Who's Who in Musicals: Additional Bios
by John Kenrick
b. April 26, 1933 (San Antonio, TX)
This beloved comedienne first won attention in nightclubs and television with her
rendition of a comic love song dedicated to a famous diplomat,
"I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles." While appearing as
a regular on Gary Moore's TV variety series, Burnett won her first Emmy
Award and made her Broadway debut
creating the role of "Princess Winifred" in Once Upon a Mattress (1959).
She co-starred with Julie Andrews in the
Emmy Award winning televised concert Julie and Carol at
Carnegie Hall (1962). Although Burnett won personal
raves playing budding film star "Hope Springfield" in the Broadway musical
spoof Fade Out-Fade In (1965),
she became disheartened when the show got poor overall notices and
from the cast, returning only under legal duress. After this
unhappy experience, she made a long-term commitment to television work.
The Carol Burnett Show on CBS was the finest variety series ever
seen on American network television. An audience favorite from 1967 to
1978, it showcased almost every major talent in musical theatre and
film, presenting hundreds of memorable comedy skits, song medleys and musical
film spoofs. Burnett's variety team also produced a second Emmy-winning
concert special co-starring Burnett and Julie Andrews at Lincoln Center's Philharmonic
Hall in 1971. After running eleven seasons and winning 22 Emmy Awards, Burnett
recognized that public tastes were changing and retired the series.
Burnett offered a memorable rendition of
Stephen Sondheim's "I'm Still Here"
in the all-star 1985 concert version of Follies. She starred in several
TV specials, including a third Emmy-winning concert
with Julie Andrews, filmed in Los Angeles in 1989. Burnett returned to network TV with
Carol and Company (1990), which won a slew of awards but drew limited ratings.
She also starred in various stage productions, returning to Broadway in the
Ken Ludwig comedy Moon Over Buffalo (1996) and the Sondheim revue Putting
It Together (1999). Burnett co-authored the semi-autobiographical drama
Hollywood Arms (2002) with her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, who
died before the show reached Broadway. One of America's most beloved entertainers,
Burnett reunited with the cast of her classic variety series for several highly
rated TV retrospectives.
Actress, singer, dancer
b. Apr. 10, 1896 (Minneapolis, MN) - d. May 2, 1971 (London, UK)
This attractive soprano was one of the most promising musical ingénues on
Broadway when she was won the title role in
Irene (1919). Day's performance
as a poor shop girl who enchants a Long Island millionaire and her
sweet rendition of "Alice Blue Gown" helped make the show the
longest running Broadway musical up to that time. She starred in the 1920 London
production, and was so well received that she permanently relocated to Britain.
She starred in some of
the most important West End productions of the next two decades, becoming known
as "Queen of the Drury Lane Theatre." Day's most memorable London
performances included the title role in Rose Marie (1925), Margot in
The Desert Song (1927),
Magnolia in Show Boat (1928) and the title role of Rio Rita (1930).
After appearing in Sunny River (1943), she withdrew from the stage,
returning to play Mrs. Sweeney and introduce "The Bronxville Darby
and Joan" in the London production
of Noel Coward's Sail Away (1962).
Dillingham, Charles Bancroft (C.B.)
b. May 30, 1868 (Hartford, CT) - d. Aug. 30, 1934 (New York City)
Dillingham is the only prominent Broadway producer who started out as
a theater critic. While writing reviews for The NY Evening Post in the
1890s, he became a manager for several prominent performers, including
actress Julia Marlowe. Although Dillingham never married, he was longtime
live-in companion to producer Charles
Frohman, who taught him the ins and out of stage
production. Starting in 1903, Dillingham produced more than 200 Broadway plays
and musicals, working with many of the top names of his time. He produced nine
musicals by composer Victor Herbert, including
Mlle. Modiste (1905) and The Red Mill (1906). Dillingham also
brought nine of composer Jerome Kern's musicals to Broadway.
A solid businessman, Dillingham's sparkling sense of humor and elegant personal
style made him one of the most admired people in the theatrical profession.
