Robert LuPone, who as an actor earned a Tony Award nomination in the original run of “A Chorus Line” and played Tony Soprano’s family physician, and also helped found and lead the influential off-Broadway theater company MCC Theater for almost 40 years, has died. He was 76.
LuPone, brother of Broadway icon Patti LuPone, died Saturday following a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer, according to Matt Ross Public Relations.
“The MCC Theater community mourns the loss of our much loved and uniquely inspiring partner, colleague and dear friend, Bob LuPone, who lived fearlessly and with great curiosity, good humor, a boundless passion for connection, and a whole lot of heart. We will miss him deeply and always,” the theater company said in a statement.
LuPone’s first professional job was in 1966, in the ensemble of the Westbury Music Fair’s production of “The Pajama Game” starring Liza Minnelli. He made his Broadway debut in the 1968 production of Noel Coward’s “Sweet Potato” and later appeared in “Minnie’s Boys,” “The Rothschilds” and “The Magic Show.”
LuPone was initially cast as Al in “A Chorus Line,” but convinced creator and director Michael Bennett to let him play Zach after the original actor left. LuPone would earn a best featured actor Tony nomination for the role.
“Deepest condolences to the Lupone family,” said Betty Buckley on Twitter.
Born in 1946 in Brooklyn, New York, LuPone graduated from The Juilliard School with a bachelor’s degree in dance in 1968.
He was teaching an acting class at New York University when one of his students was Bernie Telsey. Together they would help form Manhattan Class Company in 1986 — known today as MCC Theater.
LuPone, Telsey along with third co-artistic director Will Cantler shaped MCC into a theatrical powerhouse, producing such Broadway-bound works as “Frozen,” “Reasons to be Pretty,” “Hand to God,” “School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play,” “The Snow Geese,” “The Other Place” and the Pulitzer Prize- winning “Wit.”
While serving as co-artistic director of MCC, LuPone also worked as an actor, appearing in “A View from the Bridge,” “True West” and “A Thousand Clowns,” all on Broadway. He was in the Chicago premiere of Sam Shepard’s “The Tooth of Crime” and on TV was in “Sex and the City,” “Guiding Light,” and “All My Children,” for which he received a Daytime Emmy nomination.
He played Dr. Bruce Cusamano on “The Sopranos,” teasingly nicknamed “Cooze” by neighbor mobster Tony Soprano. In one memorable episode, Tony plays a joke by bringing Cooze a sealed box and asking him to hold on to it for a while, not telling his nervous neighbor that the package is filled with sand.
He also served as director of the master’s drama program at the New School for Drama from 2005 through 2011 and served as president of the board of directors of A.R.T/ New York.
LuPone is survived by his wife, Virginia; his son, Orlando; sister, Patti; and brother, William.