RICHARDS, MARTIN (Morton Richard Klein; 1932– ), U.S. stage and film producer. Morton Richard Klein grew up in the Bronx and got his first job at the age of 10 as a newsboy in the Broadway show Mexican Hayride with June Havoc. He did other shows and commercials until his voice changed. At 17, a baritone, he began performing in nightclubs under his new name. He spent two years at New York University studying architecture, his grandfather's profession, while singing at night, but quit to pursue show business full-time. Realizing he would never make it big as a singer, Richards landed jobs as a casting director. He found actors for small roles in Manhattan-location movies like The Seven Year Itch, Sweet Charity, The Boston Strangler, and Sweet Smell of Success. He then raised funds to stage an Off-Broadway show, Dylan, which proved a success, and his producing career was born. Richards was determined to stage the dark musical Chicago, and he spent 27 years before it had its premiere on Broadway in 1975. The show, a smashing success, ran for more than 900 performances. That same year, Richards met Mary Lea Johnson, one of several children who were heirs to the Johnson & Johnson medical supply fortune. Johnson, a former actress and a woman who had two failed marriages, and Richards, an acknowledged homosexual, married. In 1976, with one million dollars from his wife, they established the Producers Circle, with Robert Fryer and James Cresson. The partnership produced such Broadway musical hits as On the Twentieth Century (1978), Sweeney Todd (1979), La Cage aux Folles (1983), The Will Rogers Follies (1991), and Grand Hotel (1989) among others. Their shows won more than 36 Tony Awards. Crimes of the Heart won a Pulitzer Prize. Off Broadway, the Circle produced
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.