Deceased February 28, 2018
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Carrie Jacobs passed away just after midnight on Feb. 28, 2018, having fought bravely against a particularly aggressive lymphoma that was diagnosed last summer. She is survived by her children, Lily (16) and Dashiell (14), and her mother, Lois, and sister, Linda.
Carrie and I met when we were invited to join Rhythm & Shoes, a student-run organization that produced variety shows filled with song, dance, comedy and music. We created a routine we called “Brenda and Harry,” about a couple of swells from Jersey who met and fell in love and fought and eventually got married through comic sketches and songs like “You’re the Top” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “I Got You Babe.” I loved performing with Carrie. She was a singular comic. She could dance like nobody else. And she had great style and taste.
Carrie eventually took over as the artistic director of Rhythm & Shoes and grew the organization—and its audience—tremendously. She was a terrific leader. She was encouraging without sacrificing her standards. And she knew how to discipline when necessary. I had a bad habit of being late in my younger years, and Carrie called me on it when I was late for a Brenda and Harry rehearsal. She said, “When you’re late for our rehearsals, it means to me that you think that my time isn’t as valuable as yours, and, with all due respect, I don’t think your time is more valuable than mine.” I am pretty punctual now.
Carrie went on to act and perform professionally, touring Europe with 42nd Street. She later married and had two great kids. In recent years, she started teaching tap dancing. When I was up for a big Broadway revival a few years ago, I had to learn a dance sequence and called upon Carrie for some coaching. I didn’t get that job, but Carrie reminded me that something better was coming. And she was right. A year later I got another job that was way better. When I told her about the new gig, she was so excited for me. That was Carrie—always encouraging, loyal, unfailingly loving, hopeful and usually right.
And wickedly funny. The last time I saw Carrie, she had a chemo port in her skull and a lot of staples in her scalp to keep the port in place. The chemo seemed to be working, and, a few days later, she texted me to let me know that she was about to get the port removed and her staples out. She was quite happy, and I texted her that someone should write a song about the joy of getting staples removed from one’s head. I hoped she would find my text amusing—but I was worried she wouldn’t.
Until I got her response: “Not much rhymes with staples. Maypoles?”
I wrote back: “Maples? Dr. Kay pulls staples out of your head? Under the maples?”
Carrie replied: “I’m impressed. Steven Sondheim-grade rhyming.”
I think she was being complimentary. And totally sarcastic at the same time. And I think we both laughed pretty hard over that exchange. I also think we both hoped I’d write that song and sing it for her someday, but it wasn’t to be.
I was planning to visit Carrie the Monday before she passed. But she wasn’t well enough to receive visitors. So I didn’t really get to say goodbye to her. Maybe this can be my goodbye to my sweet Brenda and dear friend Carrie who left us too soon. I will miss her—her encouragement, her wisdom, her smile, her hope.
I will close by sharing some encouraging, wise and hopeful words from her farewell blog post. Carrie asked her friends and family to think about something they’ve always wanted to do—like learn to play chess or write a novel—and to go do it now.
So—in honor of Carrie—go do it now.
John Cariani ’91