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Broadway theaters will dim lights in memory of Hinton Battle

Battle won three Tony Awards in the span of a decade.

Hinton Battle (Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The Broadway League has announced the committee of theater owners will dim the lights of select Broadway marquees on March 12 in memory of Tony Award-winning actor Hinton Battle. The lights of Broadway’s Circle in the Square, Hayes, Marquis, New Amsterdam, Samuel J. Friedman, Shubert, St. James, Todd Haimes and Vivian Beaumont theaters will go dark at 6:45 p.m. for exactly one minute. Battle passed away on Jan. 30 at the age of 67.

Battle made his professional theater debut at 16 years old in the ensemble of the 1973 world-premiere production of “Raisin,” the musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The following year, Battle was cast in the ensemble of “The Wiz” during its pre-Broadway run; he assumed the principal role of the Scarecrow prior to the musical's 1975 Broadway opening, which marked his Main Stem debut. 

A few years later, Battle joined the company of 1978’s “Dancin’” as a replacement, a testament to his early training at both Washington D.C.’s Jones-Hayward School of Ballet and New York’s School of American Ballet. After opening in the North American touring company of “Dancin’,” Battle returned to New York and traded in his ballet slippers for tap shoes. He learned to tap dance in the weeks leading up to the March 1981 opening of “Sophisticated Ladies,” a revue featuring the songs of Duke Ellington. For his efforts, Battle was awarded the 1981 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a musical.

Battle won subsequent Tonys for his turns as Dipsey in 1984’s “The Tap Dance Kid” and as John in 1991’s “Miss Saigon.” With three wins for featured actor in a musical, Battle remains the most-decorated actor in that category.

Additional Broadway credits include replacing actors in their Tony-winning roles. In 1983, Battle succeeded Cleavant Derricks as James Thunder Early in “Dreamgirls,” and in 1997, he took over for James Naughton as Billy Flynn in the currently running revival of “Chicago.” On the road, Battle played Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the 1998 Chicago premiere of “Ragtime.”

His off-stage work includes choreographing works for the Baltimore School of Ballet as well as the 2006 musical motion picture “Idlewood.” He served as associate choreographer for the 1993 and 1994 Academy Awards with Debbie Allen, with whom he performed in “Raisin” in 1973.

In 2017, Battle founded the Hinton Battle Dance Academy in Tokyo, Japan.

“The passing of Hinton Battle has had a profound impact within the Broadway community as we mourn the loss of a true theatrical legend,” said Jason Laks, interim president of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “Hinton Battle will be remembered for his incredible array of roles on Broadway. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.”