Theater Talk: Local 'legend,' actor Marc-Jon Filippone dies of COVID at age 64

Dec 18, 2020

Back in the 1980s, when many of today's performers (including Michele Ragusa!) were starting professional careers in Buffalo, Marc-Jon Filippone was a major figure, devoted to musicals, at all sorts of venues, from Ruben's Backstage on Pearl Street to the Lancaster Opera House to his own kitchen for after-show impromptu cabarets. Here Shakespeare in Delaware Park's Lisa Ludwig shares some memories, as does Paula Makar and Michael Lo Rocca.


If you visit Anthony's blog, TheaterTalkBuffalo.Com, you can read the following:

Marc-Jon Filippone, a seven-time Artie Award nominated actor, with an acerbic wit and vivid personality has died from COVID-19 complicated by diabetes.

Once a fixture on the Western New York musical theater scene, Filippone played a wide array of character roles.  The Artie nominated performances alone demonstrate an impressive range: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well ..., Baby, Mack and Mabel, Romance/Romance, Putting it Together, A New Brain, andWorking. Other memorable roles include numerous appearances in The Fantasticks, as the chairman in Mystery of Edwin Drood, and as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. He worked everywhere from Desiderio's Dinner Theatre to Theatre of Youth.

Born in 1956, Marc-Jon began in high school then worked throughout the growing WNY theater community of the 1980s. Notable gigs include many shows at Reuben's Backstage on Pearl Street and the popular "Popcorn and Caviar" musical reviews staged by his close friend Gayle Wiegand, in the company of such performers as Syndi Starr, Michael Lo Rocca, Barbara Brown, Don Jenczka, Lisa Ludwig, Mary Kate O'Connell and Bill Lovern. The troupe performed a grab bag of musical material anywhere they could get booked. 

Devoted to musical theater, Marc-Jon was known for his enormous (some might say astounding) knowledge of every musical, including composers, lyricists and even replacement casts. He initially thought of himself as a singer who acted. After doing Jacques Brel at Upstage New York, however, his focus began to shift, and he viewed himself as an actor who could sing. He was proud to say that Mass Appeal was his favorite role.

His abrupt passing has inspired an outpouring of grief and reminiscence across the Western New York Theatre community. For more, visit Anthony's blog.

In related news, we observe the passing of Ann Reinking, who helped preserve Bob Fosse’s legacy and signature choreographic style notably by choreographing and starring in the long-running revival of CHICAGO. Reinking died at the age of 71. Much more on her life and legacy can be seen in several articles at www.Playbill.com.

Here's some happy news: Today (December 18, 2020) Netflix starts streaming MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Davis plays Ma Rainey, with Boseman in his final film role as Levee, the band’s ambitious and not-headed trumpeter. The cast also includes Michael Potts as Slow Drag, Glynn Turman as Toledo, Tony nominee Colman Domingo as Cutler, and Tony nominee Jeremy Shamos as Ma’s manager Irvin, along with Jonny Coyne, Taylour Page, and Dusan Brown.This musical play was last seen in Buffalo in a production at The Paul Robeson Theatre in the African-American Cultural Center.