Who's Who in Musicals: Hart-Hutton
by John Kenrick
Hart, Lorenz "Larry"
b. May 2, 1895 (New York City) - d. Nov. 22, 1943 (NYC)
Hart's witty, intricate and sometimes cynical lyrics found their perfect counterpoint
in the rich melodies of Richard Rodgers his only
professional songwriting partner. Teaming up soon after Hart graduated
Columbia, Rodgers & Hart struggled for several years before winning attention with the score
for The Garrick Gaieties (1925), which
included the hit song "Manhattan." They went on to write 29 stage musicals,
including A Connecticut Yankee (1927), Jumbo (1935), On
Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), and Pal Joey (1940).
Rodgers & Hart contributed songs to a dozen films, including the
innovative commercial failures Love Me Tonight (1932) and
Hallelujah I'm a Bum (1933). Despite Hart's many personal
demons, his lyrical legacy confirms his status as one of the brightest
lights of Broadway's golden age. "My Funny Valentine," "Blue Moon,"
"Where or When" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"
show Hart at his bittersweet best. Although abetted by his nefarious confidant "Doc"
Bender, Hart pursued his own self-destruction with extraordinary dedication.
Tormented by his almost gnomish appearance and unable to accept his own homosexuality,
Hart drank himself to death at age 48. You can learn more about Larry Hart in
our special section on Gays and Musicals, or
read Frederick Nolan's Lorenz Hart: A Poet
On Broadway (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1996).
Playwright, librettist, director
b. Oct. 24, 1904 (New York City) - d. Dec. 20, 1961 (Palm Springs, Cal.)
Survivor of an underprivileged and emotionally starved youth, Hart wrote his first plays while he was an
office boy for road tour producer/manager Augustus Pitou. When those shows flopped, he feared his
theatrical career was over. After several years as a Catskill resort entertainment director,
he collaborated with director-playwright George S. Kaufman on the hit
comedy Once in a Lifetime (1929). Hart quickly became one of America's top playwrights,
working on many hit comedies -- including the Pulitzer Prize winning Kaufmann &
Hart classic, You Can't Take It With You (1936). Confused for many years about his sexuality,
Hart spent most of his adult life battling chronic depression with extensive psychotherapy, which may
have added insight and complexity to the fictional characters he created.
Hart contributed librettos to several important Broadway musicals,
including Irving Berlin's revues Face the
Music (1932) and As Thousands Cheer (1933), and
& Lorenz Hart's I'd Rather Be Right (1937).
Hart eventually showcased his interest in psychiatric counseling in the
libretto for Kurt Weill &
Ira Gershwin's landmark musical
drama Lady in the Dark (1941). In his
later years, Hart proved to be a distinguished director, helming numerous non-musical plays,
as well as Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (1957). Felled
by a heart attack while helming the tumultuous pre-Broadway
tryout of Camelot (1960), Hart successfully revised the show after its New
York opening, then suffered a terminal coronary several months later while standing outside his home
in Palm Springs.
Hart's memoir Act One is one of the most delightful books ever written
about life in the theatre, but later research has proven much of his content to be creative fiction. His
widow, actress and opera singer Kitty Carlisle Hart, had a distinguished show business career, and
headed the New York State Council on The Arts for many years.
For more on Hart, see Steven Bach's insightful biography Dazzler: The Life and Times of
Moss Hart (New York: Knopf, 2001).
(b. Anthony J. Cannon)
b. July 25, 1855 (Worcester, Mass) - d. Nov. 4, 1891 (Worcester)
Hart escaped a reform school to start a career touring in variety. He soon
teamed up with Edward Harrigan, and the duo
won acclaim with slapstick skits, most notably one in which they sang of
"The Mulligan Guards." This satire of the paramilitary units
common in late 19th century American cities eventually inspired a series of
musical comedies that focused on the experiences of
lower class immigrant New Yorkers. Hart was
noted for his extraordinary ability to portray women, especially the comic blackface
role of "Rebecca Allup" in several of these "Mulligan Guard" shows.
