Actor Sammy Williams, known for his groundbreaking role as a gay show biz hopeful in “A Chorus Line” on Broadway, died of cancer on March 24 in North Hollywood, Calif., according to the New York Times. He was 69.
Williams, born Nov. 13, 1948 in Trenton, N.J., was 26 in 1975 when “A Chorus Line” debuted at the Shubert Theater. It played for more than 6,000 performances and held the record for longest Broadway run until it was overtaken by “Cats” in 1997, the Times reports. Williams appeared in it for nearly a year on Broadway and reprised it twice: in 1978 in Los Angeles and in 1983 on Broadway. He was not in the 1985 film version.
A play within a play, “A Chorus Line” depicts a director whittling down applicants for auditions by watching them perform and grilling them on why they seek the spots.
Williams, who was gay, played Paul San Marco, an awkward and shy gay Puerto Rican dancer from Spanish Harlem, the Times reports. The character delivers a nearly 10-minute monologue about growing up gay and how his parents dealt with him leaving for a life in a drag troupe.
Williams received critical acclaim for his performance and won a 1976 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical as well as an Obie Award.
Attempts to parlay his success into a film/TV career were largely unsuccessful, the Times reports. He worked in his later years as a florist though he occasionally appeared in regional productions as well as his one-man autobiographical show “And the Winner Is,” the Times reports.