Phyllis Newman Dies: Tony-Winning Broadway Legend Was 86

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Phyllis Newman, known for her Tony Award-winning role as the bath towel-clad Martha Vail in the musical Subways Are for Sleeping, has died. The star of stage and screen was 86.

The news was announced by her son Adam Green, a theater critic for Vogue, via Twitter. “My sister @amanda_green and I had to say goodbye to our beautiful mother today,” he tweeted. “I’ll miss her more than I can say.”

In addition to Subways Are for Sleeping, Newman appeared in numerous Broadway productions including Bells Are Ringing, The Apple Tree, On the Town, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Awake and Sing, Wish You Were Here and First Impressions. She also had her one-woman musical The Madwoman of Central Park West which was co-written by her and Arthur Laurents. She also received a Tony nom for her performance in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound.

She received a Drama Desk nomination for her starring performance in the Off Broadway production of James Lapine’s The Moment When… Her other Off Broadway credits include Nicky Silver’s The Food Chain, the Naked Angels production of Shyster as well as the revival of A Majority of One.

She had multiple appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and was the first woman to host The Johnny Carson Show. Her other TV credits include 100 Centre Street, Oz, Murder, She Wrote, thirtysomething and The Jury. 

On the film side, she appeared in numerous features including The Human Stain, It Had To Be You, For the Time Being, Fish in the Bathtub, A Price Above Rubies, The Beautician and the Beast, Only You, Mannequin, To Find a Man, Bye Bye Braverman and Picnic.

Newman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983 as she detailed in her book Just in Time: Notes From My Life. This led to her bringing awareness to the disease as well as women’s health issues and needs in the entertainment industry. She started The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative of The Actors’ Fund of America in 1993.

She was married to the late composer and screenwriter Adolph Green for 42 years. They are survived by their children Adam and Amanda.

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