In loving memory of
Jacki Barlia Florin
[18.09.1959 – 17.03.2021]
It’s very hard to imagine a world without Jacki, impossible to imagine a New York City without Jacki, and completely unfathomable to imagine a Broadway without Jacki. It's overwhelming to lose someone, who’s had such a fundamental influence in the make-up of one’s life.
David and Michelle, I know we’ve not been in very close contact over the past few years since I moved to London, but I asked your father if I could speak today, as I too have lost a parent prematurely like you---- years ahead of my “time” per se, and I know what you’re feeling and going through.
I sincerely hope you both will find some comfort and solace in my words, in so much that your mother was hands down the single biggest influence in my life, and without question, I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. I am eternally grateful to you both for sharing her with me. You both spoke so beautifully and profoundly at her funeral.
Though Jacki’s time on earth was cut short, her memory and legacy lie within the people whose lives were fundamentally shaped by her, and it’s important for you both to know the impact that your mother had on the people she embraced into her life. I think of Jacki every day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
For those who don’t know, I had the honor of working with closely with Jacki from 2010 to 2014 and have the privilege of sharing above-title billing with her on five Broadway shows, including How to Succeed and Bullets Over Broadway. I was in the trenches with her for the entire Broadway journey of The Scottsboro Boys, the biggest practical learning experience of my life and my first Broadway credit- all thanks to Jacki.
Jacki taught me everything about a profession in the theatre. Most importantly, the fundamentals of what it means to be a producer and a professional- everything from raising money, nurturing and developing investors, choosing the right content and the right people to work with, and above all, how to always conduct oneself with class, elegance, and grace.
While I’d worked as an assistant to a few other producers before, Jacki gave me the opportunity to work alongside her as her equal. There was no dog walking and dry-cleaning pick-ups with Jacki. I started as Jacki’s assistant, and quickly worked my way up to being her associate, and eventually her partner.
Recognizing my hunger and ambition, rather than feeling threatened by it or wanting to suppress it, Jacki nurtured it and fueled it. She encouraged me to take on initiative and responsibility and would often take a step back to allow me to run with things front and center on her behalf, single-handedly shaping me into the producer, and man I am today. No other person I had worked for prior to Jacki had done that, and it was life-changing for me.
Every single success in my life I attribute and owe to her. I don’t want to sit and list a grocery-list of my accomplishments, but I’ve humbly had a few: I’ve started my own London-based production company (and now manage a team of my own); I’ve won Tonys and Oliviers, and I’m attending the EMBA programme at Oxford Business School on Scholarship this fall.
I say this NOT to big myself up or give myself ‘nachas,’ but only to illustrate how far someone can go with Jacki’s guidance, and to point out that none of this would have happened were it not for Jacki. She taught me to work hard and dream big. She would do anything for me and did everything. In a heartbeat, she jumped on the first plane to London to be my date at my first big West End opening of A Chorus Line in 2013.
Often, I think back fondly on all of the good times we had working together at the office on East 56th street, solving Broadway (and the world’s) problems over a salad from Chopt, and our favorite- Diet Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale.
I reflect on all the wonderful work trips we took together- back and forth to Minneapolis for Scottsboro Boys, to Stratford Ontario and Toronto for Jesus Christ Superstar, to LA where we had lunch with Jason Robert Brown, and to London for her West End producing debut for the play Top Girls. Not only did Jacki integrate me into every aspect of her professional life, but also into her family.
When I think about Jacki, what instinctively comes to mind was her profound sense of humor and joie de vivre, and that intoxicating smile on her face.
We had so much fun. So many, many laughs. I’ll never forget how Jacki taught me how to throw and run a successful investor event, and how to make sure to “not invite the ‘schnorers’ who only show up for the free wine.”
I think back on the life lessons that Jacki taught me- always to put family and health first. Despite all the drama on and off stage, Jacki would always say “Family first, health first.” Sound familiar?
Jacki taught me that you can’t take yourself too seriously, and to always laugh at yourself. I think back on a story she loved to tell, perhaps of one of her more questionable business decisions:
“A musical about Jersey Boys!?! Why would anyone want to invest in a musical about Jersey? I’M FROM JERSEY!”
I think about all the wonderful ‘Jacki-isms’ - and namely her anthem to describe the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of the theatre world: “YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP!”
As a boss and colleague - Jacki was at times tough and firm, but always fair and just. Lord knows, I made several mistakes with Jacki, but there was always a valuable lesson to be learned, and Jacki was always so patient and forgiving.
David, I think back on how incredibly proud she was of you. To witness the pride she took in watching you become a man over those years was inspiring. I’ll never forget the day we came to visit you at your office (at the time), and the sheer pleasure she took in seeing you thriving in your element.
Michelle, I didn’t know what an ACL was until you tore yours, and how Jacki could think about nothing other than how to take your pain away. She would always marvel at your academic and athletic accomplishments, way beyond anything she, nor I could ever achieve.
Joel, I marvel in how you embraced, encouraged, and nurtured Jacki’s talent, from year on end. You always gave her a platform to shine and take center stage- right to the very end.
Aside from my own mother, Jacki is the first and only person to have built me up and encouraged me. She gave me the self-confidence, tools, and above all wings to fly. No person has had greater impact on my life than Jacki. A career on Broadway was my dream, and Jacki was the catalyst in making it a reality.
I know I’m not the only person over and above her incredible children who she touched and shaped into the adults they are now. Phillip and Dan, her associates and partners after me are today both incredible theatre professionals and leaders in their fields. Which is in short- remarkable. I hope I, in my lifetime can have the same impact on just one person, let alone three. Who else can this be said of, other than Jacki?
In conclusion, I’ve been in touch with The Broadway League, and have informed them of her passing. They will be sure to include her in the “In Memoriam” section of this year’s Tony Awards.
I’ve been producing a musical theatre web series, and I will put a special dedication to Jacki in our next episode, which I’ll proudly share with David, Michelle, Joel and family.
Lastly, yesterday, I went and printed and framed the photo of Jacki and I at the Drama Desks to keep on my desk; so, that I can look at her every day, and proudly tell everyone who comes into my office that this is the extraordinary woman who gave me my start in theatre, and I owe it ALL to her.
Lots of love,