Bill Kenwright, the prolific West End theater producer behind the hit musicals Blood Brothers, Whistle Down the Wind and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and who would later go on to become an owner and chairman of his boyhood soccer club Everton, has died. He was 78.
In a statement, Everton said Kenwright died peacefully, “surrounded by his family and loved ones.” Earlier this month, the Premier League soccer club had revealed that Kenwright had recently undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his liver.
“The world of British theatre without Bill Kenwright seems impossible,” said fellow theater impresario Cameron Mackintosh in a statement on X. “In my lifetime, there has never been anyone like Bill. He’s totally irreplaceable and we will miss him so.”
“Dearest Bill, Somewhere you’ll be singing Let It Be Me and challenging heavenly choirs to look into your Ebony Eyes,” Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted on Tuesday. “The theatre will miss you and never forget you.”
“Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment,” Ian McKellen said in a statement on X. “He seemed to have known everyone in the business and to care about them. Yet every chat would veer round to his equal passion – Everton.”
With a string of hits on the London stage, Kenwright was in the first rank of British theater producers and was involved with Blood Brothers, Cabaret, The Wizard of Oz, Evita, Jekyll & Hyde, Fame and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Born in Liverpool, England on Sept. 4, 1945, Kenwright entered the entertainment industry first as an actor. He had a starring role in the long-running ITV soap Coronation Street, playing the character of Gordon Clegg, who made his show debut in April 1968. He left the show the following year to pursue a career as a producer but periodically made cameo appearances on Coronation Street over the next five decades, the last time in 2012.
Turning to the theater production, Kenwright made his name by producing new productions of the musicals. He found great success with his production of Willy Russell’s Liverpool-set Blood Brothers in 1987. The production would become an enduring hit, running in the West End for 24 years, embarking on several national and international tours and transferring to Broadway.
Kenwright also produced Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, another production that would go on to become a long-running national and international touring hit.
Kenwright first foray into producing feature films came with Lewis Gilbert’s Stepping Out (1991). The film starred Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters, and the latter was nominated for a BAFTA film award in the best supporting actress category.
The Kenwright-produced drama My Pure Land (2017), an Urdu-language feature directed by Sarmad Masud, was the U.K.’s submission for the best foreign language Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards.
Kenwright’s other movie producing credits include My Night with Reg (2021), Off the Rails (2021), The Fanatic (2019), Burden (2018), Peripheral (2018), Another Mother’s Son (2017), The Hope Rooms (2016), Broken (2012), Chéri (2009), Die, Mommie, Die! (2003), Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (1999) and Day After the Fair (1986).
Outside the entertainment industry, Kenwright is more widely known for his association with Premier League soccer club Everton.
He is survived by his wife, the actress Jenny Seagrove.
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