Steve Fickinger, the Tony Award-winning producer who worked on shows such as Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King and Newsies died suddenly last week.
Steve Fickinger was a Tony Award-winning producer with over 30 years of experience and accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Highlights include 20 years at Walt Disney Studios where, as Vice President of Development, he oversaw the development of more than 15 animated feature films. Moving on to Vice President of Creative Development for Disney Theatrical Productions, Steve oversaw the development of 6 Broadway shows, personally developing Disney’s record-breaking national tour of “High School Musical”, the Broadway production of “Newsies” and Disney’s long-running Broadway hit production of “Alladin.” Independently, productions include “Dear Evan Hansen,” which won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical. Steve is currently developing a number of animated and hybrid films for Warner Bros. studios. He is also executive producer of Broadway’s Rock of Ages at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood, and is currently developing several new shows for Broadway and the national tour.
Fickinger’s niece, Jessica Roy, wrote and shared her obituary via Facebook:
Steve Fickinger, the Tony Award-winning producer and creative executive who helmed musicals like ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, ‘Newsies’, ‘The Lion King’ and more, died suddenly on June 17 at his home from Laguna Beach. He was 62 years old.
Steven Thomas Fickinger was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1960, the youngest of five children to parents Wayne and Joan Fickinger. The scene beckoned early: Steve was appearing in commercials for Brown’s Chicken when he was in high school. He attended New Trier High School West, where he performed onstage with future Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. New Trier inducted him (Steve, not Rahm) into the Alumni Hall of Achievement in 2013. After that, he headed west to UCLA, where he was the first recipient of the Carol Burnett Musical Award for the excellence of its performance. After college, he spent several years in New York as a stage actor before returning to the West Coast.
Steve began his career at Disney as a temp in the mailroom. During two decades with the mouse, he worked his way up to director of creative development for Walt Disney Feature Animation, where he oversaw the creation and execution of “Mulan,” “Tarzan” and “Lilo and Stitch”. After that, he served as Vice President of Creative Development for Disney Theatrical Group. He oversaw six Broadway shows from idea to premiere during this period, including six Tony Award-winning “The Lion King” and “Aida.” Steve also personally oversaw the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of “Newsies,” the record-breaking national tour of “High School Musical,” and the long-running Broadway production of “Aladdin.” He was also proud to oversee the education and outreach efforts of Disney Theatrical, including Disney Musicals in Schools, which provided material resources and teaching artists free of charge to underserved schools in the arts.
After leaving Disney in 2013, Steve branched out as a freelance theater producer by starting FickStern Productions. The company’s debut project, “Dear Evan Hansen,” will win six Tony Awards, two Drama League Awards, a Grammy, a Critics’ Circle Award and three Laurence Olivier Awards. Steve was one of the people on stage at the 2017 Tony Awards accepting the statue for Best Musical.
At the time of his death, Steve had a number of projects in development, including “Live at the Crescendo Club: An Evening with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey”, written and directed by Seret Scott and produced with close friend by Steve and four-time Grammy Award-winning icon Deniece Williams. Steve was also the executive producer of “Rock of Ages” at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood, where Nick Cordero reprized his role on the show before his death from COVID in 2020.
In addition to his professional and creative accomplishments, Steve was known for many things. He was a sharp dresser whose eclectic style landed him in several red carpet photo galleries and, last February, in the Style section of The Sunday New York Times. He had impeccable decorating taste and said that if he hadn’t gone into entertainment, he would have been an interior designer. (We don’t know that interior design has its own version of the Tony Awards, but we’re sure he would have won one.) He loved having the latest gadgets, including what he described as a close relationship and personal with his iPad. ; and had just figured out how to make duet videos on his TikTok. He hosted legendary parties at his beloved home in the Hollywood Hills where he had lived since 1998.
Steve’s philanthropic activities included AIDS Walk, a cause for which he helped raise over $15 million. He has also participated in the Los Angeles Food Mission, Meals on Wheels and Race to Erase MS.
He was a vibrant, charming, wacky, hysterical, deeply generous man, the best friend anyone could ask for, and we loved him so much.
Steve had recently welcomed two exciting new additions into his life: a second home in Laguna Beach and his first great-nephew, Luke. He leaves them behind, along with his heartbroken siblings and wives (Joan and Bill Frazier, Jan and Dennis Roy, Michael and Emily Fickinger and Ellen Fickinger), his devastated nieces, nephews and nephews (Jessica Roy and Joe Magdalena, Charlotte Roy and Sandy Albert, Andrew Frazier, Kathryn Roy, Carolyn Roy and Joey Fickinger), her dog Nicki, and a wide and warm circle of friends, neighbors and colleagues on both coasts and around the world.
In his spare time, Steve prolifically posted his thoughts and things that moved him on Facebook. Among the many topics he discussed, he had this to say about what will happen in the next life: he would like his casket to be sprinkled with pretzel chips (a detail we hope to work out with the funeral home). He hopes there are dogs waiting to greet him. And he knows he’ll find his mother when he gets there.
A funeral will be held in Chicago and a memorial service in Los Angeles. Details to come.
In the meantime, if you want to pay tribute to Steve, be the best dressed person at the next reception you attend. Or, damn it, the best-dressed person at the grocery store. See a Broadway show. Drink a sugar-free Red Bull or a tall glass of obscene Chardonnay on a terrace. Adopt a small dog. Plan a trip with a large group of your closest friends (A Steve-ism he experienced: “You can’t make new old friends.”). Confuse a server with your clearly stated food preferences. (If you need inspiration, Steve was “I don’t drink hot drinks.”) Get a professionally framed piece of art. Show up at a friend’s house with pastries. Every time you go on a trip, take home a little treasure to remember. Be kind. Throw your head back and laugh as hard as you can.
Another stevism, initiated by his mother: “Life is a ball.” Live like this.