Hart's drag performances were so uncanny that some eventually questioned his sexual orientation,
and his marriage to the strong-willed Gerta Granville did little to quell
any rumors. When Gerta encouraged him to feel
professionally and personally slighted by Harrigan's nepotistic hiring
practices in their theatre company, Hart
ended the partnership and tried starring in his own productions. Advanced syphilis
(Victorians called this then-incurable condition "paresis") soon forced him off the
stage, leading to his madness and death at age 36.
b. June 18, 1934 (St. Louis, MO)
A versatile actor with a powerful baritone voice, Hearn has won acclaim in both
dramatic and musical roles. He made his Broadway debut in the ill-fated musical
A Time For Singing (1966), and took over the role of "John Dickenson" in
1776 both on tour and in New York. He co-starred with Colleen Dewhurst in
the comedy An Almost Perfect Person before playing the father in the musical
version of I Remember Mama (1979), singing
Richard Rodgers' final ballad, "I Could Not
Love You More."
In 1980, he took over the title role in Broadway's Sweeney Todd,
co-starring with Dorothy Loudon. Hearn
repeated his magnificent performance on tour with
Angela Lansbury. Their TV version brought Hearn an
Emmy. He was "Tovald" in the disastrous A Doll's House (1983), and soon
afterward played the drag queen "Albin" in Jerry Herman's
La Cage Aux Folles (1983).
His endearing performance and soaring rendition of "I Am What I Am,"
brought him a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. In his acceptance speech, this
confirmed heterosexual coyly quipped, "You call her Tony, but her real name
Hearn was "Ben" in the stellar 1985 concert version of Sondheim's Follies,
and played "Long John Silver" in an unsuccessful regional tryout of
Jule Styne's Pieces of Eight. He spent
several months playing paternal attorney "Alonzo Smith" in the lavish Broadway adaptation
of Meet Me In St. Louis (1989). He won a Best Featured Actor Tony as the
mysterious butler "Max" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's
Sunset Boulevard (1995), and triumphantly repeated his Sweeney Todd in
two 2001 concert versions co-starring Patti Lupone
one of which was televised on PBS. In 2004, he took over the role of
"The Wizard" in the hit musical Wicked, and later played
"Van Helsing" in an Off-Broadway revival of Dracula (2010).
(b. Helene Anna Held)
b. Mar. 18, 1873 (Warsaw, Poland) - d. Aug. 12, 1918 (New York City)
This Polish daughter of a Jewish German glove maker became the toast of Paris and
London music halls, where she was discovered by Broadway producer
Florenz Ziegfeld. He married Held
and presented her in a series of lavish American musical comedies, using
outrageous publicity ploys to make her name famous all across the US. After
Ziegfeld deserted her, Held went on to a successful solo career. Until her
death at age 45, she insisted on being native-born French and Catholic, vehemently
denying her Polish-Jewish heritage. For
extensive details on Held's life and career, see our extended
b. Feb. 1, 1859 (Dublin, Ireland) - d. May 24, 1924 (New York City)
A classical cellist, Herbert trained in continental Europe, where he played under
the batons of Johannes Brahms and Anton Rubenstein. The composer of numerous
orchestral works, Herbert served as conductor of the prestigious Pittsburgh
Symphony (1889-1904) while he launched a second career and equally prestigious
career as a composer of Broadway operettas and musical comedies. His lilting melodies
adorned such hits as The Fortune Teller (1898), Babes in Toyland (1903),
Mlle. Modiste (1905), The Red Mill (1906) and Sweethearts (1913).
Herbert was the first Broadway songwriter to successfully insist that no
changes be made in his scores without his permission, a precedent that
did much to reshape the role of composers in the American theatre. He
collaborated with a long list
of lyricists, including Harry B. Smith,
Henry Blossom --and the rarely mentioned
Frederique DeGresac, one of the first women to write
successfully for the commercial musical stage.
Altogether, Herbert composed 43 complete Broadway scores, creating all his own orchestrations.
His most lasting success was the operetta Naughty Marietta (1910), the story of an Italian
noblewoman who escapes an arranged European marriage to find true love with soldier Jim Warrington in
colonial New Orleans. The hit score included "The Neapolitan Street Song,"
"I'm Falling in Love With Someone," "Neath the Southern Moon" and
"Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life."
Herbert's music was featured in several editions of The Ziegfeld Follies,
and he provided ballet music for the long-running Marilyn Miller hit
Sally (1920). Herbert's grand opera Natoma premiered
successfully at the Metropolitan Opera in 1911. An American citizen as of
1902, this gifted Irish native was a driving force behind the creation of the American
Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which he co-founded
with Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan and others. Legend holds that the aggravation
of working with volatile producer Florenz Ziegfeld
brought on Herbert's fatal stroke at age 65. His best songs remained popular
through the 20th century, including "Every Day is Ladies Day,"
"Kiss Me Again" and "The Streets of New York (In Old New
"I'm Falling in Love With Someone" was rediscovered in
the Tony-winning stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002).
b. July 10, 1932 (New York City)
Known for his optimistic themes and "hummable" melodies, Herman made his
Broadway debut with the score for Milk and Honey (1961), an original
musical romance set
in Israel. He then wrote Hello Dolly!