On several occasions, he co-produced with longtime friend (and sometime
rival) Florenz Ziegfeld. Dillingham frequently
showcased comedian Fred Stone, leading ladies Fritzi Scheff
and Elsie Janis, and the dance team of Adele and
Fred Astaire. From 1914 to 1923, Dillingham ran
the massive Hippodrome Theatre, staging
some of the largest stage spectacles New York has ever
seen. He also built and managed The Globe Theatre (now called
The Lunt-Fontanne), the only Broadway
house ever to have a removable central roof. Wiped out by the Great Depression,
Dillingham made a successful comeback by producing the hit revue New Faces
(1934) just before his death at age 66. He inspired "Billings," the fictional
character played by Frank Morgan in MGM's The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
b. Nov. 5, 1891 (Philadelphia) - d. June 5, 1969 (New York City)
Born to relative wealth, Freedley was among the last of that once-respected
breed known as "gentlemen producers." After getting his start as a
musical comedy performer, Freedley met
Alex Aarons, with whom he would co-produce
eleven Broadway musicals. They presented seven shows
with scores by George and
Ira Gershwin, including Lady Be Good
(1924), Oh, Kay! (1926), Funny Face (1927) and Girl Crazy (1930).
Aarons & Freedley built The Alvin Theatre, which combined their first
names (Al + Vin) it is now called The Neil
Simon. The costly failure of
Pardon My English (1933), combined with the financial pressures of the
Great Depression, forced Aarons into retirement at age 45. Freedley retreated to
a yacht for several months to hide from creditors and plan a comeback. Freedley then
put together a dream team musical, with a score by
Cole Porter and an all-star cast
that included Ethel Merman,
William Gaxton and comedian
Victor Moore. Freedley's tactic was simple he
lied, telling each of these prominent figures that he had already signed all the
others. After a tempestuous gestation, Anything Goes (1934)
became one the biggest musical comedy hits of the 1930s.
Over the next sixteen years, Freedley single-handedly produced seven Broadway
musicals, including the Porter hits Red Hot and Blue (1936),
Leave It to Me (1938), and Let's Face It (1941). He
also produced the innovative Vernon Duke-John LaTouche
musical Cabin in the Sky (1940), and directed a short-lived HMS
Pinafore update called Memphis Bound (1945). Active in many
philanthropic causes, Freedley was a longtime president of The Actor's Fund of
America and the Episcopal Actor's Guild. His last Broadway production
was the short-lived musical Great to Be Alive! (1950).
b. Oct. 11, 1948 (New York City)
In an earlier age, this gifted performer would have been an international star
as it is, Kaye is one of the brightest musical talents contemporary
Broadway can call its own. With a breathtaking opera-sized soprano and a flair
for hilarious comedy, Kaye won immediate acclaim taking
over the role of Lily Garland in On the 20th Century (1978). She
earned great reviews in the short-lived Moony Shapiro Songbook
(1981) and Oh Brother! (1981). As the egotistical diva
in Andrew Lloyd Webber's
Phantom of the Opera (1988), Kaye won a well-deserved Tony for
Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She has starred in
regional and opera house productions of Annie Get Your Gun, The
Merry Widow, Brigadoon, Candide and other classic musicals. Kaye
returned to Broadway as Emma Goldman in the epic Ragtime (1998),
and scored a triumph (and a Tony nomination) as one of the stars of the
lighthearted Mamma Mia (2001). She received fresh acclaim
portraying the infamous soprano Florence Foster Jenkins in the
off-Broadway comedy Souvenir (2004), receiving a Tony
nomination when that show moved to Broadway the following year.
Kaye triumphed in the City Center Encores presentations
of Face the Music (2007) and Bells Are Ringing (2010).
(b. Bernard Kotzin)
b. Nov. 11, 1918 (New York City, NY) - d. Dec. 14, 1997 (Los Angeles,
This rotund and much loved comic actor got his first break on the Major Bowes
Amateur Radio Hour in the late 1930s. After touring in vaudeville and USO
shows, he took Broadway by storm originating the role of "Nicely-Nicely Johnson" in
Guys and Dolls (1950). His bubbly
rendition of Frank Loesser's
"Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" stopped the show nightly.
Kaye repeated his triumph in the 1953 London and 1955 film versions. He
had a similar iconic success as "Marryin' Sam" in the Broadway musical
adaptation of the comic strip Lil' Abner (1956), where he introduced
"Jubilation T. Cornpone" and "The Country's in the Very Best
of Hands." He repeated this performance in the 1959 screen version.
