Walter Willison (born June 24, 1947) is an American stage actor. He received a Tony Award nomination and Theatre World Award for his Broadway musical debut in Richard Rodgers' and Martin Charnin's Biblical musical Two by Two.
Willison made his theatre debut in the show Here's Love at the California Theatre in San Bernardino, California, in 1964. He started on Broadway's musical debut of Richard Rodgers' and Martin Charnin's Two by Two, directed by Joe Layton, as Japheth, youngest son of Noah. When Willison first emerged on the Broadway scene as a romantic young leading man, he was fortunate to have the honor of costarring and sharing the Broadway stage with his theatrical idols in such historic galas as A Celebration of Richard Rogers with Mary Martin and other veterans of Rodgers' shows.
Willison has also starred on Broadway in Bob Fosse's award winning staging of Steve Schwartz's Pippin in the title role, Wild and Wonderful, and Norman, Is That You? directed by George Abbott, starring Maureen Stapleton and Lou Jacobi. More recently he has been seen in the original cast of Tommy Tune's acclaimed musical Grand Hotel by Robert Wright, George Forrest, Luther Davis and Maury Yeston and in the original cast of A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden, with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, directed and staged by Mike Ockrent and Susan Stroman.
He was The Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein's Mass, the inaugural production at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center.
He returned to Two by Two in 2002, this time to direct and star as Noah (the role originated by Danny Kaye) opposite Pat Suzuki in The Jewish Repertory Theatre's Two by Two: The Richard Rodgers Centennial Concert, and on June 12, 2006, an SRO crowd filled the Bruno Walter Auditorium, and several hundred people had to be turned away, as he and fellow original cast members Joan Copeland, Michael Karm, and Martin Charnin (via cell phone over loudspeaker) reunited for Two by Two: A Musical Reunion.
Norman, Is That You?,
Two by Two,
Norman, Is That You?,
Wild and Wonderful,
A Celebration of Richard Rodgers,
A Gala Tribute to Joshua Logan,
A Celebration of George Abbott,
South Pacific: A 25th Anniversary Concert,
It's a Musical World: A Tribute To Bricusse and Newley,
Front Street Gaities: Dodge City's Hottest Revue,
They Say It's Wonderful,
Broadway Scandals OF 1928: The New Speakeasy Musical,
The Fantasticks: The First International Japan Tour,
Starting Here, Starting Now,
Grand Hotel: The Musical,
A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden,
Anyone Can Whistle: Live At Carnegie Hall,
Wall to Wall Richard Rodgers at Symphony Space,
Kean: The Musical In Concert 2000,
Two by Two: The Richard Rodgers Centennial Concert 2002,
Penn Avenue To Broadway: A Celebration of the 25th Annual William Inge Festival,
Night of Your Nights: The Golden Age of Broadway in Concert starring Walter Willison & Heather MacRae,
Two by Two: A Musical Reunion at Lincoln Center,
To Life!: A Celebration of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock at the 26th Annual William Inge Festival,
Remember and Celebrate: Honoring Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt at the 28th Annual William Inge Festival,
Your Own Thing Old Globe Theatre, San Diego,
The Grass Harp: The Musical Produced by AMA, West Coast Premiere,
Front Street Gaieties: Dodge City's Hottest Revue Mayfair Theatre, Santa Monica, CA,
Broadway Scandals OF 1928: The New Speakeasy Musical Upstairs at O'Neil's Times Square, New York,
A Tribute to Robert Anderson The 2nd Annual William Inge Festival,
A Tribute to William Gibson The 3rd Annual William Inge Festival,
The 2005 Theatre World Awards at Studio 54, New York Theatre World Awards, Inc.,
Two by Two: The Richard Rodgers 2002 Centennial Concert Produced by The Jewish Repertory Theatre, New York,
Minnie's Boys: The Marx Brothers Musical In Concert Produced by The Jewish Repertory Theatre, New York,
The 2006 Theatre World Awards at Studio 54, New York Theatre World Awards, Inc.,
Hollywood Canteen: The New 1940s Revue, choreographed by Kay Cole West Coast Tour,
A Rockette's Tail by Joanna Rush Off-Broadway, New York,
Over the years has written, directed and/or supervised various and sundry nightclub acts and concerts for artists including Horace Heidt, Jr., Judy Kaye, Diane J. Findlay, Heather MacRae and others.,
Willison's films include Ricky McKay's BROADWAY: BEYOND THE GOLDEN AGE, for release in 2011; Mike Frankovich's Emmy Award winning ZIEGFELD: THE MAN AND HIS WOMEN, directed by Buzz Kulik, for which he was personally selected by Irving Berlin to play Ziegfeld star Frank Carter, and croon Berlin's classic "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody"; HARRY AND WALTER GO TO NEW YORK, directed by Mark Rydell with uncredited musical staging for the operetta sequences, in which Willison appears opposite Lesley Ann Warren, by his Broadway mentor Joe Layton; THE INITIATION, SOMEBODY HELP ME, EDWARD II, and he wrote the lyrics, to music by Jeffrey Silverman, for the four songs he sings in the "cult classic" FANTASIES, directed by John Derek, which marked Bo Derek's screen debut in 1980 and was released on DVD in 2005.
On television, he played Dr. Calvin Campbell in NBC's McDuff, the Talking Dog, the hit series in which he starred during 1976-1977, Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy episode of The Great Novelists series on PBS, and Dr. George "Buck" Wheaton on Days of our Lives. He has also guest starred on The Today Show, The David Frost Show, Celebrity Revue, The Dating Game, NBC'S Sunshine Saturday, and many other talk shows and telethons.
