Remembering Bernie Yvon

Bernie Yvon headshot 2
Bernie Yvon

Remembering Bernie Yvon
By Joe Stead, September 15, 2014

I think I will miss Bernie Yvon’s smile most of all. Whether he was leading the band in “The Music Man,” keeping it gay in “The Producers,” or splashing up a storm in “Singin’ in the Rain,” Bernie’s smile lit up the stage brighter than an entire room full of spotlights could. It made you feel happy, glad to be alive and in the company of someone who absolutely loved what he was doing. Would that we could all be so fortunate. When I read the news of Bernie’s untimely death on September 6 it seemed inconceivable that such a force of talent and zest for life was gone.

 bernie2For those who loved Bernie, and that must surely include anyone who knew him or ever saw him perform, the grief is unspeakable. And in a fitting acknowledgement of that shared loss, the lights of Chicago’s theatre community were dimmed on September 11 from the Loop to Lincolnshire to honor the memory of Bernie and actress Molly Glynn, who had both died the same day in separate tragic accidents, as well as longtime theatre advocate and critic Roy Leonard.

bernie3I often marvel at the triple threat talent that makes singing, dancing and acting appear so easy and effortless, when those of us who have been up there know the grueling work and training and practice that make it so. When Bernie was on stage you never saw the work, only the joy. That joy, love and humor extended to real life too. Bernie’s love of animals, children and his partner Matt Raftery were fervent and abundant.

I remember talking to Bernie once at a post-show reception and telling him that he had been a better George M. Cohan than the real George M. Cohan. He was grateful for that acknowledgement despite the critical mauling his recent World Premiere production “Uncle Broadway” had received. Most of the reviewers praised the exceptional cast while noting that the script itself simply did not work. The cast knew it too, and Bernie felt frustrated that the creative team refused to listen to them.


Even with the occasional mediocre material, Bernie’s star shone brightly. When discussing Bernie Yvon’s stage career, the words “star quality” are simply facts and never hyperbole. That star quality served him well when he understudied Donny Osmond in the title role of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Stepping into the shoes of a superstar could never be an easy task, but with Bernie it is unlikely that even the most die-hard Osmond fan felt that they had not gotten their money’s worth. It was a show that served him well as he grew from the Biblical dreamer of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s popular musical to the Elvis-inspired Pharaoh and “dad” Jacob in subsequent productions. His handsome appearance and versatility allowed him to move as effortlessly from leading man to character player almost as easily as his feet seemed to sprout wings.

Bernie Yvon had just recently celebrated his 50th birthday when he was killed by a Semi truck driving to rehearsal. He was scheduled to play a taxi driver in the musical “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana. George Andrew Wolff will assume the role and the production will now open on September 21, with a tribute to Bernie planned following the show. Yvon was fortunate to be a working actor, and it was abundantly clear that he loved what he did as much as audiences loved watching him.