Who's Who in Musicals: A to Ba
by John Kenrick
Abbott, George (Francis)
Director, librettist, producer
b. Jan. 25, 1887 (Forrestville, NY) - d. Jan. 31. 1995 (Miami Beach, FL)
Colleagues referred to him as "Mr. Abbott," an extraordinary gesture of
professional respect that this multi-talented man never discouraged. A Harvard-trained
actor, he achieved initial fame as a playwright, eventually becoming a leading stage
director of both plays and musicals, and a successful musical comedy librettist.
In a career spanning more than 130 Broadway productions, Abbott worked with
most of the prominent stage talents of his time. His musical comedy career
began when he co-directed Richard Rodgers
& Lorenz Hart's Jumbo (1935). He
then worked with the same team on three more hits, staging and co-authoring
the librettos for On Your Toes (1936), The Boys From Syracuse (1938) and
Pal Joey (1940).
Abbott gave musical comedy a faster pace and a refreshing dose
of modern sophistication. Despite the overall emphasis on
speed, the quiet moments in his shows were many and usually quite
effective. His musical comedy hits included Call Me Madam (1950),
Wonderful Town (1953) and Fiorello (1960). Abbott helped
to expand the role of dance in musical theatre, allowing
George Balanchine, Gene Kelly
and others to redefine the genre from the 1930s onwards. He collaborated with choreographer
Jerome Robbins to create On the Town
(1944) and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1962),
and worked with choreographer Bob Fosse
on such hits as The Pajama Game
(1954), Damn Yankees (1955) and
New Girl in Town (1957)
Abbott directed the top musical stars of his day, including
Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon,
John Raitt, Carol Lawrence
and Ray Bolger. He was known to
line readings to actors, a practice frowned upon today but sometimes
necessary in an era when actors had little if any formal training. Abbott helmed his
share of flops, especially as tastes changes and his career waned in the
1960s and 70s. He managed a dazzling comeback by staging an acclaimed revival of On Your Toes
(1983) that out-ran the original. Abbott continued to make special
appearances and develop new projects. At the time of his death at the age of 107,
he had just assisted in revising the book of Damn Yankees for its 1994 Broadway revival.
b. Oct. 14, 1924 (Mansfield, Ohio)
In the 1950s, Adams and composer Charles Strouse began
collaborating on songs for summer stock revues. Their first book musical,
Bye, Bye, Birdie (1960), was a surprise
Broadway hit, with a score that blended pop rock ("A Lotta
Livin' to Do") with more traditional showtunes ("Put On a Happy
Face"). Director Gower Champion's energetic
production won the Tony for Best Musical. After the short-lived
All American (1962), Strouse and Adams had a
fair hit with the Sammy Davis Jr. vehicle Golden Boy (1965) and a
respected failure with It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman! (1966).
(1970) was a witty musical version of the classic film All About Eve
that won the Tony for Best Musical, and the rock-inflected score brought the
songwriters fresh acclaim.
Strouse and Adams musicalized the life of Queen Victoria for the ill-fated London
production I and Albert (1972). Their A Broadway Musical (1978)
closed on its opening night, and their final collaboration was
Bring Back Birdie (1981) an ill-advised Bye, Bye, Birdie
sequel that lasted one weekend. Adams teamed with composer Mitch Leigh on
Ain't Broadway Grand (1993), a short-lived musical inspired by the life of
producer Michael Todd.
Composer, lyricist, producer
b. Aug. 3, 1921 (New York City) - d. June 21, 2012 (Southampton, NY)
After a stint in the Navy, Adler pursued a career in advertising, treating
songwriting as a sideline until he met composer Jerry Ross.
In an unusual arrangement, Adler & Ross shared credit for both the music and the
lyrics. They coauthored Tony Bennett's pop hit "Rags to Riches" and contributed
several songs to John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953). Their work won the
admiration of songwriter Frank Loesser,
who encouraged them to write for Broadway. Their first book musical
was The Pajama Game
(1954), a long running spoof of the battle between labor unions and management
that included the hit songs "Hey There," "Hernando's Hideaway"
and "Steam Heat." Directed by George Abbott and
featuring choreography by Bob Fosse, it won six Tony
Awards (including Best Musical) and became a perennial favorite.
