Mark O’Donnell, who won a 2003 Tony Award for co-authoring the book of the hit musical Hairspray with Thomas Meehan, died on August 6 after collapsing outside his apartment building on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. He was 58.
In addition to Hairspray, O’Donnell collaborated with Meehan on the book for the 2008 musical adaptation of Cry-Baby, which earned the pair a second Tony nomination. His plays include That’s It, Folks!, Fables for Friends, The Nice and the Nasty, Strangers on Earth and Vertigo Park, plus adaptations of La Terrasse, A Flea in Her Ear, Scapin (co-authored with Bill Irwin) and Private Fittings and a symphonic adaptation of Pyramus and Thisbe. He also wrote two novels and two short story collections.
Born in Cleveland on July 19, 1954, O’Donnell honed his talent as a humorist as a member of the Harvard Lampoon and librettist for three Hasty Pudding musicals at his alma mater. O’Donnell summed up his vision for Hairspray in a 2002 interview with the Associated Press, explaining, “The structure I had in mind was: Girl does Mash Potato, girl charms Baltimore, girl integrates nation. My script was like a great Mad magazine article.”
Survivors include his twin brother, Steve O’Donnell, a TV writer in Los Angeles.