'Law And Order' Actress Rita Gardner Passes Away, Age 87

Rae Batchelor
: Rita Gardner attends the 2019 Off Broadway Alliance Awards Reception at Sardi's on June 18, 2019 in New York City.
Getty Images | Walter McBride

Actress and Off Broadway legend Rita Gardner has passed away at the age of 87, as reported by a friend and colleague, Alex Rybeck.

Rita was best known as one of the original cast of the long-running Off Broadway show 'The Fantasticks.'

Rita Gardner.
Facebook | Alex Rybeck

The play was a huge success with a hit song Try To Remember, and ran for 42 years. Gardner appeared in other Off Broadway shows like The Cradle Will Rock, To Be Young Gifted And Black, Steel Magnolias, Wings, and The Foreigner.

Gardner was also a familiar face to the Law & Order television franchise, appearing in Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

"Rita Gardner, best known as 'The Girl' ('Luisa') in THE FANTASTICKS (longest running musical), and my dear friend and colleague, passed away early yesterday morning at Mt. Sinai Hospital," shared Gardner's friend Alex Rybeck on Facebook.

Rita Gardner laughing.
Facebook | Alex Rybeck

"She had leukemia. We performed together as recently as this past March, when she and Lee Roy Reams duetted on “They Were You” at 54 Below. She was also a beloved teacher at HB Studios for many years, and also taught one summer at the Yale Cabaret Conference," his post continued. "She is survived by her husband, Robert Sevra. No word yet on plans for a funeral service or memorial."

Fans have taken to social media to share their messages of condolences and memories of Rita.

"Rest In Peace to this legend. Our generation knows her as the rapping granny in the musical of The Wedding Singer. Forever in our hearts, Ms Rita Gardner," shared one fan.

Oh #RitaGardner. I listened to “The Fantasticks” over and over and over when i was growing up and her longing melted into mine... i got to meet her a few years ago at an awards luncheon and she was gracious and lovely and still had that magic in her eyes," shared another.

"Tragic loss of such an awesome talent," shared one fan.

"There will never be another recording as pure and as gentle as the rain as the original cast of "The Fantasticks." And Rita Gardner's renditions of her songs are definitive. The youth and purity of her singing will be with us forever. RIP," shared one fan on Facebook.

Our thoughts are with her loved ones at this difficult time. Rest in peace.