Frank Verlizzo, aka Fraver: He's the Poster Boy of Broadway
Theater is an ephemeral art, and long after the show is over all you are left with are the memories — and perhaps the original cast recording, the program or the poster.
An artist responsible for some of the most iconic theater imagery of all three is a man few know outside Broadway’s inner circles, yet his work has defined how we connect with shows for nearly a half-century.
Frank Verlizzo, who designs under the moniker “Fraver” — a combination of his two names — has created images, graphics and illustrations that are synonymous with the shows they celebrate.
Those piercing, troubling eyes staring out in the poster for Deathtrap; the Grand Guignol woodcuts for Sweeney Todd; the stark animal mane stamp from The Lion King — these and hundreds of others are Verlizzo’s.
A recently published coffee table book of his collected work is titled Fraver By Design: 5 Decades of Theatre Poster Art from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Beyond.
“I went to an Encores! show not too long ago, and as part of the set there were posters from shows which they had presented, many of which I did,” says Verlizzo, 67, over a leisurely lunch on a sunny afternoon from his Shelton home. “A friend told me after that he could tell from the back of the theater exactly which ones I did.”
How so? “He could see the title of the show. That’s the first rule of design: Keep the title prominent,” he laughs.
And rule No. 2?
“Keep it simple, because it has to work even in a small ad. We didn’t call it branding when I started out. We called it advertising.”
Growing up in the Bronx, the son of a subway motorman and a hospital receptionist, Verlizzo says he was always drawing.