The following season, Adler and Ross provided the score for the equally popular
Damn Yankees (1955), including "Whatever
Lola Wants" and "Heart." With Abbott and Fosse once again at
the helm, this show garnered nine Tonys, including
Best Musical, and brought top rank stardom to actress
Gwen Verdon. Ross died of leukemia several months
into the run of Damn Yankees. Adler went on to single-handedly compose several
well-received musicals for American television, but his solo theatrical
efforts were plagued by poor reviews and short runs. His African-themed Kwamina
(1961), starring his then-wife Sally Ann Howes, was
roundly dismissed despite some remarkable music, and the
Bea Arthur vehicle A Mother's Kisses (1968) closed before
reaching Broadway. Adler produced the short-lived Rex (1972), then co-produced
and composed the score of Music Is (1976), an ill-fated musical
version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Adler remained active in his
writing an enjoyable autobiography entitled You
Gotta Have Heart, and taking part in preparations for Broadway revivals of Damn Yankees
and The Pajama Game.
Composer, lyricist, librettist
b. Oct. 1, 1948 (New York City)
Ahrens composed advertising jingles ("What would you do for a Klondike
bar?") and contributed material to ABC-TV's School House Rock
series. While taking part in the 1982 BMI musical theater workshop, she met composer
beginning a partnership that would enrich Broadway into the next century.
Their first off-Broadway effort was Lucky Stiff (1988), a bizarre
musical farce about a man who takes his uncle's corpse on a vacation in
order to earn a six million dollar inheritance. They followed this with the
acclaimed Caribbean fantasy Once On This Island (1990), which moved to
Broadway and ran for over a year. The London production won the Olivier for Best
Musical in 1994.
After the disappointing reception for their adaptation of My Favorite Year
(1992), Ahrens and Flaherty spent several years developing a stage version of
E.L. Doctorow's epic novel Ragtime (1998).
One of the finest Broadway scores of the late 20th Century, it brought the duo a
well-deserved Tony for Best Score. They created a charming score for the animated
film Anastasia (1997), and a rich but underrated score for the poorly
received Seussical (2000). Ahrens contributed the lyrics to
Alan Menken's A Christmas Carol (1994), which
was revived annually at Madison Square Garden for a decade -- a lavish
2004 TV production starred Kelsey Grammar. Ahrens &
Flaherty's A Man of No Importance (2002), Dessa Rose (2005)
and The Glorious Ones (2007) had limited runs at Lincoln Center.
Ahrens also teamed with composer Michael Gore to write two songs for the
feature film Camp (2003). Among the few
songwriters who understand how to use songs as dramatic tools, Ahrens remains
one the brightest talents for the musical theater.
Albee, Edward Franklin
Vaudeville theater owner
b. Oct. 8, 1857 (Machias, ME) – d. Mar. 11, 1930 (Palm Beach, FL)
At age 17, Albee became a circus roustabout. He made his first fortune as a ticket
seller by allegedly short-changing customers, setting the tone for the rest of his
theatrical career. There are conflicting versions of how Albee
encountered B.F. Keith. Some sources claim
their association began in 1881, when Albee walked into Keith's Boston theatre and
went to work uninvited. Within a few years, Albee took managerial control of Keith's
growing circuit of theatres, becoming the most powerful and most hated manager in
vaudeville. In 1906, the ambitious Albee convinced most of America's major vaudeville
circuits to give him centralized control of their bookings. The resulting United
Booking Office charged acts a 5% commission for all bookings, and relegated
any performers who opposed Albee into obscurity. Any attempts to
challenge Albee's power were ruthlessly crushed. When disgruntled
performers tried to form a union, Albee set up his own puppet union and
made membership in it a requirement for bookings. The legitimate union soon collapsed,
and Albee's so-called union never complained about his habitual mistreatment of performers.
