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Samuel E. Wright – who is most famous for his portrayal of Sebastian the crab in Disney favourite, The Little Mermaid – has died aged 74.
The two-time Tony award nominee’s death was announced by his hometown Montgomery, New York, but the cause of death has not been made public.
The Town of Montgomery wrote: “Today, the Town of Montgomery mourns the loss of Sam Wright. Pictured here with Town Supervisor Brian Maher and his brother Patrick in Walden in the early 1990’s. Sam was an inspiration to us all and along with his family established the Hudson Valley Conservatory.”
The tribute continued: “Sam and his family have impacted countless Hudson Valley youth always inspiring them to reach higher and dig deeper to become the best version of themselves. On top of his passion for the arts and his love for his family, Sam was most known for walking into a room and simply providing PURE JOY to those he interacted with. He loved to entertain, he loved to make people smile and laugh and he loved to love.
"The greater Town of Montgomery Community mourns together today. As we say goodbye to a pillar in our community and ask everyone to share a memory and help us celebrate the life of this great man.”
Sam sang two of the most popular Little Mermaid songs, Under the Sea, which won Best Original Song and Best Original Score at the Academy Awards and Kiss the Girl, which was also nominated for Best Original Song.
Sam’s career began in 1976 when he played C.B. Travis in sitcom Ball Four.
As well as voicing Sebastian, Sam also played Mufasa in the original Broadway cast of The Lion King, which earned him a Tony nomination in 1998.
His first Tony nomination was for playing William in The Tap Dance King in 1984.
Sebastian the animated crab was the role he was best known for, and he reprised the role in spin-offs and sequels including The Little Mermaid 2 and House of Mouse.
Sam was a versatile performer, and on top of his Tony nominated appearances in plays, he also had success on the big screen playing trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood's biopic, Bird.
He was also seen in live-action roles live-action roles including Enos, All My Children, and The Cosby Show.
Friends and colleagues alike paid tribute to the man who gave “PURE JOY” in social media posts.
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One wrote: “Sam was my acting teacher when i was a kid, and I'll forever be grateful for that experience. truly one of a kind person with a heart of gold who gave a lot back to his community. The human world, it's a mess" [Broken heart emoji] RIP.”
Heather Headley, who starred with Sam in The Lion King on Broadway, wrote: “You may remember his beautiful voice as #Sebastian in #TheLittleMermaid, but he was our #Mufasa in @TheLionKing, and what a #king he was. And will always be. He Lives in Us… always!"
Sam was father to Keeley, Dee and Sam, and his survived by his wife Amanda.
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