On Wednesday, June 3, George MacPherson (pictured), a pioneering theater producer, talent manager and entertainment industry executive, and president emeritus of Masque Sound, died at his home in Orangeburg, S.C. He was 78 and according to his family, succumbed to lung cancer.
MacPherson began his theatrical career as a veterinarian with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He soon began aiding theater producers in increasing revenue for their hit shows by launching national touring companies featuring high-quality talent and production values. In the 1980s he became executive director of American Theater Productions, where he further developed this model and increased subscription sales, which led to a significant increase in grosses for theatrical touring, virtually doubling income from road shows between 1988 and 1991.
Working with American Theater Productions founder Tom Mallow, MacPherson produced national and international tours for such shows as The Who’s Tommy, Guys and Dolls, The Secret Garden and Angels In America.
Born in Elrama, Pa., MacPherson studied large-animal veterinary medicine at Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va. He enlisted in the Army during the Korean War and learned to speak Japanese at Sophia University in Tokyo before being assigned to work in Korea as an intelligence specialist.
Following the Korean War, MacPherson managed movie theaters in West Virginia and later served as both a veterinarian and a publicist for Ringling Brothers. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for one year before finding work in show business as a partner in a theatrical press agency.
In addition to his work as a publicist, MacPherson’s multifaceted career included service as a talent manager in the 1960s and 1970s, where his clients ranged from the National Ballet of Canada to world famous pianist/comedian Victor Borge, and superstar performer/recording artist Harry Belafonte. In 1970 he was founding general manager of the Hamilton Place performing arts center in Hamilton, Ontario, and in 1980 he participated in the launch of Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. In 1990 American Theater Productions merged with Dodger Productions, and the firm was dissolved in 1996.
MacPherson was later hired to initiate and direct the theatrical management division of the New York offices of Endemol Entertainment, the Dutch theatrical and television-production company.
From 1997 until his retirement in 2005, MacPherson served as president of Masque Sound. Started by three stagehands in 1936, the firm rapidly evolved into one of New York City’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement and design companies. Masque Sound credits range from the original productions of Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, A Chorus Line, Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera and Rent to the 2009 Tony Award-winning production of Billy Elliott.
MacPherson is survived by his wife, the former Judith Winter; his daughter, Morag, of Brookdale, N.J.; his sons Duncan, of Hartford, Conn., and Malcolm, of Toronto; a sister, Dee Deibel of San Rafael, Calif.; and two grandchildren.
Visit Masque Sound at www.masquesound.com.