No wonder he was called "Richelieu" behind his back.
As public tastes changed in the 1920s, Albee made several key misjudgments. He
wasted a fortune building lavish new theaters, forced many acts to invest in
expensive new productions, and increased the number of required daily
performances. As a result, the quality of material and performances declined,
which only fed a decline in attendance. Businessman Joseph P. Kennedy lured Albee
into a partnership with a film company, then used legal maneuvers to take
control of the resulting corporation. The newly formed Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO)
turned the once proud Orpheum vaudeville circuit into a chain of movie houses.
Wealthy but embittered, Albee died soon afterward and his funeral drew few
mourners. His grandson (by adoption) was acclaimed playwright Edward F. Albee.
(b. Edward Albert Heimberger)
b. April 22, 1908 (Rock Island, IL) - d. May 26, 2005 (Pacific Palisades, CA)
After working as a radio vocalist, this handsome, affable baritone made his Broadway
debut in a series of non-musical roles in the 1930s. He originated the role of
Antipholus (of Syracuse) in Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart's hit musical
The Boys From Syracuse (1938), introducing "This Can't Be Love" and
"Dear Old Syracuse." After appearing in the non-musical screen
version of On Your Toes (1939), he interrupted his career to serve
with distinction during World War II, achieving the rank of lieutenant in the US Navy.
Arnold returned to acting, enjoying decades of popular success on
stage and screen. He starred in Irving Berlin's Broadway musical Miss Liberty
(1949), introducing the popular "Let's Take an Old Fashioned
Walk." Arnold earned two Academy Award nominations for his screen work,
but his only major musical screen appearance was as Ali Hakim in Oklahoma
(1955). He appeared in various straight plays and films through
the next decade, returning to Broadway to take over the role of Harold Hill in
The Music Man (1960). The star of many TV series and specials, he is
probably best remembered for the 1960s farm-life sitcom Green Acres, co-starring
Eva Gabor. Albert's last Broadway appearance occurred when he and Gabor joined the hit
revival of You Can't Take It With You (1983). Active in television
into his final years, Albert died of pneumonia at age 97.
(b. Ellen Geisman)
b. Oct. 7, 1917 (Bronx, NY) - June 8, 2006 (Ojai, CA)
MGM's wholesome "girl next door" got her start a chorus dancer in such
Broadway musicals as Very Warm For May (1939) and Panama Hattie (1940).
Her performance as Minerva in Best Foot Forward (1941) led her to
Hollywood, where she repeated the role on film in 1943. Allyson's husky voice
and wholesome screen persona made her an instant favorite with moviegoers. She
starred in a series of popular 1940s MGM musicals, including
As Thousands Cheer (1943), Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) and
Till The Clouds Roll By (1946).
Allyson co-starred with Peter Lawford in the
hit screen version of Good News (1947), and with Jimmy Stewart in
The Glenn Miller Story (1954), making her last musical film appearance in
You Can't Run From It (1956). As screen musicals became rarer, she appeared in
numerous non-musical films. Allyson and longtime husband
Dick Powell made numerous joint television
appearances. After Powell's death in 1963, Allyson continued appearing
on TV into the early 2000s. She died of respiratory failure at age 88.
(b. Robert Alton Hart)
b. Jan. 28, 1897 (Bennington, Vermont) – d. June 12, 1957 (Hollywood, CA)
After dancing in several Broadway productions, Alton became a leading "dance
director," and was one of the first to use the more formal title
"choreographer." His staged the dances for numerous Broadway musicals,
including Anything Goes (1934), Leave It to Me (1938), Too Many Girls
(1939), DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), Panama Hattie (1940), Pal Joey
(1940) and By Jupiter (1941). Alton broke up the
traditional chorus line, using smaller groups to fill the stage with varied
movement, an approach that served the material and made performers look their
best -- even stars who had limited dance experience.
