B.J. Crosby, a New Orleans-born singer and actress who received a Tony nomination for her work in the original cast of the long-running Broadway revue “Smokey Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller,” died Friday at a New Orleans hospital. She was 62.
Crosby’s friend, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, sent news of her death through Twitter on Friday.
“BJ Crosby, a powerhouse of a talent & wonderful friend, is gone,” he said.
Crosby’s given name was Joanne Crayton, but she performed as B.J. Crosby or Lady B.J.
She grew up singing in the Baptist church. In the 1970s and ’80s, she performed in local theater. She also performed internationally, in theaters and intimate jazz clubs.
Crosby moved to New York in 1995. Her stage work, in addition to “Smokey Joe’s Café,” included performances as Mama Morton in “Chicago” and Ma Reed in “One Mo’ Time.” She also appeared in George C. Wolfe’s “Harlem Song” and as Effie in the national touring company of “Dreamgirls.”
Before moving to Los Angeles in 1987, she sang and made recordings in New Orleans with jazz artists Ellis Marsalis and Germaine Bazzle.
In Los Angeles, Crosby appeared in many TV series, including “Gimme a Break,” “Ally McBeal,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Mad About You,” “The Cosby Show” and “Family Matters.”
She won an ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) for “Lady B.J. Sings Lady Day: A Tribute to Billie Holiday.”
“Smokey Joe’s Café” brought her both a Tony nomination in New York and a Laurence Olivier Award nomination in London. The show’s original cast album won the 1996 Grammy Award for best musical show album.
Crosby returned to New Orleans in 2007 and released her first solo album, “Best of Your Heart.”
In June 2008, following a local club show, she suffered a stroke. She spent the succeeding years in physical therapy. She regained the use of her right arm and her ability to speak but not her singing voice.
Survivors include a son, Joseph Elloie, and three grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.