Volume 17, Number 51 | May 13 - 19, 2005

Obituary


Philip Campanella, 56, Downtown composer and singer

By Albert Amateau

Philip A. Campanella, a composer, lyricist and performer who worked in dozens of Off-Broadway shows and served as musical director of Roundabout Theater for more than 20 years, died suddenly of an arterial thrombosis at the age of 56.

He lived Downtown on King St. for 30 years until 2003 when he moved back to Jersey City where he was born and raised.

Possessed of a booming baritone voice and a compelling personality, he was at the time of his death the executive director of Singers Forum, a singer’s academy at 49 W. 24 St., where he also taught and coached.

“He walked into the Roundabout Theater 35 years ago and never really left,” said Gene Feist, founder of Roundabout. “He was a great colleague, godfather to my children, my best friend,” Feist said.

Mimi Maxman, a costume designer who met Campanella at Roundabout in 1970, said, “Phil was screechingly funny, both in his outlook on life and the way he put words together.”

He collaborated with Maxine Andrews, of the famed 1940s Andrews Sisters trio, when Maxine began her cabaret career in 1979 after the death of her sister, Laverne. He was the composer of most of her solo numbers and performed with Andrews in a version of “Quanta Lagusta,” a song made famous in the 1940s by the Brazilian performer Carmen Miranda. “It was hilarious,” said his friend, Andrew Decker, a publicist. “He had a crazy Carmen Miranda hat that he wore while accompanying Maxine on the piano.”

Philip Campanella also worked with the actress Geraldine Fitzgerald on her one-woman show “Streetsongs,” which launched her cabaret career.

Born May 24, 1948, he earned degrees in music and theater from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. He was pianist, accompanist and actor in the 1973 Roundabout production of “The Play’s the Thing” on Broadway and was music director of Roundabout’s 1978 production of Harold Rome’s “Pins and Needles.” He was musical director of Harold Pinter’s “Old Times” with Jane Alexander, Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason. He also was music director of the 1989 production of Peter Nichols’s “Pirates on Parade” with Jim Dale, Simon Jones and John Curry.

He wrote the music and lyrics for “James Joyce’s The Dubliners” and composed original music for productions of “Hamlet,” “The Master Builder,” “All My Sons” and “Misalliance.”

He also taught at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and gave voluntary classes to New York City Public School students.

His brother, John, several nieces and nephews, and an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins survive.

The funeral was May 11 at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Jersey City and burial was in Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.

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