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Kert, Larry (1930-1991)    
 
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He was, however, disappointed when he was not asked to reprise his role in the 1961 movie version of West Side Story. Kert hoped it would launch a successful film career. But the film's producers thought Kert, who was 30 years old by then, looked too mature to be believable as a teenager.

Kert next starred in the musical comedy A Family Affair (1962), the first musical by the celebrated composer John Kander, with lyrics by Kander and James Goldman. The show ran only 65 performances.

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He was then cast in a co-starring role in the much anticipated, but ultimately disastrous, musical version of Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, adapted for the stage by the playwright Edward Albee, with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill.

The production starred two actors who had achieved success in television, but with limited musical theater experience: Mary Tyler Moore played Holly Golightly and the then deeply closeted gay actor Richard Chamberlain played a fledgling novelist named Jeff Claypool.

Breakfast at Tiffany's never officially opened on Broadway, but instead was closed during previews in December 1966 by its producer David Merrick, who announced in a public statement, which has since become legendary, that he would rather close the show than "subject the drama critics and the public to an excruciatingly boring evening."

Following the disappointment of that show, Kert found work in several theater workshops and taught dance classes. Then, in December 1968, he took over the role of Cliff in John Kander and Fred Ebb's award-winning and long-running musical Cabaret (1966), adapted from stories by Christopher Isherwood. Kert stayed with the show for about a year.

Unfortunately, the next show in which Kert originated a role was, like Breakfast at Tiffany's, ill-fated. La Strada (1969), a musical based on the film by Federico Fellini, and starring Bernadette Peters, closed on opening night.

However, in 1970, Kert finally found Broadway success again in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, playing the central role of Robert, a perennial New York bachelor surrounded by his best friends, a group of married couples.

Kert took over the role from the original lead actor, Dean Jones, shortly after the musical opened on Broadway.

Structured as a series of vignettes (the production originated as a collection of one-act plays by the show's librettist, George Furth, who, like Sondheim, is gay), Company explores the difficulties of sustaining a meaningful relationship in an increasingly cynical, self-absorbed society.

Some New York critics found the show acutely anti-marriage. But, defending the musical, Sondheim called it "the most pro-marriage show in the world." He went on to clarify that Company "says very clearly that to be emotionally committed to somebody is very difficult, but to be alone is impossible: to commit is to live, and not to commit is to be dead."

Other critics were confused about the sexuality of the central character. They wondered if Robert's apprehension about marriage was due to his (homo)sexuality. For example, Martin Gottfried, drama critic at the time for Women's Wear Daily, wrote that "a subtle element of homosexuality must be considered a distracting aspect of Company."

Gottfried also noted that "Dean Jones as Robert can seem sexless and must watch it or the show's theme (and honesty) will be confused by hints of homosexuality."

There is no suggestion, however, in either the score or the text of the show that Robert is gay (or even confused about his sexuality). As the theater professor and essayist Joanne Lesley Gordon notes, "Critics who dwell on Robert's possible homosexuality are clearly uncomfortable with the show's anti-romantic, unsentimental depiction of marriage."

Just two-and-a-half weeks after the show opened, Jones left the production. Officially, Jones left for health reasons. However, Broadway insiders speculated that Jones was uncomfortable with his character's perceived homosexuality and how that perception might affect his future film career (Jones was well-known at the time for a series of popular, lighthearted Disney comedies he made in the late 1960s).

Kert immediately stepped in to fill the role. Critics were invited back to review the show and were enthusiastic about his performance. Consequently, Kert became the first, and only, replacement actor to be nominated for a Tony Award.

Few critics noted any "hints" of homosexuality in Kert's portrayal of Robert.

Paradoxically, Kert was regarded by most critics as deemphasizing Robert's potential homosexuality, while Jones, who is heterosexual, was perceived as bringing a gay subtext to the character. (It might be interesting to note that the bisexual actor Raúl Esparza earned accolades as Robert in the 2006 New York revival of Company.)

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