Karen Walter Goodwin, Broadway producer, dies at 66


Broadway producer Karen Walter Goodwin often described herself as an “accidental producer.” She died June 30 at age 66. ( Brian Carroll/ )
July 31, 2014

Karen Walter Goodwin, a Broadway producer who also raised money to support productions of such theatrical hits as “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,” died June 30 at a medical facility in Annapolis. She was 66.

The cause was colon cancer, according to a death notice published online by the George P. Kalas funeral home.

Ms. Goodwin, who often described herself as an “accidental producer,” followed a circuitous route to the world of show business, starting her professional career as an industrial psychologist with Mutual Benefit Life Insurance.

Later, as a financial executive, she advised the company to invest in art and entertainment opportunities, the first of which was formation of a syndicate to purchase Art & Antiques magazine.

Ms. Goodwin then formed partnerships to back theatrical productions. The first was a Royal Shakespeare Company staging of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” in 1983. Next was “Les Miserables,” which opened in London in 1985 and proved a huge hit. That play began Ms. Goodwin’s long association with Cameron Mackintosh, who later produced “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon.”

Other shows Ms. Goodwin was involved with included “The Gospel at Colonus,” “Into the Woods,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Oliver,” ­“Annie Warbucks,” “The Ark” and “Children of Eden.”

Karen Jeanne Walter was born April 8, 1948, in Fort Dix, N.J. Since the 1970s she had lived intermittently in Washington, Chevy Chase, Md., New York and, at her death, Annapolis.

She graduated in 1970 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and received a master’s degree in psychology from Northeastern University in Boston. She also studied at the Jung Institute in Zurich.

In 1987, she founded her own production company, Fifth Avenue Productions, in partnership with a college friend, Elizabeth Williams. The New York Times in 1988 described them as “Broadway angels” for their theatrical backings.

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 1996, Ms. Goodwin scaled back her producing activities, increasingly focusing on writing and teaching. From 2004 to 2008, she was executive director of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, a nonprofit support community for writers. She also represented several authors as a literary agent.

She was an adjunct faculty member at Catholic University, where she taught a course on “the business of music” in the School of Business and Economics.

Her marriage to Stephen Goodwin ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, Nicholas Reid Goodwin of New York City; her father, Richard S. Walter of Annapolis; two brothers; and a sister.

As a producer, Ms. Goodwin’s strength lay in a knack for spotting and evaluating good dramatic material and cultivating a network of “angel investors” to finance it, said a friend, Celia Carroll.

“Truth in theater,” Ms. Goodwin said in a 2007 lecture in New York to the International Arts Movement, “will lead an audience to an honest catharsis, may possibly be an agent of renewal. . . . With like-minded colleagues who recognize the need for an ‘anima mundi’ — soul in the world — we tried to create a theater of spirit, a theater of hope.”

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