Alton's techniques proved to be even more effective on film. He made
his screen debut with the choreography for Strike Me Pink (1936). In the 1940s,
he worked frequently for MGM, staging "On The Atchison
Topeka" in The Harvey Girls (1946), most of the musical numbers in
Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), "Be a Clown" in The Pirate (1948),
and "A Couple of Swells" in Easter Parade (1948). He
also staged the dances for The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) and
Show Boat (1951). His later work for other studios included Call Me Madam (1953),
White Christmas (1954) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1955).
In the 1950s, Alton choreographed several Broadway productions, winning a
Tony for a revival of Pal Joey (1952) before working on
Hazel Flagg (1953) and Me and Juliet (1953).
Alton's fresh, stylish dances showcased such stellar dancing
talents as Gene Kelly,
Judy Garland, Fred Astaire,
Ginger Rogers, Ray Bolger,
Marge and Gower Champion,
Danny Kaye, Marilyn Monroe
and Donald O’Connor. He died while
working on the film version of Pal Joey, and was buried in his
native Vermont. His contribution to musical theater
and film is long overdue for a serious reconsideration.
(b. Julia Elizabeth Wells)
b. Oct. 1, 1935 (Walton-on-Thames, UK)
A freakish four-octave vocal range made this gifted soprano a star in British music
halls by the time she was 12. Andrews moved on to success in radio, London
revues and pantomimes. She made her Broadway debut as Polly in The Boy Friend
(1954), where her crystalline voice and comic timing made her an immediate
favorite. She then originated the role of
Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1957), introducing
Lerner and Loewe's
"Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and "I Could Have Danced All Night,"
and "The Rain in Spain" with co-stars
Rex Harrison and Robert Coote. As Guenevere
in Lerner & Loewe's Camelot (1960), she
sang "Where Are the Simple Joys of Maidenhood" and "I Loved
You Once in Silence." She also
originated the title role in Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II's TV musical Cinderella
(1957), introducing "In My Own Little Corner." Although Hollywood overlooked
Andrews for the screen version of My Fair Lady (producer Jack Warner said she was
not photogenic enough), she triumphed in the title
role in Mary Poppins (1964), introducing "Spoonful of
Sugar" and sharing "Chim-Chimenee" with co-star Dick Van Dyke. Andrews
won rave reviews and received the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Andrews portrayed Maria Von Trapp in the record-setting film version of
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (1964). When her marriage to set
designer Tony Walton ended in an amicable divorce, Andrews married director Blake
Edwards. Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was a clever if uneven spoof of the
1920s, saved by the delicious performances of Andrews and co-stars Mary
Tyler Moore, Carol Channing, and
Bea Lillie. Nothing could not save the overblown
musical vehicles Star (1968) and Darling Lilli (1969), and Andrews
withdrew from big screen projects for several years. Her 1972 ABC-TV variety series
garnered twelve Emmy Awards, and included guest appearances by Robert
Goulet, Sandy Duncan, and Baroness Maria Von Trapp. Andrews starred in
several big screen comedies before winning rave reviews playing the dual title role in
Blake Edwards' Victor/Victoria (1982), the last great live-action musical film of
the 20th Century. Andrews also starred in the 1996 Broadway version of the same vehicle,
but the demanding run took a punishing toll on her vocal chords. Although surgery
compromised her ability to sing, she provided the pre-recorded voice of the parrot
Polynesia for the London stage production of Doctor Doolittle (1998). She
re-united with Sound of Music co-star Christopher Plummer for a live TV version
of On Golden Pond (2001), and received the Kennedy Center Honors that same year.
She directed a well-received touring version of The Boyfriend, and
has served as host for various concerts and documentaries on PBS. One of
the most beloved musical stage and screen stars of the 20th Century, she has
co-authored a series of popular children's books with daughter Emma Walton.
