Andrew Lloyd Webber has led tributes to André Ptaszynski, describing him as “one of the true gentlemen of the theatre”.
Ptaszynski, who died on July 29, was chief executive of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group between 2000 and 2011.
Lloyd Webber said: “André was one of the true gentlemen of the theatre; a theatre animal through and through who lived and loved the profession like few others. There was nothing inside the square mile of the West End that he didn’t know, sometimes it seemed he knew what was going on before it actually happened!”
He said Ptaszynski had the “Herculean task of being boss of what is now LW Theatres and the production arm of the Really Useful Group”, a dual role that “called on his brilliant diplomatic skills to the full”.
Lloyd Webber said these were skills “that he was able to deploy not only in Britain but equally on Broadway”.
“He could be tough when he needed to be, but always with a twinkle in his eye and a nose for the fun side of backstage life inspired by his passionate love of theatre. It was these qualities that made him such a valuable person for the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. He was that rare beast who totally grasped both the subsidised and commercial sectors.
"So farewell, dear André. The West End will not be the same without your cheery figure cycling down Shaftesbury Avenue,” he said.
RUG president Jessica Koravos described him as “nothing short of a legend”, and paid tribute jointly with LW Theatres chief executive Rebecca Kane Burton to their “mentor”.
“André’s were huge shoes to fill, even for two people, but our admiration for him went beyond that because he wasn’t just a legend, he was a mentor to both of us. He was always generous with his time, wise in his advice and downright encouraging, as well as being enormous fun,” Koravos said.
“It will be a difficult transition from our daily ‘what does André say?’ to ‘What would André say?’, but the question will continue to be asked and he will remain an integral and much loved part of the spirit of our organisations,” she added.
Cameron Mackintosh also paid tribute, and said: "Having known André most of my professional life, not to have him around seems unthinkable. Everyone that has had the privilege of being his friend have enjoyed the same qualities of understated charm, wit, wisdom, wickedly enjoyable, indiscreet gossip and the enviable ability to never let work, even in a crisis, stop him enjoying life. Over the last 30 years in certain positions I have had the odd row with him, but no one could be cross with André for very long -even if you were in the right! That he said goodbye to us in repose as if taking a nap makes me feel that when it is our turn to depart he’ll be there smiling at the Pearly Gates welcoming us in to a very jolly party. God bless and thank you for all the fun."
Nimax chief executive Nica Burns paid tribute to a “decent and kind person”.
“The thing about André is that he was loved. He was very creative but equally as good at the business side. He managed to be hugely successful and stay a decent and kind person, and that is why he was loved,” she said.
Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon described their deep shock at Ptaszynski’s unexpected death.
“André was a leading figure in the West End and wider entertainment industry for decades – producing shows across the world, running theatres and passionately and tirelessly representing the industry on boards and other forums,” they said.
With Denise Wood, Ptaszynski was one of the two executive producers of Matilda the Musical. He came on-board during the original run in Stratford-upon-Avon and is credited with helping to “steer the show to its incredible global success across the last decade”, said Doran and Mallyon.
They added: “His irrepressible charm, humour, laser instinct and clear-sighted business sense (and endless theatrical anecdotes) made him one of the most successful and admired producers of recent times. André’s unbounded love for Matilda the Musical, his endless commitment, his total support for everyone involved in all the productions, and his joy in sitting in audiences across the world, was inspiring. And very special.”
Doran and Mallyon added that Ptaszynski would be “deeply missed by us and the entire industry as we start to process this tragic news”.
“Our thoughts are with his wife Judith, his children and his family at this most difficult of times,” they said.
National theatre director Rufus Norris and executive director Lisa Burger said Ptaszynski had “devoted his life to supporting UK theatre”.
“We were devastated to hear of the death yesterday of André Ptaszynski, long-serving board member and treasured friend of the National Theatre. André served on the main National Theatre board from 2001 to 2010 and was most recently a non-executive director of National Theatre Productions where, with wisdom and warmth, he guided our tours, transfers and cinema broadcasts,” they said.
They added: “André devoted his life to supporting UK theatre. His knowledge of every corner of the industry was unsurpassed, and he brought all of it to bear in helping the NT engage the widest possible audiences – from taking War Horse to 13 countries around the world, to reaching 11 million people through NT Live. At a time when theatre is in great peril, it has lost one of its greatest champions. We offer our sincere condolences to André’s family and all who knew and loved him.”
Drama school Mountview, where he was a board member since 2017, also paid tribute.
“We are devastated to hear of the death of André Ptaszynski. André was an award-winning producer held in the highest regard throughout UK theatre and the international stage and a trustee of Mountview since 2017. He brought incredible experience, wisdom, wit and generosity to our board and to Mountview as a whole. He will be greatly missed,” it said in a statement.