Micki Grant, Composer and Star of Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, Has Died at 92

Obituaries   Micki Grant, Composer and Star of Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, Has Died at 92
 
The three-time Tony nominee was the first woman to write and star in an original Broadway musical.
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Three-time Tony nominee Micki Grant, the ground-breaking composer, lyricist, and actor, passed away August 21 at the age of 92.

Born Minnie Perkins June 30, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois, Micki Grant often said she was much younger in order to get roles. Her birth year was widely reported as 1941, when, in fact, it was 12 years earlier, according to a relative.

Ms. Grant made her Broadway debut as an actor in Langston Hughes' Tambourines to Glory in October 1963 and was subsequently a standby in Lanford Wilson's The Gingham Dog in April 1969.

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Micki Grant Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

In 1972 she made history as the first woman to write and star in an original Broadway musical—with Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope—which played over 1,000 performances from April 1972 through October 1974 at the Playhouse and Edison Theatres. A celebration of African-American culture, the production was nominated for Best Musical, and Ms. Grant received nominations for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. Vinnette Carroll, the first African-American artist to direct on Broadway, was also nominated for her direction.

For her work on Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, Ms. Grant also received an Obie Award, Grammy Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, the Madamoiselle Achievement Award, and the NAACP Image Award.

Ms. Grant and Ms. Carroll again joined forces in 1976 for Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, with the former providing additional music and lyrics and the latter directing. Conceived from the Gospel of St. Matthew by Ms. Carroll, the production, featuring music by Alex Bradford, played 429 performances on Broadway at the Lyceum and Eugene O'Neill Theatres. Billed as a "soaring celebration in song and dance," Your Arms Too Short to Box With God received four Tony nominations, including a win for Delores Hall's performance.

Your Arms Too Short to Box With God played two subsequent Broadway runs, June 2–October 12, 1980, at the Ambassador Theatre (featuring Tony winner Jennifer Holliday, who was then billed as Jennifer-Yvette Holiday) and September 9–November 7, 1982, at the Alvin Theatre (featuring Grammy winner Patti LaBelle).

In 1978 Ms. Grant picked up her third Tony nomination—along with Craig Carnelia, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, and James Taylor—for Best Original Score for Working, the musical inspired by Studs Terkel's best-selling collection of oral histories about vocations. Ms. Grant's songs for the production included "Lovin' Al," "If I Could've Been," and "Cleanin' Women." She also penned the book, music, and lyrics for It's So Nice to Be Civilized, which played a short run at Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre in June 1980.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda and Micki Grant Beowulf Sheehan

Ms. Grant composed the musical The Prodigal Sister and for many years was the artist in residence at the Urban Arts Corps. Her work as an actor was prolific, appearing in productions of Cope, Leonard Bernstein's Theatre Songs, Fly Blackbirds, Brecht on Brecht, The Cradle Will Rock, and To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. She received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance as Sadie Delaney in a two-year tour of Having Our Say, which also ran six weeks in South Africa.

Ms. Grant also had roles in the soap operas The Edge of Night and Guiding Light as well as a seven-year stint as lawyer Peggy Nolan on Another World. Her other screen credits included Camera Three, Somerset, the TV version of Having Our Say, Ed, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and the role of Mrs. Remington on ABC's All My Children in 2008.

In 2018, City Center's Encores! Off-Center series presented Ms. Grant's Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, directed and choreographed by Tony winner Savion Glover. Additionally, a revised version of Working, featuring additional material by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, has been seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ms. Grant received the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award in 1999 and AUDELCO’s Outstanding Pioneer Award in 2000, and in February 2005 she was honored at the New Federal Theatre’s 35th Anniversary Gala.

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