(b. Chaim Arluck)
b. Feb. 15, 1905 (Buffalo, NY) – d. April 23, 1986 (NYC)
The son of a Jewish cantor, Arlen was a professional musician by age
fifteen, playing in various hometown dance bands before
becoming a rehearsal pianist for Broadway productions and radio shows. He
collaborated with lyricist Ted Koehler on "Get Happy," "Stormy
Weather," "I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues" and other songs that
found their way into club acts and revues. He teamed with E.Y.
"Yip" Harburg for his first Broadway efforts, Life Begins at 8:40
(1934) and Hooray for What (1937). Arlen moved on to Hollywood, establishing
himself as one of the most successful songwriters in musical film history. His
many hit songs composed for films include "It’s Only a Paper Moon,"
and "That Old Black Magic." He also composed memorable scores for two of
Judy Garland's best loved films -- The Wizard of Oz
(1939), including "Over the Rainbow" (lyric by Harburg) and
A Star is Born (1954), including "The Man That Got Away"
(lyric by Ira Gershwin.)
Arlen returned to Broadway to compose House of Flowers (1954), with lyrics
by himself and novelist Truman Capote. The score for this ill-fated cult favorite
included "When a Sleepin' Bee." Arlen then teamed with Yip Harburg and Fred
Saidy to create the popular Lena Horne vehicle Jamaica (1957). The costly failure
of the much-anticipated stage musical Saratoga (1959) -- with lyrics by Johnny Mercer
-- left Arlen unwilling to develop more stage projects. After composing the
score for the animated big-screen
musical Gay Puree (1962), he went into an extended retirement. Arlen’s stylish gift for
sophisticated melody placed him at the forefront of America’s popular 20th Century
composers. From the optimism of "Ac-cen-tuate the Positive" to the heartbreak
of "One for My Baby," Arlen’s melodies remain a source of timeless satisfaction
(b. Bernice - pronounced "Bur-ness" - Frankel)
b. May 13, 1923 (New York City) - d. April 29, 2009 (Los Angeles, CA)
This beloved performer was born in New York City, then raised in Cambridge,
Maryland. She reached her full height of slightly over 5 foot 9 by age 12.
After serving as a Marine in World War II, she studied acting at Irwin
Pescatore's acting workshop at the New School for Social Research. After
appearing in early television with such stars as Steve Allen, Perry Come
and Sid Caesar, she made her professional stage debut as Lucy Brown in the
off-Broadway revival of Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht's
The Threepenny Opera (1954). The following year, she sang the showstopping
comic ballad "Garbage" in The Shoestring Revue (1955), and
also played Madame Suze in
the short-lived Broadway musical Seventh Heaven (1955). Arthur
created the role of Yente the Matchmaker in Jerry Bock
and Sheldon Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof (1964).
Her most memorable stage performance was as the egocentric Vera Charles in
Jerry Herman's Mame (1966), directed by her
then-husband Gene Saks. Introducing "The Man in the Moon
is a Lady" and sharing "Bosom Buddies" with co-star
Angela Lansbury, Arthur won a well-earned
Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She repeated this juicy role
in the poorly received 1974 film version.
After her starring vehicle A Mother's Kisses (1968) closed on the road,
Arthur turned to film work, including a hilarious performance in the hit comedy
Lovers and Other Strangers (1970). A one-time guest appearance as Edith Bunker's
liberal cousin Maude on the TV sitcom All in the Family was
such a sensation that CBS gave Arthur her own series, Maude (1972-76).
Arthur played a suburban housewife who hid a vulnerable heart behind a
domineering facade, winning an Emmy in 1976. She found even greater success as the
acerbic but loving divorcee Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak on NBC-TV's
The Golden Girls (1985-1992), which brought Arthur her second Emmy in 1988.
This top-rated series ended when Arthur withdrew from the cast, but remained
extremely popular in syndication. A longtime champion of civil rights, she made occasional concert and
benefit appearances through the 1990s, and scored a personal triumph (and garnered
a special Tony nomination) when her one-woman show came to Broadway in 2002.
After Arthur's death due to cancer at age 85, Angela Lansbury said of her,
"She became and has remained my bosom buddy."
