Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s long-time collaborator leads tributes to ‘lyrical genius’

Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s long-time collaborator leads tributes to ‘lyrical genius’

Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s longtime collaborator James McConnel has paid tribute to the “lyrical genius” following his death aged 65.

The screenwriter, performer and composer was known for his work on shows such as The Vicar Of Dibley and the 1987 film Maurice, which starred a young Hugh Grant.

His management confirmed he died “unexpectedly but peacefully” while listening to BBC Radio 3 and preparing for his show with McConnel, which he was due to star later that night.

McConnel shared a statement on Kit and McConnel’s official Facebook page, which read: “It is very sad to report that we lost Kit over the weekend.

“Wonderfully flamboyant, multi-talented author and lyrical genius, performer, musician, director, cabaret partner – and friend for over four decades.

“The funniest, gentlest man I’ve ever known. He brought joy and laughter to so many. RIP old mate.”

Hesketh-Harvey was the brother of journalist and former editor of the Evening Standard, Sarah Sands, Julian Sands’ ex-wife.

News of her brother’s death comes as they search for the British actor nearing the end of their third week after he was first reported missing in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California on January 13.

Following the news of Hesketh-Harvey’s death, celebrities from the entertainment world sent their condolences to the family and reminisced about their time with the screenwriter.

Lyricist and author Sir Tim Rice tweeted: “The tragic news that Kit Hesketh Harvey has passed away. Delightful guy, charming, funny, the lyricist’s lyricist, a cross between Michael Flanders and Stephen Sondheim.

“And a good musician. And fun on the beaches of Barbados or having lunch in Savoy. And much more. REST IN PEACE.”

The Yvonne Arnaud Theater, where Hesketh-Harvey performed regularly, also paid tribute to the “extremely funny and friendly” actress and screenwriter.

They wrote on Twitter: “Everyone at the Yvonne Arnaud Theater is devastated to learn of the death of actor, composer and writer Kit Hesketh-Harvey, our beloved friend and colleague.

“A regular on the Arnaud stage in our annual pantomime, usually in the role of the villain, and with his cabaret act Kit and the Widow and later Kit and McConnel.

“He and his partner James McConnel were one of the first acts on the Arnaud stage when we reopened following the pandemic closures.

“Kit was talented, cheeky, witty, fearless, extremely funny and kind. Our audience and everyone who knew him and worked with him will miss him greatly. Our thoughts are with his family.”

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the comedy sketch troupe Cambridge Footlights, Hesketh-Harvey produced a series of art documentaries for BBC TV Music and Arts.

He later wrote screenplays for Merchant Ivory, including Maurice, with subsequent projects including Full Throttle and The Vicar Of Dibley for Tiger-Aspect, Hans Christian Andersen for Hallmark, and The Lost Explorer for Tim Walker.

Hesketh-Harvey has been nominated three times for the Olivier Awards in the West End with his musical comedy duo Kit and the Widow.

They have acted in Y at the Piccadilly Theatre, Salad Days at the Vaudeville Theater and Tomfoolery and Cowardy Custard and have been seen frequently in the West End and at international circuits as paid escorts for Joan Rivers.

In 2011, they starred in the inaugural BBC Comedy Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, their final appearance on stage together.

He was married to former Bond girl Kate Rabett, an ex-girlfriend of the Duke of York, and the couple had two children together.

A statement from PBJ management, shared with the PA news agency, said: “We are devastated to learn today of the death of longtime friend and client of PBJ management, Kit Hesketh-Harvey. Kit died unexpectedly but peacefully while listening to Radio 3 preparing for a Kit & McConnel show tonight.

“Kit has been a client for over three decades, a uniquely talented and scholarly performer, author, composer, wit, singer, actor, all-around entertainer and most importantly, a devoted father.

“Peter (Bennett-Jones, founder of PBJ Management) originally knew the friendly, clever Kit from university and toured the UK and US with him in 1978’s The Comedy Of Errors.

“He joined the agency when it was formed in the late 1980s. Kit’s performances in Edinburgh on Kit and the Widow and Kit & McConnel for over 40 years are legendary and consistently one of the city’s funniest shows.

“He will be greatly mourned by so many people who were fortunate enough to have known this special man.

“We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to all of his family and friends at this very sad time. Kit has left indelible fond memories for all of us and he leaves an unfillable void in all of our lives.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *