Joanna Merlin, whose appearing profession stretched from Broadway (she was the unique Tzeitel in Fiddler On The Roof), movie (she performed the dance trainer Miss Berg in Alan Parker’s 1980 movie Fame) and TV (Regulation & Order: SVU‘s Decide Lena Petrovsky on dozens of episodes) has died. She was 92.
Her demise was introduced on the Instagram web page of the New York College Tisch Graduate Performing Program, the place Merlin had been on the school since 1998.
“Joanna was an actress, grasp Chekhov trainer, and former casting director for Harold Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Bernardo Bertolucci, and James Ivory,” the NYU message stated, including, “Joanna can be deeply missed at Grad Performing, by the Chekhov neighborhood, and by the many individuals she touched by way of her artistry.”
As a casting director, Merlin was concerned in quite a few landmark Broadway productions written by Stephen Sondheim. She was, for a few years, Harold Prince’s go-to casting director.
A explanation for demise was not instantly accessible.
Born Joann Ratner in Chicago on July 15, 1931, she would change her identify for a present enterprise profession that may quickly discover her acting on Broadway in three notable productions together with the unique 1960 staging of Becket starring Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn and the unique 1961 manufacturing of A Far Nation starring Kim Stanley.
However her breakthrough stage position got here in 1964, when she was solid because the eldest daughter of milkman Tevye is what would turn out to be a serious hit musical. In Fiddler, Merlin performed Tzeitel, who, regardless of her father’s considerations, needs to marry the poor tailor Motel (initially performed by Austin Pendleton). As Tzeitel, Merlin obtained to sing, together with the actors taking part in her sisters Hodel and Chava, probably the most well-known and beloved of the present’s musical numbers, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”
After her efficiency in Fiddler, Merlin segued, no less than on Broadway, away from efficiency and to casting. Merlin solid a lot of Stephen Sondheim’s best musicals, together with Firm, Follies, A Little Evening Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Alongside and Into The Woods. She additionally solid Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and the Betty Comden-Adolph Inexperienced-Cy Coleman musical On the Twentieth Century. Nearly all of Broadway exhibits solid by Merlin have been directed by Prince.
On the display, Merlin obtained her begin when she was solid as “Jethro’s Daughter” in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie The Ten Commandments (1956). Different, normally small, roles in each tv and movie would come within the Sixties and ’70s (TV’s Bare Metropolis, the indie movie Hester Avenue, and in 1979 Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz.
The next 12 months would deliver a extra vital position when she memorably performed the demanding ballet trainer Miss Olive Berg in Alan Parker’s 1980 movie Fame.
She stayed busy each as an actor and casting director in tv and movie all through the Eighties, ’90s and effectively into the brand new century. Some examples: She was casting director on 12 months of the Dragon, Huge Bother In Little China, The Final Emperor, Jefferson in Paris, and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.
As an actor, Merlin had visitor or small roles in such movies as, amongst many others, The Killing Fields, Mr. Fantastic and The Wackness, and on tv in Northern Publicity, New York Undercover, All My Kids, The Good Spouse and Homeland.
However her most generally recognizable position got here with the Regulation & Order franchise. Though she appeared on the unique Regulation & Order collection a number of occasions within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, it was her position because the powerful, no-nonsense Decide Lena Petrovsky in additional than 40 episodes of Regulation & Order: SVU all through 2000-2011 that gave her a late-career signature position.
Merlin started instructing graduate appearing at New York College in 1998, and in 1999 based the Michael Chekhov Affiliation the place she taught appearing workshops.
She was preceded in demise by husband David Dretzin and is survived by two daughters, the actor Julie Dretzin and documentary movie director and producer Rachel Dretzin.
One among Merlin’s college students, Broadway’s Julie Benko, who performed Fanny Brice within the latest hit Humorous Lady on Lea Michele’s days off, posted a tribute to her mentor on Instagram.
“She was past form, supporting me each whereas at school @nyugradacting and persevering with to ship heat messages after I’d graduated,” Benko wrote within the message beside a photograph of herself and Merlin below the Humorous Lady marquee. “Right here we have been after she got here to @funnygirlbwy. I can’t neglect the breakthrough I had in her class. I’ll miss her stunning presence. I’m so honored to have been a small a part of her life.”