The veteran theatre star's death was first announced by Marc Shaiman, who wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics for Hairspray, on Facebook on Monday night (19Dec16).

He wrote, "HAIRSPRAY (and Broadway) has lost a huge piece of its heart. RIP to the glorious, loving and much loved Dick Latessa. This was a man who defined Pro, with the timing of a Swiss watch and a voice, a smile and sweet soul that made you feel special just to know him."

Latessa was best known for originating the character of Wilbur Turnblad in the 2002 stage musical adaptation of Hairspray, which was based on the 1988 film of the same name. The character has since been played by Christopher Walken and Martin Short in the 2007 movie and Hairspray Live! respectively.

For his role, Latessa won both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for featured actor in a musical.

Harvey Fierstein, who played his partner Edna Turnblad in the show, wrote on Facebook, "I've never had an acting partner quite like DICk Latessa... I loved and adored him and, no insult to any other actor opposite whom I performed HAIRSPRAY, there was no one like Latessa. He was so filled with love and mutual respect... Oh, DICk, there was only one you and I'll be forever grateful that I got you all to myself for nearly a thousand performances."

He concluded by telling Latessa "you are timeless to me", a nod to the duet between Edna and Wilbur in the musical.

Latessa made his Broadway debut in 1968 musical The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, and also starred in shows including Follies, Rags, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cabaret and The Will Rogers Follies.

He also made guest appearances in TV series including The Good Wife, True Blue, The Sopranos and Law & Order.

Broadway actress Kristin Chenoweth paid tribute to her Promises, Promises co-star on Twitter by writing, "From all my family from the Broadway revival Promises Promises, we love you DICk Latessa. RIP."

While Sean Hayes posted, "I was so saddened today to learn of the passing of Broadway legend, DICk Latessa, with whom I worked in @BwayPromises in 2010. A class act."