Mixed Media

Dentist or Dramaturge?

Says periodontist/Broadway producer Murray Rosenthal: How about both?

Murray Rosenthal

Murray Rosenthal in front of the Barrymore Theatre in New York City. Photo: Douglas Levere (BA ’89)

By Ann Whitcher Gentzke

On a warm June evening earlier this year, Murray Rosenthal (DDS ’63) attended the Tony-nominated musical “Shuffle Along.” It was his second time seeing the show, and not just out of appreciation for Eubie Blake’s pulsating music. Rosenthal was an investor in the play—one of more than 100 productions this Manhattan-based periodontist has financially backed over the years. His support has been sufficient to earn a credit as producer on seven shows, three of which were Tony winners.

Rosenthal’s love of theater dates back to his childhood, when he was “swept away” by a production of “Oklahoma” in his native Rochester. He traveled to New York several times in his 20s to see epochal Broadway performances, such as Ethel Merman in “Happy Hunting,” before moving to the city in 1968. Three years later, his brother, an actor, singer and dancer named Richard Ryder, also moved to the city, and soon began landing roles on Broadway.

Through Ryder, Rosenthal widened his theatrical circle and honed his theatrical chops, even as he was pursuing his own successful career in dentistry and public health, serving as New York City’s dental director from 1987 to 1991. In 1995, Ryder met an untimely death; two years later, largely inspired by his love for his brother, Rosenthal, together with his business partner, Philip Hagemann, backed his first play: Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” at London’s Haymarket Theatre. “I got hooked,” he says, and more investments followed.

Rosenthal’s first Tony came in 2010 for “Red,” John Logan’s drama about the painter Mark Rothko, which Rosenthal and Hagemann co-produced on Broadway after seeing the play’s London production. The Broadway production snagged six Tonys. Next came a Tony for “Pippin,” along with an Olivier Award for the London revival of “Sweeney Todd.” Rosenthal and Hagemann also were associate producers of the Broadway rendition of another British import and 2015 Tony winner, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

At 76, Rosenthal stays busy reading scripts, attending previews and critiquing shows. Between that and seeing patients, he travels to Buffalo for meetings of the UB Foundation board, of which he is an active member. He also comes to town to dine with recipients of the Rosenthal Family Scholarship for UB dental students, calling these dinners “highlights of my life.” But theater is always on Rosenthal’s mind, as he seeks out new plays and revels in the New York and London stage scenes. “It’s an amazing world,” he says.