Dick Vosburgh

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Writer, broadcaster, and lyricist Dick Vosburgh remains best known in theatrical circles for the Tony Award-winning 1979 musical comedy A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine. A world-renowned wit…
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Writer, broadcaster, and lyricist Dick Vosburgh remains best known in theatrical circles for the Tony Award-winning 1979 musical comedy A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine. A world-renowned wit and bon vivant, he also contributed gags to comic talents spanning from Bob Hope to John Cleese. Born in Elizabeth, NJ, on August 27, 1929, Vosburgh spent the majority of his early childhood in Washington, D.C., after his father, a reporter, landed a staff position with National Geographic. A lifelong film aficionado who regularly accompanied his mother to the local cinema, Vosburgh later attended boarding school in Miami, in part to combat his asthma, maintaining a journal of brief movie critiques and clipping photos of his favorite celluloid stars. Upon returning to D.C., he began writing dramas for local radio and by 15 was the chief creative force behind a regular series, Youth Drama Workshop. Following his parents' 1948 divorce Vosburgh was sent to study in London, where he moonlighted by contributing lyrics and skits to West End stage productions. As word of his skills spread, in 1953 he was appointed head writer on Breakfast with Braden, a radio series spotlighting Canadian humorist Bernard Braden. Vosburgh also wrote for the movie fan magazine Picturegoer and occasionally acted, appearing as an American POW in a London production of Stalag 17.

After years in radio, highlighted by a stint writing for The Show Band Show, Vosburgh transitioned into television. In the years to follow, he was a prolific and highly regarded presence, contributing to series including Alfred Marks Time, Bresslaw and Friends, The Stanley Baxter Show, and Frost Over Europe. He also dabbled in film, most notably writing a number of gags for the 1963 Bob Hope vehicle Call Me Bwana, and additionally collaborated with comedians including Ronnie Corbett, Stanley Baxter, Lenny Henry, and Roy Hudd. In 1968, Vosburgh appeared onscreen in the John Cleese vehicle How to Irritate People, and also turned up in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. He even contributed to the voice of Captain Larry Dart in the cult puppet series Space Patrol. Vosburgh's greatest achievement remains the 1979 musical A Day in Hollywood, a Night in the Ukraine. Written in tandem with actor and composer Frank Lazarus, the play imagined Anton Chekhov's drama The Bear as a long-lost Marx Brothers comedy, and became an enormous commercial and critical hit upon premiering at the Mayfair Theatre. The production won the Evening Standard and Plays and Players awards in 1979, and a year later scooped up a pair of Tony Awards during its two-year run on Broadway.

Vosburgh and Lazarus later resumed their collaboration via The Snark and How to Hunt It, and also contributed material to the radio program Flywheel, Shuster and Flywheel, based on a lost-lost Marx Brothers series. Together they even co-starred in the two-man revue The World Is My Ulcer, and appeared opposite Jessica Martin in the Moss Hart tribute Prince of Broadway. For 1982's Windy City -- an adaptation of Ben Hecht's classic The Front Page -- Vosburgh teamed with composer Tony Macauley, earning the Ivor Novello and Evening Standard awards for Best Musical. In later years Vosburgh most commonly joined forces with singer and pianist Denis King, a collaboration that launched with the television series Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life and continued in 1999 with the Hollywood musical satire A Saint She Ain't. Vosburgh and King also co-starred opposite actress Tamsin Outhwaite in the revue Two Beards and a Blonde, later resurfacing in the like-minded Beauty and the Beards alongside Sarah Redmond. On top of everything else, Vosburgh was a regular contributor to the obituary pages of The Independent, chronicling the lives of actors, composers, and lyricists often little-known to the general public. In early 2007 he and King reunited for the revue The Un-American Song Book, one of the final productions mounted at London's Theatre Museum. Vosburgh died on April 18, 2007.