Hinton Battle, the Tony-winning performer who originated the role of The Scarecrow in Broadway’s The Wiz, has died. He was 67.
The actor died Tuesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness. In a statement, a rep told The Hollywood Reporter that his family has no plans to disclose his cause of death.
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Battle made his Broadway debut in the original production of Broadway’s The Wiz and then won three Tonys — all in the category of featured actor in a musical — for his work in Sophisticated Ladies (1981), The Tap Dance Kid (1984) and Miss Saigon (1991). An NAACP Image Award winner, the actor, director, producer and choreographer was also a SAG and Critics Choice nominee, honored for his work as part of the ensemble of 2007’s movie musical Dreamgirls.
Born in 1956, Battle studied at the prestigious Jones Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and the School of American Ballet in New York City before beginning his Broadway stage career in The Wiz at just 15. His New York stage career would span three decades, with performances in the Broadway productions of Dancin’, Dreamgirls, Chicago, and Ragtime. Battle’s off-Broadway credits include Respect, the musical, and serving as the co-director and choreographer for Evil Dead The Musical and more recently starring in Cindy: The Musical.
Battle would eventually cross over to TV and film, making appearances in Dreamgirls, Smash, These Old Broads, Quantum Leap, Touched by an Angel, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He would also memorably appear as a jazz demon in one episode — the series’ fan-favorite musical episode “Once More, With Feeling” — which he also choreographed.
Battle would go on to lend his choreography prowess to the 65th and 66th Academy Awards, the Outkast musical Idlewild, Bolden, and Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story. Battle would launch the professional entertainment academy, Hinton Battle Dance Academy (HBDA) in 2017, preparing students for careers in the entertainment industry. He was also working on an autobiography as well as a children’s book, which was selected for the Microsoft Legacy Project Virtual Museum’s Black History Month 2022 Experience.
He was the recipient of the Midtown International Theatre Festival Award, Fred Astaire Award, Ira Aldridge Award, Planet Connection Award, the 2012 Champion of the Arts Award from Big Boi’s “Antwan Patton” Big Kidz Foundation, and the Amas 2014 Rosie Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of extraordinary accomplishment in the theatrical arts.
Battle is survived by his sisters, Eddie and Lettie.
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