YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Playhouse and all of the local theater community today is mourning the loss of David Jendre, a longtime director, dancer, singer, actor and choreographer.
Jendre died Nov. 27 at his Youngstown home. He was 66.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the passing of one of the true giants of Youngstown theater,” said John Cox, president of the Playhouse board of directors, in a statement. “Despite his four-foot-10 stature, David towered over us with his remarkable artistic prowess and made it his mission to share those gifts with thousands of audience members and fellow artists.”
Jendre had worked in professional theater for many years, and brought his knowledge and high standards of quality to local stages. He was slated to direct “The Producers” at The Playhouse in 2021.
“He was a true professional who showed us all what it really took,” Cox said.
As a member of the Playhouse board of directors, Jendre advocated tirelessly for the future of the theater, Cox said.
Jendre honed his craft at Chaney High School and at the Playhouse before embarking on a professional career on national stages. His credits included productions at The Muny in St. Louis, Cleveland Play House, and many notable performances with the Kenley Players of Warren, including Sancho in “Man of La Mancha”; Pappy Yokum in “Li’l Abner” with Lucie Arnaz; Tubby Wadlow in “Walking Happy” with Tommy Tune; Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma!”; “West Side Story” with Barry Williams; and “Artists and Models and Madness” with Mamie van Doren and Randy Skinner.
After his professional career, Jendre returned to Youngstown, where he left an imprint on audiences and fellow theater members over several decades.
As a director/choreographer, he championed emerging talent with polished productions of musicals and plays starting in 1975-76 with “Godspell.”
While his credits are too numerous to mention, they include “West Side Story” (1976-77); “Cabaret” and “Grease” (1981-82); “Dreamgirls” (1988-89); “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “Nunsense” (2005-06); and “The 39 Steps” (2011-12). His more recent directorial efforts at the Playhouse included critically lauded versions of “Chicago” (2010-11), “A Chorus Line” (2014-15) and “Cats” (2015-16).
His writing credits for the Playhouse Youth Theatre included adaptations of “Pinocchio,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “Alice in Wonderland.” As a performer, Jendre also frequently worked with Easy Street Productions.
Todd Hancock, co-founder and director of Youngstown-based Easy Street, recalled the first time he met Jendre at the Playhouse, 40 years ago.
“I was only 16 at the time, and though we had never spoken, I felt like I already knew him,” Hancock wrote in a Facebook post. “I already knew all about his legendary status, and knew he was a professional actor. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m about to meet Youngstown’s Bob Fosse.’ ”
Hancock said being an actor in a Jendre musical was always “a big deal… He was a consummate professional and demanded the same from every member of his cast and crew.”
Hancock would later direct Jendre in many Easy Street musicals, starting with “429 Miles Off Broadway” in 1991. His affiliation with Easy Street continued through the years.
“Just last week, I asked [Jendre] to do some recording for our ‘Miracle on Easy Street’ TV special,” Hancock wrote in his post. “He sent me the following text: ‘Well, I look like (expletive), my voice is in no shape at all, and I’m having a bit of a health crisis at the moment. LET’S DO THIS!!!’ ”
Jendre would prove to be too weak to record his solo when the day arrived, but he will be recognized on the upcoming TV special, Hancock said.
At the request of the Jendre family, donations to the David Jendre Memorial Fund may be made at TheYoungstownPlayhouse.com.
Plans for a public memorial are forthcoming.
Pictured above: David Jendre in a scene from “The Last Laugh” at The Youngstown Playhouse in 2015. Jendre died Nov. 27 at age 66.
Copyright 2020, AfterHoursYoungstown.com, Youngstown, Ohio.
Posted Nov. 30, 2020.