Kaye made frequent film and television appearances in both Britain and the
US. He won a new generation of fans by hosting the ABC children's game
show Shenanigans (1964-65), and appeared as club owner Herman
in the big screen version of Sweet Charity (1969). Kaye starred in a
long-touring US revival of Good News (1974) which died a quick death
when it reached Broadway. He appeared in the unsuccessful London musical
Dear Anyone (1983) and did a final bit of Broadway scene-stealing
as a dying burlesque comic in the short-lived Grind (1985). His last
featured screen role was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
Despite a series of debilitating strokes, the ebullient Kaye remained in good
spirits and gave occasional interviews through his final years. Kaye somehow
never received a Tony nomination.
b. Jan. 10, 1949 (Mansfield, OH)
This former graphic designer began working as a director off-Broadway in
the late 1970s, collaborating with composer-lyricist William Finn
to develop the one act musical March of the Falsettoes into a
surprise off-Broadway hit. Lapine next collaborated with
providing the book and direction for Sunday in the Park
With George (1984) for which he shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
He fulfilled the same tasks for Into the Woods (1987), receiving
a Tony for Best Book. Lapine then re-teamed with Finn for the one act
musical Falsettoland, which they eventually linked with their earlier
effort to create a full-length two act show, Falsettoes. After opening
downtown, it moved to Broadway in 1992 bringing Lapine his second Tony
for Best Book. He received a third Tony for the libretto to Sondheim's
Passion (1994), which also earned the Tony for Best Musical. Lapine
provided the libretto for Lapine's off-Broadway musical A New Brain
(1999), came up with an all-new
staging for a revival of Into the Woods (2002), and directed
the short-lived Michel Legrand musical Amour (2002).
Married to screenwriter & director Sarah Kernochan, Lapine has also
been active in film, directing Impromptu (1991) and Life With Mikey
(1993), among other projects. He has directed various non-musical stage projects,
including the Broadway revival of The Diary of Anne Frank (1997),
Golden Child (1998), and the Mae West tribute Dirty Blonde (2000).
He directed the original Broadway production of Finn's long-running The
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005) and the Broadway
revue Sondheim on Sondheim (2010).
Composer, lyricist, librettist
b. Feb. 4, 1960 (White Plains, NY) - d. Jan. 25, 1996 (New York City)
Larson combined his passions for musical theater and contemporary
rock, and tried to bring these disparate forms together
in his writing. While a student at Adelphi University, he collaborated with
David Armstrong on Sacrimoralimmortality, a musical look at the hypocrisy
of the Christian Right. After graduating, Larson worked at a series of
non-theatrical jobs (including waitering in a diner) while
developing new musicals, including Superbia. He starred in
workshop productions of the autobiographical musical tick . . .tick . . .
BOOM in the early 1990s, and showed such promise that he received the
Richard Rodgers Award. (An expanded version of tick . . .tick . . . BOOM
would have a brief off-Broadway run in 2001.)
Larson worked on and presented several environmental pieces, but was intrigued
by the idea of a contemporary rock-pop musical that re-set Puccini's grand opera
La Boheme on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Rent received its first experimental
staging at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1994, and was rehearsing for a full
scale production there in 1996 when Larson died of a brain aneurysm. His tragic
passing at age 35 drew tremendous media attention, which combined with rave
reviews to help bring Rent to Broadway that same year. Larson posthumously
received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Obie, and Tonys for Best Book, Score
and Musical. Although legal challenges raised some questions as to how much
of Rent was Larson's own, few doubt that it was his creative talents that made
the show memorable.
b. May 28, 1832 (New York City) - d. Aug. 26, 1908 (NYC)
The man who invented vaudeville began his
career as a boy, singing at P.T. Barnum's NYC Museum in 1846. Over the next few years,
Pastor sang in circuses, minstrel shows
and variety revues.
Short, rotund and boasting a massive handlebar mustache, he developed a
large and affectionate following by introducing such songs as "The Band Played
On." Pastor started producing variety bills, sending out touring troupes
and opening his first Manhattan theater in 1865.
A devout Catholic and dedicated family man, he wanted to clean-up variety entertainment.
In 1881, he opened a new theatre on 14th Street, promising "cultivated and aesthetic
pure music and comedy" designed for family audiences. He alternated operettas with
clean variety bills the beginning of what became known as vaudeville.
For the next two decades, an evening at Tony Pastor's remained one of the most
fashionable ways for New Yorkers of all classes to spend an evening. Pastor
showcased the finest talents on the variety stage, giving crucial opportunities
to such future stars as Lillian Russell
and George M. Cohan.
Although a shrewd manager, Pastor never expanded beyond his
small theatre near Union Square. In time, those who developed large
circuits of vaudeville houses were able to pay performers more and
charge audiences less. Unwilling to accept change, Pastor was forced
to give up his theatre just months before his death at age 76. Despite a long career
in show business, the father of vaudeville left a meager estate of $9,000.
b. Dec. 1, 1897 (Sydney, Australia) - d. Dec. 18, 1977 (Chicago)
Although he insisted his vocal range was "no more than three
notes," this superb comic actor is best
remembered for his many musical stage and television roles.
