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Bob Avian, Tony Award-winning choreographer, dies at 83

Tony Award-winning choreographer Bob Avian seen in 2006.
Tony Award-winning choreographer Bob Avian seen in 2006. (Shiho Fukada/AP)
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Bob Avian, a Tony Award-winning choreographer who had a role in some of the most beloved and influential shows on Broadway, including “Dreamgirls,” “A Chorus Line,” “Follies” and “Miss Saigon,” died Jan. 21 at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 83.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said publicist Matt Polk.

Mr. Avian rose from being a dancer in “West Side Story” and “Funny Girl” to work alongside such theater luminaries as Michael Bennett, Cameron Mackintosh, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Mr. Avian enjoyed a long professional partnership with choreographer Bennett, working as associate choreographer or assistant director on such productions as “A Chorus Line,” “Promises, Promises,” “Coco,” “Company,” “Follies, “Seesaw” and “God’s Favorite.”

“For someone so talented, he remained remarkably modest about his own achievements on so many landmark musicals,” Mackintosh said in a statement. “He facilitated the genius of Michael Bennett and with every little step he took taught me more about the art of staging a modern musical than virtually anyone else I’ve met. It was a privilege to have been his friend and colleague for over 35 years.”

Mr. Avian was a producer of the original “Dreamgirls” and “Ballroom” and did musical staging for “Sunset Boulevard,” starring Glenn Close, in 1994, “Putting It Together” with Carol Burnett and the original “Miss Saigon” with Lea Salonga in 1991.

Mr. Avian earned six Tony nominations and won twice, for choreographing “Ballroom” and co-choreographing “A Chorus Line.” He won an Oliver Award for choreographing Boublil and Schonberg’s musical “Martin Guerre” in London. He also choreographed “The Witches of Eastwick” in the West End starring Ian McShane.

After Bennett died in 1987, Mr. Avian’s association with “A Chorus Line” continued when he directed the 2006 revival on Broadway and the London revival at the Palladium in 2013.

He also directed touring versions.

Mr. Avian was born Dec. 26, 1937, in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and also studied at Boston Ballet School. His memoir, “Dancing Man: A Broadway Choreographer’s Journey,” co-written with Tom Santopietro, was published in 2020.

Survivors include his husband, Peter Pileski, and a sister.

— Associated Press

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