Our dear beloved castmate, Richard Warren Pugh passed away June 11, 2006. He was one of only three castmembers to last the entire run of Phantom on Broadway from the opening night to the record breaking show Jan 9, 2006 – 18 years. Below is a memory.

Dick Pugh was a big bear of a man. I should say teddy bear of a man, because his gentleness was just as big as he was. I met him on the first day of “Phantom” rehearsal back in 1987, and saw him just about every day at the Majestic for the next three and a half years. He, like my other Phantom castmates, became my new family. And even though I moved on in 1991, I always considered him that. For once someone is family, they are always family. And so he was; like a cousin, uncle, brother, father, colleague, all wrapped up in one.

All of us ballet girls used to take turns going and sitting down next to Dick. He had a magnetism that seemed to draw us to him. And he’d give a backrub or a crack or simply a knowing smile and a hug, and then you knew everything would be all right. He had these enormous hands that could reach easily across from one side of your back to the other. You felt like he could pick you up with one hand, or even just one finger, over his head if he wanted to. But he would never hurt you. We just knew that. And with a quick squeeze, rub, shake and a kind word, you’d always feel better and off you’d go.

But Dick was not only a shoulder to lean on, he was also fascinating person. He was like a quiet sage, someone who you went to ask questions. What about this? What about that? He always knew. He was a rock that seemed unmovable; steadfast, with a quiet light that burned in those deep eyes.

It didn’t surprise me that Dick was one of only three that lasted the entire run of Phantom from the opening to the longest show on Broadway. If you would have asked me way back 18 years ago to pick one person who could last it, he would have been the one I would have chosen. I simply cannot think of Phantom of the Opera without his face, his memory, right there in the forefront. I will miss him, as will the community he left behind. But he will live on in us, quiet and strong. Always.

Dodie Pettit