Geoffrey Johnson, whose Johnson-Liff Casting was behind the roles for Cats, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s three longest-running shows, died Friday, Nov. 26. He was 91 and passed from respiratory failure at Henry J. Carter Hospital in 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.
From there, he worked as an actor, appearing in Saint Joan on Broadway in 1956,
He was also the stage manager of 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 and casting director, he formed Johnson-Liff Casting in 1975 with business partner Vincent Liff and fellow casting directors Linda Otto and Geri Windsor.
Their successes included casting the three longest-running Broadway shows, Cats, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera. They worked with Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Cameron Mackintosh and were responsible for casting scores of Broadway shows, including The Elephant Man, Dreamgirls, Miss Saigon and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
In 2003, Johnson and Vincent Liff were awarded a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre, as well as the Hoyt Bowers Award and several Artios Awards from the Casting Society of America.
Johnson continued to be an active member of the theater community after the Johnson-Liff office closed 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) in Garrison, NY; nephew Bruce Johnson 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 cousins and many friends in the US and England. He was pre-deceased by his brother Alfred Ashton Johnson, sister Patricia Johnson Friedman, nephew Craig Johnson, and life partner Jerry Hogan.
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