in Greenport for Walton's last birthday, October 24, 2021
Tony Walton and Jules Feiffer at the Sound View in Greenport for Walton’s last birthday, October 24, 2021Courtesy Bridget LeRoy

Born in Walton-on-Thames, England, on October 24, 1934, Walton studied art and design at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. His designs for Broadway include Fosse’s original productions of Chicago and PippinGrand Hotel, The Real Thing, The Will Rogers FolliesThe House of Blue LeavesOur Town, I’m Not Rappaport, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Uncle Vanya, Annie Get Your Gun, 1776, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, She Loves Me, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, Harold Pinter’s Moonlight and Ashes to Ashes, A Tale of Two Cities and Well, among many others. He was the production designer for Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol for 10 years as well as for his former wife Julie Andrews’ 2003 revival of The Boy Friend for Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor and for Goodspeed Opera House, followed by a national U.S. tour in 2005.

His film work was highlighted by collaborations with Fosse and other directors, such as Sidney Lumet, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, Ken Russell, Volker Schlöndorff, and Francois Truffaut. Walton’s 20 films include: Mary Poppins, Murder on the Orient Express, Fahrenheit 451, The Wiz, The Boy Friend, All That Jazz, Death of a Salesman, The Glass Menagerie, Regarding Henry, and Deathtrap. He also created a great many book and magazine illustrations, as well as caricatures for Playbill, Theatre Arts, Vogue and others, and posters for many Broadway, Off-Broadway and West End shows.

Blythe Danner, Tony Walton and Delphi Harrington
Blythe Danner, Tony Walton and Delphi Harrington

In his later life, Walton turned his hand to directing for productions of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward and others for New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre, San Diego’s Old Globe, Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre, the John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall in East Hampton, and Bay Street Theater. He both directed and designed the smash hit revival of Where’s Charley? for the Goodspeed Opera House and the U.S. premiere of Coward’s After the Ball, (a musical version of Lady Windermere’s Fan) for the Irish Rep where he also directed and designed The Importance of Being Earnest, Major Barbara, Candida and the recent The Devil’s Disciple, which he restaged for the Asolo Rep in Florida. Other direction includes Coward’s A Song at Twilight for Bay Street Theater, his wife Gen LeRoy’s Missing Footage for the Old Globe, and Oops! The Big Apple Circus Stage Show for a 60-city U.S. tour. At the John Drew Theatre, he staged Orson Welles’ Moby Dick Rehearsed starring Peter Boyle, and two plays by Peter Shaffer — both starring Alec Baldwin: Equus and The Gift of the Gorgon. Most recently at John Drew, he staged Coward’s Tonight at 8:30, starring Blythe Danner and Simon Jones. Walton also directed smaller local productions, such as a 2015 presentation of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters with Pia Lindström and Terrance Fiore at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton, to benefit local charities East End Hospice, Dominican Sisters and Maureen’s Haven.

As a producer, Walton co-presented six productions — plays and musicals — in London; three in association with the legendary Hal Prince. His designs for opera have been seen at London’s Theatre Royal Covent Garden, The Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and throughout Europe and America. His many ballet designs include St. Louis Woman for Dance Theatre of Harlem at Lincoln Center and Peter and the Wolf and Sleeping Beauty for American Ballet Theatre at the Met, plus many ballets for the San Francisco Ballet Company.

Tony Walton and Gen LeRoy Walton
Tony Walton and his wife Gen LeRoy WaltonCourtesy Bridget LeRoy

Walton was elected to the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1991. He leaves behind his beloved wife, author Gen LeRoy Walton, his two daughters, Emma Walton Hamilton and Bridget LeRoy, and five grandchildren. A private service will be held in Sag Harbor (no date yet) followed by interment at the Oakland Cemetery. Donations in Tony Walton’s name can be made to Bay Street Theater, Guild Hall, or the Actors Fund. A public celebration will be held at a later date.

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