b. 3 May 1931, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, d. 5 May 1994, Key West, Florida, USA. Active on Broadway from the early 60s, Layton first appeared as a performer but became well known as choreographer and director of many productions. He appeared on stage in Wonderful Town (1953), and in 1959 was responsible for the musical staging for both The Sound Of Music and Once Upon A Mattress. He choreographed Greenwillow and Tenderloin (both 1960) and Sail Away (1961), then directed No Strings (1962) in which he introduced several novel procedures that have since become commonplace, including having the orchestra on-stage instead of in the pit. His choreography for this shown brought him a Tony Award.
Layton staged the musical The Girl Who Came To Supper (1963), directed the play Peterpat (1965), choreographed Drat That Cat! (1965) and Sherry! (1967), and directed as well as choreographed George M! (1968) and Dear World (1969). Also in 1969 he directed a performance of Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi for the National Theater of the Deaf. Among Layton’s 70s work was the musical Two By Two, which he conceived and directed. He was director and choreographer of Bette Midler’s Clams On The Half Shell Revue (1975), and he directed the concert special An Evening With Diana Ross (1976). In 1978 his choreography for George M! was seen again on Broadway in The American Dance Machine, and he also directed and choreographed Platinum.
In the 80s, Layton directed and was responsible for the musical staging of the highly successful Barnum (1980), which ran on Broadway for 854 performances, and he also directed the London Palladium production in 1981. He also conceived and directed the two-day production Bring Back Birdie (1981), directed and choreographed Rock ’N Roll! The First 5, 000 Years (1982) and directed Harrigan ’N Hart (1985). In 1988 he was involved with impresario Harold Fielding in the deeply troubled London production of Ziegfeld. In 1990 he directed the special concert production of An Evening With Harry Connick Jr. And His Orchestra.
Layton also worked in films, including preparing the choreography for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), the musical sequences for Annie (1982) and For The Boys (1991). As director, his television work includes Once Upon A Mattress (1964), The Littlest Angel (1969) and Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip (1982), as well as shows featuring Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John and Diana Ross.