Ann Crumb, versatile and charismatic singer, actress and Media native
She made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Les Miserables in 1987 and had deep Philadelphia ties.
NEW YORK — Ann Crumb, 69, a Tony Award-nominated actress who originated the role of Rose Vibert in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love, died Thursday from ovarian cancer at her parents’ home in Media, Pa., according to her vocal coach, Bill Schuman.
She was the daughter of the composer George Crumb, winner of the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Ms. Crumb was an unusual artist, a singer and actress who could do everything from the classics to post-modernist theater, and Shakespeare to Shepard and Ionesco, said Schuman.
“She had an amazing vocal instrument,” he said. “She of course had a famous Broadway voice. She was a belter. But she also had a very legitimate head voice. She could do legitimate operatic music. It’s very rare to find a voice that’s capable of doing both.”
Ms. Crumb prompted her father’s return to composing around 2000 after he had stopped for a few years, said Schuman, a vocal instructor at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, with whom she studied privately for many years. "She inspired him to go back to compose all the American songbook works. They had never collaborated before. She wanted her own separate career, and finally she’s the one who encouraged him, she became his muse.”
She performed her father’s works locally with Orchestra 2001.
Born in Charleston, W.Va., and raised in Media, she made her professional debut in a Philadelphia production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in music from the University of Michigan and studied violin, but ended her violin-playing days after injuring her right arm in a fall from a horse.
She then planned for a career in clinical medicine and was working as a clinician in Philadelphia when she took a job in the national tour of El Grande de Coca Cola and switched to theater.
Ms. Crumb made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Les Miserables in 1987, appeared in Chess the following year, then starred in Aspects of Love opposite Michael Ball in London's West End in 1989 and on Broadway in 1990.
But she also had a steady presence in Philadelphia. After The Birthday Party at the Philadelphia Drama Guild in the mid-1970s, she appeared in the Wilma Theater's production of George F. Walker's Love and Anger in 1998.
In 1999, she was a standout in an E.Y. “Yip” Harburg review at the Prince Music Theater for turning "Moanin’ in the Mornin” into a “torchy, sultry wail,” wrote Inquirer critic Clifford A. Ridley. “Crumb, who truly acts her numbers, is by far the best in the cast,” he wrote.
The same year, she won one of Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards for best leading actress in a musical for her part in Bed and Sofa at the Wilma.
She was a regular at the Media Theatre, appearing as Norma Desmond in the 2014 production of Sunset Boulevard and in 2010 as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Master Class. At the Walnut Street Theatre, she performed in Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities.
She received a Tony nomination for the title role in the musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina by Daniel Levine and Peter Kellogg, which ran for 18 previews and 46 performances in 1992.
Ms. Crumb starred opposite John Cullum in a U.S. tour of Man of La Mancha in 1995. Her television appearances included Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and One Life to Live.
In addition to her father, she is survived by her mother, Elizabeth, a violinist, and brothers Peter and David, the latter a composer.
A memorial is planned for 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at 5 p.m. at the Media Theatre, 104 E. State St. Information is available at 610-891-0100.
Inquirer culture writer Peter Dobrin contributed to this article.