Producer, Theatre Owner/Operator, General Manager, House Manager
( b. Nov 01, 1930 New York, New York, USA - d. Jul 15, 2013 Mamaroneck, New York, USA ) Male
Mr. Springer made a specialty of producing plays and musicals by black artists that appealed to both black and white audiences. He himself was African-American, making him a rarity in his profession during that era of Broadway.
Springer went to high school in The Bronx and attended Ohio State University. He began his career as a musician, performing as one of the "Four Aces."
He entered the theatre through a peculiar side door: He ran a coin-operated laundry in Queens owned by playwright L. Richard Nash. "He wanted a side income," Mr. Springer explained. "I had a room in his office, so quite naturally I would look around. A lot of famous people would come by."
Mr. Springer's first producing gig was a Broadway revival of Charles Gordone's No Place to Be Somebody. Producer Joe Papp, who staged the play first, gave him not only the rights but the sets. It was mounted first at the Promenade Theatre. The reaction to the production led Mr. Springer to believe that black audiences were an untapped source of business. A national tour of the production confirmed that suspicion.
The late 1970s were a feverishly busy time for Ashton Springer. In between those two revue hits came productions that included Guys and Dolls, the musical Going Up, the comedy Unexpected Guests, and the Ronald Ribman play Cold Storage, which ran half a year. Bubbling Brown Sugar was a producing hit of Springer’s and was composed by pianist Emme Kemp, a protégé of the legendary Eubie Blake.
Mr. Springer returned to the music of Eubie Blake when he produced the 1978 revue Eubie!, which celebrated the music of the ragtime and jazz composer-lyricist-performer, who at that time had been largely forgotten.