Hartt faculty member, passes at 55

Gray directed “Miss Saigon” and “A  View from the Bridge” in his time here at Hartford. Courtesy of Unotes
Gray directed “Miss Saigon” and “A View from the Bridge” in his time here at Hartford. Courtesy of Unotes

He performed in more than 8,500 Broadway and National tour performances, such as Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King.

He also acted in or directed more than 150 productions, such as “The King and I” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

That man, Kevin Gray, who the University more locally knew as an associate professor of theater in The Hartt School, passed Monday night from cardiac arrest at the age of 55.

“I write with the incredibly sad news that Kevin Gray, associate professor of theatre in The Hartt School, died suddenly last evening from cardiac arrest,” President Walter Harrison said in an email to faculty, staff and students of the University Tuesday morning. “Kevin, who came to the University in 2011 after a remarkable career on Broadway and on stages throughout North America, brought wonderful creativity and energy to his role at Hartt.

“He was popular with students and colleagues alike.”

Joining Hartt in 2011, Gray not only taught in the Theatre Division, he directed Hartt productions such as “A View from the Bridge” and “Miss Saigon,” which was performed last Fall semester.

“We worked together on Saigon, I played one of the leads so I got to have a very personal relationship with him during the rehearsal process,” senior Musical Theatre Major Lars Lee said in a Facebook message. “He was apart of that show for a very long time, performing it on a professional level I think, at least, 1300 times. The way he dissected the show and his breakdown of each character was remarkably intelligent.”

Dean of the Hartt School, Aaron Flagg, met with faculty, staff and students in the Hartt Theatre Divison to inform them of Gray’s passing Tuesday morning, according to UNotes.

In an email Flagg sent to the Hartt community, he said that Gray “was an incredibly vibrant member of our community, who was passionate about his work with students and excited to be a part of The Hartt School and the University of Hartford.”

“I loved listening to Kevin describe his life on the stage, and on this occasion he was at the top of his form, breaking into song, encompassing wide swaths of musical history, tying things together with an intellectual breadth that was breathtaking,” Harrison went on to say in his email. “Mostly I was struck by his faith in the future of musical theatre.”

That faith in the future of musical theater, was also noted by Lee in his message, but more so in terms of how Gray had such faith for his students, saying, “He was the director of our showcase, which is our big chance to make a good first impression on the New York theatre scene, and which we still haven’t finished.”

“He was also our career prep teacher for our last semester, a class where we plan everything that we need, as well as setting our goals for the next ten years,” Lee added. “It was an invaluable class because he was one of the few faculty that had done everything that we want to accomplish in our careers so he knew everything it took to make it in the business.”

Another of Gray’s students, sophomore Adam Connolly, shared on Facebook a status update after finding out Gray’s passing, “I only got to work with you for a short time, and looked forward to working with you in the future.”

“I’m deeply saddened by the fact that this will no longer happen, but equally as happy as I am sad because I was fortunate enough to know you,” Connolly added. “Kevin, your smile will always be remembered throughout the halls of Hartt.”

In Lee’s words, Gray’s faith in the future of musical theatre and abilities as an instructor were only “secondary to his craft as an entertainer,” though.

“It’s not often that you can find a performer with that much raw talent as well as an extremely high level of comprehension with the overall themes and purpose of each show that he was apart of,” Lee said.

“He was obsessed with professional sports but didn’t follow any specific team, but he marveled at players who dedicated every part of their life to their profession,” Lee concluded his message with. “We talked of how Albert Pujols, had a detailed schedule for every minute he practiced and how strictly he abided by it.”

“Kevin was the same way, extremely detailed and extremely determined,” Lee added. “Which is why he accomplished so much with his young life.”