Margo Lion, Producer of ‘Hairspray’ and More, Dies at 75


Perhaps her biggest contribution to “Angels” was to help recruit George C. Wolfe — the young director she had used on “Jelly’s Last Jam” — to direct the New York production. He had been nominated for the best-director Tony for “Jelly’s,” his first Broadway credit, and he went on to win the award for each of the two parts of “Angels in America.”

“Because of Margo, I had my first Broadway show,” Mr. Wolfe said by email. “She was the first person to suggest I direct ‘Angels in America.’ I was on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities because of her. The list goes on and on. She was a true friend, protective, caring, loving, loyal.”

Ms. Lion had her share of failures, perhaps none bigger than “Triumph of Love,” a musical that died on Broadway 85 performances after opening in 1997. But it wouldn’t be long before she was struck by the brainstorm that would become her biggest hit.

Ms. Lion had seen the movie “Hairspray” (1988), directed by her fellow Baltimorean John Waters, soon after it came out, but admitted that she didn’t embrace it initially.

“To be candid,” she told The Sun in 2002, “I think I wasn’t sophisticated enough when I first saw ‘Hairspray’ to appreciate its many virtues.”

But in 1998 she rented the video and watched the movie again while recovering from a cold.

“Halfway through,” she recalled in the 2002 interview with The Times, “I literally said: ‘Yes, this is it. I found it.’”

She had not yet met Mr. Waters. By the time she did, she had acquired the rights and had sent him the first few songs for the musical, by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. When they finally did meet, Mr. Waters said in a phone interview, she promised him that she would make sure that the musical, about a chubby Baltimore teenager who wins a spot on a local television dance show, stayed true to his voice and vision.

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