Dallas — Terry Dobson, Theatre Three's longtime musical director and company manager, died at 1:12 a.m. Thursday, April 23, from an illness complicated by contracting sepsis. He was in a hospital in New York City, where he had been—as all dedicated theater folk do—seeing shows. He was 59.
Dobson is attributed with introducing Theatre Three audiences, and indeed North Texas arts patrons, to composers of small-scale musicals and song cycles, including Adam Guettel's Myths and Hymns, Michael John LaChiusa's First Lady Suite, William Finn's Elegies: A Song Cycle, and Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino by John Bucchino.
But he also loved to direct and act in the big Broadway musicals and plays. Beyond Theatre Three, he also performed at Dallas Theater Center, Casa Mañana, Lyric Stage, Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre, Theatre Arlington, The Philadelphia Theater Company and The Red Barn Theater in Key West, Florida.
Dobson joined the Turtle Creek Chorale (TCC) in January 1990 as a singer. As director of TCC’s ENCORE, a small jazz/pop group, he served as arranger, director, performer and pianist until 2013. He also served as a staff arranger for TCC. His lush musical arrangements have been sung by LGBT choruses and small groups around the world. He became a Life Member of TCC in July 2011.
A few of his directing credits at T3 include Crimes of the Heart, The Roads to Home and Freud’s Last Session. As an actor, Dobson appeared in Theatre Three’s productions of Sylvia, Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music, Beyond Therapy, Death Defying Acts, God’s Man in Texas, Dirty Blonde, Glorious! and Duets. He last appeared on the Norma Young Arena Stage at Theatre Three as Samuel Byck in Assassins in 2013. In April of 2014, he last appeared in Theatre Too in Greater Tuna.
Dobson’s artistic legacy at Theatre Three is best represented in two shows. In the summer of 2000, Terry directed and accompanied I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. The show proved so popular on Theatre Three’s main stage, Theatre Too was renovated specifically for the continuation of that show. The show ran for three years, becoming the longest-running show in Dallas theater history. Theatre Three brings back the show every year for a limited engagement.
In 2006, he wrote his confessional cabaret, My Own Private Diva. The show is his life story told through his favorite music as sung by Sally Soldo, one of his dearest friends and favorite singers. The show earned Terry a 2006 DFW Theatre Critics Forum Award for Outstanding New Work.
An Alabama native, Dobson was born on August 11, 1955. He started working at Theatre Three in May 1980 as a keyboardist for Theatre Three’s production of Yip, Yip Hooray! Over the next 34 years, Terry’s work at Theatre Three would include musical directing, arranging, directing and acting.
In a news release, Jac Alder, Theatre Three’s Executive Producer-Director, expressed the grief of many: “Terry’s loss is immeasurable. Not only for the Theatre Three family, but also for the entire arts community. He was brilliantly talented. As a director, music director, actor, arranger and performer, Terry elevated every production in which he took part. Personally, words fail at the loss of one of my dearest friends and colleagues of more than 30 years. Terry isn’t ‘like family’. He is family. However, Terry’s legacy will endure for years to come through the marvelous work he created and the lives he touched.”
Dobson retired from Theatre Three in 2014 because of health issues.
He was cremated in New York, and his remains are being shipped to Texas. A memorial service is being planned, but details haven't been announced yet. We'll keep you posted.