Writing and directing:
Also active as a writer and director, his many credits include directing the West Coast Premiere of THE GRASS HARP (starring Broadway's Susan Watson and introducing a then six-year-old Christina Applegate); YOUR OWN THING at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. He wrote the book & lyrics, directed and costarred in two musical revues which received rave reviews from the critics, one for each coast: FRONT STREET GAIETIES: DODGE CITY'S HOTTEST REVUE, starring Susan Watson and Charles Ward, which had its World Premiere at The Mayfair Theatre in Santa Monica, California in 1980, and BROADWAY SCANDALS OF 1928: THE NEW SPEAKEASY MUSICAL, starring Shelley Bruce, which had its World Premiere Off-Broadway at Upstairs O'Neal's Times Square in 1982, both with music by Jeffrey Silverman. He wrote the lyrics for WONDERFUL LIFE!: THE MUSICAL, with music by John Kroner and a book by Douglas Holmes, commissioned by Beef & Boards Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1987, and which had been presented annually around the US since then. He also collaborated with Mr. Holmes on the new book for the critically acclaimed 1997 revisal of Frank Loesser's GREENWILLOW: THE MUSICAL FOLKTALE which Variety headlined was "redeemed by its new book", and also directed the World Premiere tryout at in Sarasota, Florida. In 2005 he contributed the book and staged the West Coast touring production of HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN: THE NEW 1940s MUSICAL REVUE, which featured musical arrangements by Jeffrey Silverman and choreography by A Chorus Line's Kay Cole.
Twenty years after winning Broadway's coveted Theatre World Award, Mr. Willison was honored to collaborate with John Willis as Associate Editor for seven books; three editions of his legendary Theatre World books, chronicling each years theatre season on Broadway and around the US: volumes #42, 43, and 44, and four volumes of Screen World, which cover each year in films: #37, 38, 39, and 40.
Willison served as Vice-President of Theater World Awards Board of Directors from 2004 to 2006, directed The 61st Annual Theatre World Awards at Studio 54 in June, 2005, starring such TWA luminaries as Lucie Arnaz, John Cullum, Tim Daly, Pat Suzuki, and he directed The 62nd Annual Theatre World Awards at Studio 54 in June, 2006, starring Lucie Arnaz, Harry Connick, Jr., Ralph Fiennes, Harry Groener, Andrea McArdle, Ken Page, John Rubinstein, and contributed special material for guest star Liza Minnelli.
Willison now has over 25 recordings in release on CD, as producer or performer or both. These include performing on the original cast or studio cast recordings of TWO BY TWO, GRAND HOTEL, BROADWAY SCANDALS OF 1928, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Anyone Can Whistle: Live at Carnegie Hall, UNSUNG SONDHEIM, LOST IN BOSTON I, LOST IN BOSTON II, UNSUNG IRVING BERLIN; producing and performing on Robert Wright & George Forrest's ANASTASIA: THE MUSICAL and PREMIERE RECORDINGS OF WRIGHT & FORREST SONGS FROM GRAND HOTEL*AT THE GRAND*BETTING ON BERTIE & KEAN (Judy Kaye, Len Cariou, Regina Resnik, Walter Willison, George Lee Andrews, Steve Barton, Simon Jones, Marcia Lewis, Donna Lee Marshall, Eric Riley and others), A BAG OF POPCORN AND A DREAM: AN INTIMATE BIGSCREEN REVUE (Karen Akers, Lucie Arnaz, Jeff Calhoun, Geoffrey Holder, Simon Jones, Judy Kaye, Marcia Lewis, Kathi Moss, Karen Murphy, Ashley Rose Orr, Walter Willison and others), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A GOTHIC MUSICAL (starring Robert Cuccioli, Melly Garcia, Brooks Almy, Bryan Batt, Timothy Jerome, Walter Willison, Christine Boger, Bonnie Simmons; and as producer, MARCIA LEWIS: NOWADAYS, Maltby & Shire's restored CYRANO & THE GRAND TOUR, and NEVA SMALL: MY PLACE IN THE WORLD. Willison also wrote booklet notes for the above CDs which he produced, and has contributed notes for several other booklets, as well, including those for Martin Charnin's MATA HARI and Bob Merrill's BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.
Willison continues to develop new projects as a writer, to direct, to perform, and to appear on tour with Heather MacRae in concerts and clubs around the US, in NIGHT OF YOUR NIGHTS: A CELEBRATION OF BROADWAY'S GOLDEN AGE.
Willison is proud to serve on The National Advisory Board of The Annual William Inge Festival, an event he helped to create, along with playwright Jerome Lawrence and founder Margaret Goheen, more than a quarter of a century ago. Since 1982, IngeFest, which takes place in the late playwright William Inge's hometown of Independence, Kansas, has honored our greatest living American playwrights and theatre composers and lyricists. In 2006, he appeared in "PENN AVENUE TO BROADWAY: A 25 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE" created and directed by Mike Wood; in 2007, in "TO LIFE!: A TRIBUTE TO JERRY BOCK AND SHELDON HARNICK" created and directed by Peter Ellenstein. In 2008, he returned to celebrate honoree Christopher Durang, and to present a seminar on his most recent work-in-progress, WILLIAM INGE: THE INTERVIEW--A PLAY ON REALITY based on interviews with and writings of William Inge. In 2009 he returned to IngeFest to celebrate the careers of William Inge Distinguished Achievement in The American Theatre Award winners, Broadway Legends and creators of The Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.
^ IMDb Resume for Walter Willison (I),