Tony Walton, titan of award-winning theater, dies at 87

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

Walton was an award-winning director and production designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway, film, television, ballet and opera. He was nominated for 16 Tony Awards for his Broadway sets and/or costumes throughout his career and won three for his work on Pippin apple, House of Blue Leavesand guys and dolls. Among his 20 films, Mary Poppins, The boyfriend, The genius and Murder on the Orient Express earned him five Oscar nominations. He won the Oscar for Bob Fosse And all that in 1979, and the Emmy for Death of a seller in 1986.

Tony Walton and Jules Feiffer at the Sound View in Greenport for Walton’s last birthday, October 24, 2021Courtesy of 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 creations for Broadway include the original Fosse productions of Chicago and Pippin apple, big hotel, the real thing, The follies of Will Rogers, The House of Blue Leaves, Our city, I am not Rappaport, The man who came to dinner, Uncle Vanya, Annie take your gun, 1776, A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, She loves Me, guys and dolls, everything is fineby Harold Pinter Moonlight and Ashes to ashes, A tale of two cities and Good, among many others. He was the decorator of Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol for 10 years as well as for his ex-wife Julie Andrews’ takeover in 2003 of The boyfriend for Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor and for Goodspeed Opera House, followed by a national tour of the United States in 2005.

His film work includes collaborations with Fosse and other directors, such as Sidney Lumet, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, Ken Russell, Volker Schlöndorff and François Truffaut. Walton’s 20 films include: Mary Poppins, Murder on the Orient Express, Fahrenheit 451, The genius, The boyfriend, And all that, Death of a seller, Glass factory, About Henryand death trap. He also created numerous illustrations for books and magazines, as well as caricatures for Playbill, theater arts, vogue and others, as well as 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 to directing productions of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward and others for the Irish Repertory Theater in New York, the Old Globe in San Diego, the Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton and Bay Street Theatre. He both directed and engineered the successful revival of Where is Charlie? for the Goodspeed Opera House and the American premiere of Coward’s After the Ball, (a musical version of Lady Windermere’s Fan) for the Irish representative where he also produced and designed The importance of being serious, Major Barbara, candidiasis and the recent The Devil’s Disciple, which he reenacted for Asolo’s representative in Florida. The other direction includes Coward’s A song at dusk for Bay Street Theatre, Gen LeRoy’s Missing images for the Old Globe, and Whoops! The Big Apple Circus Stage Show for a tour of 60 American cities. At the John Drew Theater he directed Orson Welles Moby Dick repeated with Peter Boyle, and two plays by Peter Shaffer — both with Alec Baldwin: Equus and The gift of the Gorgon. More recently, he directed Coward’s Tonight at 8:30 p.m. with Blythe Danner and Simon Jones, on the same stage. Walton has also done smaller productions, such as a 2015 local presentation of AR Gurney’s love letters with Pia Lindström and Terrance Fiore at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton, in aid of 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 Opera creations have been seen at the Theater Royal Covent Garden in London, Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and throughout Europe and America. His many ballet designs include Woman Saint Louis for the Dance Theater of Harlem at Lincoln Center and Pierre and the Wolf and Sleeping Beauty for the American Ballet Theater at the Met, as well as numerous ballets for the San Francisco Ballet Company.

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

Walton was elected to the Theater Hall of Fame in 1991. He is survived by 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 Oakland Cemetery. Donations in Tony Walton’s name can be made to Bay Street Theater, guild hallor the Actors Fund. A public celebration will take place at a later date.