UPDATE, FRIDAY 6:30 AM: Adds quote from Neufeld’s column, below:

Peter Neufeld, a Broadway general manager and producer who with business partner R. Tyler Gatchell sailed through the ’70s and ’80s on New York productions of several Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, has died. Neufeld was 78 when he died Jan. 27 at the Actors Fund home in Englewood, N.J. after a years-long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

He leaves a legacy that includes some two decades of AIDS activism and service. He was also one of the most public and beloved off-stage figures in a culture often marked by frozen grins and behind-the-scenes backstabbing.

cats3Beginning in 1971, the general management company Gatchell & Neufeld Ltd. quickly rose to prominence as the go-to management and executive-producing office in an increasingly complex business environment. Broadway was morphing from a cottage industry to a global entertainment force, mostly fueled by the rock-and-roll British Invasion shows composed by Lloyd Webber, including Cats, Evita and Starlight Express.

Together they were an unlikely (and, at first, uneasy) match: Gatchell impeccably stylish and sociable in his natty Savile Row suits and bow ties, and the Brooklyn-born Neufeld, Felix to Tyler’s Oscar, casual and easygoing.

PETERGatchell died suddenly in 1993 at 50 and Neufeld soon after lost his taste for the business. His emerging involvement in the nonprofit service organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS became professional two years later, after he’d formally dissolved Gatchell & Neufeld. Now he was cajoling and finagling and urging the stars he’d worked with for a quarter-century to donate time and talent and sweat equity for cause, and there was no one who would turn him down.

At my invitation, Neufeld wrote movingly about his transformation to AIDS activist for Variety. On September 3, 1995 under the headline “Change Of Heart,” Peter wrote:

“I am no longer a hired gun on Broadway, but one of an unending chorus line of volunteers in the fight against AIDS…I believe many of us were attracted to the theater because of the sense of family that it offered, and the sense of belonging and of teamwork. After I left, I felt those pleasures would never be mine again…[But] I’m closer to the heart of the theater than I have ever been.”

He later published For The Good Of The Show, a memoir of his life on Broadway and after. In 2005, Neufeld was awarded a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre. He was loved.