Lyricist, librettist, director
b. May 3, 1950 (Baltimore, Maryland) - d. Mar. 14, 1991 (NYC)
This versatile writer's fresh, humorous, well-crafted lyrics made his songs appealing
to adults and children alike. Teamed with composer Alan
Menken, Ashman did much to revive the American stage and screen musical in the late
20th Century. Their unsuccessful Off-Broadway project God Bless You Mr. Rosewater
(1979) was followed by the ingenious spoof Little Shop of Horrors (1982), one of
the highest grossing musicals in Off-Broadway history. The story of a
man-eating plant attempting to take over the world from a dingy skid row
flower shop, its tuneful score included the witty "Somewhere That's Green"
and "Suddenly Seymour." The 1986 movie version brought the team their
first Oscar nomination for the added song "I'm a Mean Green Mother From Outer
Ashman collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch on the
short-lived Broadway musical Smile (1986), a backstage look at beauty contests
that included the showstopping ballad "Disneyland." The folks at Disney
must have liked it, because they soon hired Ashman (a lifelong Disney fan) to produce animated
features. The success of his Oliver and Company (1988)
encouraged the studio to undertake more ambitious projects. Ashman re-teamed with
Menken to create the score for The Little Mermaid (1989), winning Oscars for
Best Song ("Under the Sea") and Best Score. Ashman and Menken then set a new
standard for animated film with Beauty and the Beast (1991), the first cartoon
feature to be nominated for Best Picture. It brought them a second set of
Oscars for Best Score and Best Song ("Beauty and the Beast"), but Ashman
was not one hand for the acclaim. He died
of AIDS at age 40, shortly before the film's triumphant premiere. His last lyrics were
heard in Aladdin (1993), which he was working on at the time of his death.
Tim Rice stepped in to help complete the project,
which won another Oscar for Best Score.
(b. Frederick Austerlitz)
Dancer, actor, singer
b. May 10, 1899 (Omaha, Nebraska) - d. June 22, 1987 (Los Angeles)
One of the greatest and most influential dancers in the history of musical theatre and
film, Astaire began his career at the age of seven, dancing in vaudeville with his sister
Adele (1898-1981). Fred's continuing insistence that the act needed improvement
and rehearsal led Adele
to nickname him "Moaning Minnie." The Astaires' exceptional charm
and talent led to musical comedy stardom in New York and London,
where they co-starred in numerous shows, including two hit musicals with scores by
Ira Gershwin Lady Be Good (1924)
and Funny Face (1927). After the successful Broadway run of The Bandwagon
(1931), Adele retired from the stage to marry Lord Charles Cavendish, a British
nobleman. Fred then won solo acclaim in Cole
Porter's Broadway and London hit Gay Divorce (1932), and Hollywood beckoned.
After a few minor film appearances, Astaire caused an unexpected sensation
dancing "The Carioca" with Ginger Rogers in
Flying Down to Rio (1933). RKO Studios quickly planned more projects for
Astaire and Rogers, co-starring the duo in nine musicals over the next five
years and making them the most popular dance
team in show business history. Seven of their pictures were produced by
Pandro S. Berman, and five were directed by
Mark Sandrich. These
Astaire-Rogers films had scores by outstanding songwriters
Irving Berlin for Top Hat (1935),
Follow the Fleet (1936) and Carefree (1938),
Jerome Kern and
Dorothy Fields for Roberta
(1935) and Swing Time (1936) and George
and Ira Gershwin for Shall We Dance
(1937). A meticulous craftsman, Astaire would keep rehearsing even after his feet bled.
Rogers shared this dedication, a rare quality which kept their partnership
going until both stars sought new challenges.
When Rogers decided to concentrate on dramatic roles, Astaire went
on to a series of outstanding screen musicals, including Paramount's hit Holiday
Inn (1942) with co-star Bing Crosby. At
MGM, he starred in such classics as Broadway Melody of 1940 with
Eleanor Powell, Easter Parade (1948) with
a reunion with Rogers in Barkleys of Broadway (1949), the
underestimated gem Three Little Words (1959), Royal Wedding
(1951) with Jane Powell, The Band Wagon
(1953) with Cyd Charisse and Funny Face (1957)
with Audrey Hepburn.
