NEW YORK — Joe Masteroff, the Tony Award-winning story writer of the brilliant, edgy musical "Cabaret" and the touching, romantic "She Loves Me," has died. He was 98.
Masteroff died Friday at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey, said The Roundabout Theatre Company, which produced recent revivals of his best-loved shows.
"Today we deeply mourn the loss of our friend Joe Masteroff, one of the 20th century's masters of the Great American Musical. His 'She Loves Me' and 'Cabaret' helped shape our theater, and we were honored to present them both on Broadway," said Todd Haimes, artistic director and CEO of the Roundabout Theatre Company.
"Joe was a close collaborator, a legendary wit, and a dear friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family."
Masteroff was never prolific but made a profound mark on the theater with two shows seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum — one considered by many to be the most charming musical ever written and the other a ferociously dark musical with ominous Nazis.
"I've had a limited career, but it's been OK," he told The Associated Press in a 2015 interview as another national tour of "Cabaret" was kicking off.
The Philadelphia-born Masteroff hoped as a young man to write plays and after serving in World War II took a course for playwriting. He hadn't found much success until his 1959 comedy play "The Warm Peninsula" made it to Broadway starring Julie Harris.
"One day my agent called and said 'Joe, I've got wonderful news. Julie Harris wants to do your play.' I said, 'Which play?' He told me and said, 'Not only that, she wants to tour for a year throughout the United States and then bring it to New York.' That day my life changed."
The show only managed 86 Broadway performances but got Masteroff noticed. He was asked to write the book for "She Loves Me" with songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. It was produced by the legendary Hal Prince.
"She Loves Me," a case of mistaken identity set in a 1930's European perfumery, was nominated for five Tonys in 1964 and the 1993 Broadway revival won the Olivier Award for best musical revival.
A 2016 Tony-nominated revival on Broadway starred Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi. The story has been adapted into the films "The Shop Around the Corner" with James Stewart and "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks.
It was Prince who next asked him to write the libretto for a musical that took a look at a seamy slice of life in Germany just before the Nazi takeover. Masteroff compressed Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" and John van Druten's play "I Am a Camera." The songs were provided by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb.
The show is set in 1920s Berlin where a sleazy nightclub becomes a metaphor for a world slowly going mad and drifting toward world war. The musical was first called "Welcome to Berlin," a name that was dropped after Masteroff suggested "Cabaret."