After working as a chorus performer in his native Australia, he made his
Broadway debut in the short-lived revue Puzzles of 1925 moving
on to two London revues that same season. He co-starred with wife Madge
Elliott in ten West End musicals, and appeared in a series of period
comedies. After directing John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953) in
New York, Ritchard was chosen by Mary Martin
to co-star as Captain Hook in her musical version of
Peter Pan (1954).
Ritchard's gurgling comic giggle and gleeful rendition of
"Hook's Waltz" ("Who's the swine-iest swine in the world?
Captain Hook!") delighted audiences and earned a Tony for Best
Actor in a Musical. Preserved in a 1960 TV production, this delicious
performance is still enjoyed today.
Ritchard appeared in several network television musicals over the next
three decades, including Cole Porter's Aladdin (1958). He returned
to Broadway in numerous comedies (including Visit to a Small
Planet and The Pleasure of His Company) and several notable musicals.
He directed and starred as the god Pluto in the short-lived
Happiest Girl in the World (1961), and originated the role of Sir
in The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd (1965). Ritchard
won fresh raves as Osgood in Sugar (1972), and in the Bicentennial revue
A Musical Jubilee (1976). He was performing as narrator of the national tour of
Side by Side by Sondheim at the time of his death at age 80.
b. New York City, 1958
The only new American composer to enjoy multiple Broadway productions in the
1990s, Wildhorn debuted on the Great White Way by contributing several melodies
to the stage version of Victor/Victoria (1995), with lyrics by
Leslie Bricusse. He had already spent
several years developing his next three projects as concept recordings, shepherding
them towards Broadway. Jekyll and Hyde (1997), with book and lyrics by
Bricusse, toured the US for several seasons before its long (but unprofitable)
New York run. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997), with book and lyrics by Nan
Knighton, underwent several major re-writes & re-openings during the course of
its two year (and also unprofitable) run. Wildhorn
was composer and co-librettist for the short-lived The Civil War (1999),
which gave him the rare distinction of having three new musicals running
simultaneously on Broadway. Since then, his Dracula (2004) and Wonderland
(2011) have both closed after brief runs. From 1998 to 2004, Wildhorn was married
to singer/actress Linda Eder, who has been an active proponent of his music.
(b. Isaiah Edwin Leopold)
b. Nov. 9, 1886 (Philadelphia) - d. June 19, 1966 (Beverly Hills)
For more than half a century, this lisping comic with a gift for
inventive silliness was one of the world's most beloved clowns. He ran away
from home at age 16, dividing his middle name "Edwin" to create
his stage moniker. Describing himself as "a man who
doesn't do funny things, but who does things funny," Wynn rose to stardom
in the early 1900s with a vaudeville act built around zany inventions like
a typewriter carriage modified for eating corn on the cob. Wynn was part
of the opening bill at New York's Palace Theatre in 1913, where his rapport with
audiences led to his becoming vaudeville's first master of ceremonies.
Wynn starred in sixteen Broadway revues and musical comedies. After making his
musical debut as "Jupiter Slick" in The Deacon and the Lady (1910),
his stage appearances included Ziegfeld's Follies (1914-15), Over the Top
(1917), The Shubert Gaieties of 1919, and a show that took its title from
Wynn's professional nickname The Perfect Fool (1921). As one of
the leaders in the Actor's Equity strike in 1919, he endeared himself forever to his
colleagues. Resentful producers tried to blacklist Wynn, but he produced his own
hit touring revues until Broadway managers were forced to welcome him
back. He starred in Ziegfeld's Simple Simon
(1930), as well as Hooray For What (1937) and the revue Laugh
Town Laugh (1942). An occasional presence on the silver
screen, Wynn turned down the title role in The Wizard of Oz
(1939), which gave lasting fame to actor Frank Morgan.
Wynn became one of the first stars of network radio, headlining a weekly musical
comedy revue from 1932 to 1937. He was a frequent presence on early network
television, and launched a new career as a character actor in films from the 1950s
onwards. His musical screen roles include Uncle Albert in Disney's
Mary Poppins (1964), where he won a new generation
of fans introducing "I Love to Laugh" while floating in midair. His
last role was as one of the little people in Disney's The Gnomemobile
(1967), which was released soon after his death at age 79. His
son Keenan Wynn (1916-1986) enjoyed a long career as a stage and screen actor.
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