Astaire appeared in several critically acclaimed TV dance specials during the 1960s,
and played the title role in the screen version of Finian's Rainbow (1968). He
also narrated and sang the title tune for the popular animated TV special Santa
Claus is Coming to Town (1970). Nominated for an Academy Award for his non-musical
performance in The Towering Inferno (1974), Astaire made his last musical
screen appearance dancing with Gene Kelly in
That's Entertainment Part 2 (1976). Astaire's virtuoso dancing and elegant singing
voice made him one of the most acclaimed performers of his time, and it is
no accident that America's greatest popular composers wrote some of their most memorable
songs for him. The embodiment of seemingly effortless sophistication, Astaire
was one of the definitive personalities of the 20th Century.
b. Oct. 18, 1933 (Burlington, Vermont) – d. Mar. 21, 1998 (NYC)
The sheet music Bagley's parents brought home from trips to New York City opened the
way to his lifelong love of classic Broadway musicals. He eventually moved to Manhattan
and made his name showcasing extraordinary young performers and composers in
nightclubs and stage revues, including The Shoestring Revue (1955) and
The Littlest Revue (1956). Bagley produced Rodgers and Hart Revisited
(1960), the first in a series of over four dozen eccentric all-star albums that focused on
forgotten songs by top Broadway
and Hollywood composers. Bagley developed his Cole Porter
album into the popular stage revue The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen
Through the Eyes of Cole Porter (1965). Bagley's recordings, which helped to
revive interest in hundreds of worthy showtunes, are still prized by theater lovers.
b. Mar. 29, 1918 (Newport News, VA) – d. Aug. 17, 1990 (Philadelphia, PA)
After honing her talents as a singer in vaudeville and such legendary night
spots as The Village Vanguard, Bailey made her
Broadway debut as Butterfly in St. Louis Woman (1946), introducing the
show-stopping "Legalize My Name." She wowed movie audiences with her
comically slurred performance of "Tired" in Variety Girl (1947), her
first national exposure. Known to fans as "Pearlie Mae," Bailey gave
acclaimed performances in the ill-fated Broadway
musicals Arms and the Girl (1950) and House of Flowers (1954).
She appeared on screen in Carmen Jones (1954), St. Louis Blues (1958)
and Porgy and Bess (1959).
After the decline of musical films, Bailey made several pop recordings
and concert tours in the early 1960s. When producer
David Merrick decided to energize his long-running
production of Jerry Herman's Hello Dolly!
with an all-black cast in 1967, he cast Bailey in the title role. Her ad libs and
humorous asides to the audience were hell on her co-stars, but kept
audiences cheering for two years. More popular than ever, Bailey
became a frequent guest on television specials and talk shows, and starred in
her own short-lived ABC variety series. After a triumphant farewell tour
of Hello Dolly in 1975, Bailey worked for various humanitarian causes,
and was briefly named special US ambassador to the United Nations. She continued
performing in concerts and on television until heart
problems curtailed her activities in the mid-1980s.
(b. Georges Balanchivadze)
b. Jan. 9, 1904 (St. Petersburg, Russia) - d. April 30, 1983 (NYC)
A giant in the world of classical ballet, Balanchine helped to redefine the role of
dance in the 20th Century stage musical, beginning with his choreography for
Richard Rodger's "Princess Zenobia"
and "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" ballets in On Your Toes (1936).
These extended sequences were not just decoration, but had a tenuous connection
to the storyline. Broadway had never seen the like, and both audiences and
critics were delighted. Balanchine gradually learned
how to weave dance into the overall fabric of a show. He worked on
several more Rodgers musicals, including Babes in Arms (1937) and The
Boys From Syracuse (1938).
