Michael Stewart was an American playwright, librettist, and lyricist. He was born Myron Stuart Rubin in Manhattan on August 1, 1924, and he grew up in Jamaica, Queens. At age 10, he went with his family to see the original Broadway production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, and he decided then that he wanted to write for the theatre. Stewart graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Queens College before receiving his master of fine arts in drama from the Yale School of Drama in 1953.
After Yale, Stewart wrote sketches for revues starring upcoming greats of the stage and screen such as Chita Rivera, Bea Arthur, and Arte Johnson. He then became one of the writers on comic actor and writer on Sid Caesar’s variety and sketch comedy shows, Your Show of Shows and Sid Caesar’s Comedy Hour. In 1954, Stewart met composer-lyricist Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams, and he ultimately worked with them on what has become a staple of the American musical theatre canon, Bye Bye Birdie.
Afterward, Stewart continued to write the books for musicals that are now considered classics in musical theatre history: Hello, Dolly!, George M!, Mack and Mabel, Barnum, and 42nd Street, among others. Bye Bye Birdie and Hello, Dolly! won Tony Awards for Best Musical, and Stewart himself won the Tony Award for Best Author of a Musical for the latter. Stewart often lamented that it was difficult to be a book writer because when a show flops, they blame the book, but when it succeeds, they credit the score. Stewart died of pneumonia on September 20, 1987, at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center.