Balanchine's dances won acclaim in the Broadway productions of Cabin
in the Sky (1940), The Merry Widow (Revival - 1943),
Dream With Music (1944), Song of Norway (1944),
Where's Charley? (1948) and House of Flowers (1954).
From 1946 on, he served as artistic director of the prestigious
New York City Ballet, cementing his place as a living legend in the world of
classical dance. At the time of Balanchine's
death at age 79, an acclaimed revival of On Your Toes had just opened
in New York, showing a new generation the dazzling ballets that had opened the
way for great choreography on Broadway.
(b. Lionel Begleiter)
b. August 1, 1930 (East London, UK) - d. April 3, 1999 (Hammersmith)
The son of Galician Jewish immigrants, this talented songwriter
contributed to various revues and television programs before writing lyrics for the
West End musical Lock Up Your Daughters (1959) and both words and music for the
cockney hit Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be (1960). Unable to read
or write musical notation, Bart hummed his melodies to a transcriber. He
restored the faded fortunes of the British stage musical by creating the
book, music and lyrics for Oliver (1960), a disarming adaptation of the Charles
Dickens novel Oliver Twist. It was the first British book musical to enjoy
international success in decades. The songs "Consider
Yourself," "Oom-Pah-Pah" and "As Long As He Needs Me" became
standards, and the 1968 film version won the Academy Award for best film. Bart's later
musicals, including Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964), had
little life beyond their London runs. Bart sold off the valuable
rights to Oliver to help finance the London flop Twang (1965)
and the New York failure La Strada (1969). He spent his later years
plagued by debt and chemical dependency, enjoying a renaissance after
revising Oliver for a successful 1994 London revival. After Bart's death
at age 68 due to cancer, Andrew Lloyd Webber hailed him as "the father of
the modern British musical."
(b. Eleanor "Dora" Goldberg)
b. Oct. 8, 1880? (Joliet, IL?) – d. Mar. 19, 1928 (Brooklyn)
Sources disagree about the date and place of her birth, but there was
universal agreement that Bayes was one of the greatest vaudeville and Broadway stars of her time.
Some said her powerful contralto voice bordered on the baritone.
After making her name in vaudeville singing the merry drinking song
"Down Where the Wurzburger Flows," Bayes made her Broadway debut
in The Rogers Brothers in Washington (1901). She scored in
first Follies (1907) and returned for the 1908 edition, singing the
smash-hit "Shine On Harvest Moon," which she supposedly co-wrote
with her third husband, composer Jack Norworth (In fact, the song was
composed by songwriters Edward Madden and Gus Edwards). Bayes became
infamous for temperamental behavior, as when she forced Ziegfeld to cut newcomer
Sophie Tucker from the Follies.
Returning to vaudeville, Bayes
introduced Norworth's popular "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." In
the Broadway hit The Jolly Bachelors (1910), she popularized the British music hall
song "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly," which became one of the most
frequently demanded songs in her repertoire. In her vaudeville act, Bayes appeared in
a series of spectacular gowns and sang several
songs while Norworth "assisted and admired" her. After enduring
her tantrums for years, Norworth filed for divorce in 1916. All told, Bayes
would marry five times, telling reporters that the wedding march was her national anthem.
George M. Cohan selected Bayes to introduce his World War I
hit "Over There," and cast her in several of his Broadway musicals. One of
America's first recording stars, her postwar hits included "How Ya Gonna Keep
‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?").
A natural brunette, Bayes often changed her hair color to platinum
blonde or red as her mood dictated. She commanded fees of up to $5,000 a week, but her
temperamental behavior eventually alienated many powerful managers. Her last Broadway
musical was the short-lived Queen O' Hearts (1922). When she refused
to follow Sophie Tucker at a 1924 Palace benefit, the Palace management
refused to ever book her again. Bayes continued
performing in vaudeville until just weeks before her death due to cancer at age 48.
She was buried in a silver casket at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. Her
grave is unmarked. Bayes was portrayed by Ann Sheridan in the musical bio
film Shine On Harvest Moon (1944).
Back to: Who's Who In Musicals