(1964) -- a musicalization of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker -- for producer
David Merrick. With a book by
Michael Stewart and stellar performance by
Carol Channing in the title role, Dolly won
Tonys for Best Score and Best Musical. With a succession of stars, it became
the longest running Broadway musical up to that time with 2844 performances. Herman
scored a second mega-hit with his score for Mame (1966), which won a Tony for
actress Angela Lansbury and made her a top-rank musical
star. It also racked up 1508 performances on Broadway, and became a staple in the
world's musical stage repertory.
Herman's next three
shows had brief runs, but Dear World (1969) with Lansbury, Mack and Mabel
(1974) with Robert Preston and
Bernadette Peters and The Grand Tour
(1979) with Joel Grey are justifiably admired for
their fine scores. Herman contributed songs to the popular Broadway revue
A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (1980). The internationally
acclaimed hit La Cage Aux Folles (1983) starring
George Hearn brought Herman every major award, including a
second set of Tonys for Best Score and Best Musical -- and yet another
show that would be produced worldwide. Herman wrote the songs for
(and made a cameo appearance in) the
CBS television musical Mrs. Santa Claus (1996) starring Lansbury,
and created a delightful score for the unproduced Las Vegas musical
Miss Spectacular. After receiving a special Tony in 2009 for lifetime
achievement, Herman announced his retirement from songwriting.
(b. Florimond Ronger)
b. June 30, 1825 (Houdain, France) - d. Nov, 4, 1892 (Paris)
This church organist and classical composer used the name "Herve"
for his stage compositions. He eventually
turned out 60 comic light opera scores, but never quite escaped the shadow of his
celebrated contemporary, Jacques Offenbach.
Rarely performed today, Hervé's operettas included L'Oeil Creve (1867),
Chilperic (1868), Le Petit Faust (1869) and La Cosaque
(b. Judith Tuvim)
b. June 21, 1921 (New York City) - d. June 7, 1965 (NYC)
This well-loved comedienne got her start in a cabaret act ("The Revuers")
with fellow unknowns Betty Comden and
Adolph Green. She attained solo stardom as
former chorus girl "Billie Dawn" in the long-running stage comedy Born
Yesterday (1946), and eventually won an Academy Award for Best Actress
for her work in the 1950 film adaptation. In between, she managed a memorable
performance as "Doris Attinger,"the wronged wife who shoots her husband in
the screen comedy Adam's Rib (1949). Holliday attained her greatest
personal success originating the role of "Ella Peterson"
in the Broadway musical Bells Are Ringing
(1956), which Comden and Green wrote for her with composer
Jule Styne. As meddling answering service
operator "Ella Peterson," Holliday
introduced "The Party's Over" and sang "Just In Time" with co-star
Sydney Chaplin. She re-created the role opposite Dean Martin in the 1960 film
version. Unfortunately, in an era plagued by political blacklisting,
Holliday's screen career was hampered by questionable accusations that she
was a communist sympathizer. She starred as "Sally Hopwinder" in
the ill-fated Hot Spot (1963). Breast cancer ended her life at age 42.
b. April 29, 1917 (New York City)
After making her Broadway debut in 1938, this talented actress appeared with
George M. Cohan in his last play,
Return of the Vagabond (1940). Her strong singing voice and superb comic
instincts won her the role of "Ado Annie" in
Richard Rodgers and Oscar
Hammerstein II's landmark musical Oklahoma! (1943), introducing "I
Cain't Say No." She starred as Evelina in Bloomer Girl (1944), singing
Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg's
"Right as Rain." As a favor to Rodgers and Hammerstein,
she took over as "Anna" during Gertrude
Lawrence's extended 1952 vacation from The King and I.
Holm became a major dramatic star in Hollywood, winning an Oscar for her performance
in Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and played "Karen Richards" in the classic
All About Eve (1950). Her best big screen musical role was as press
photographer "Liz" in High Society (1956), where she introduced Cole
Porter's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with Frank Sinatra.
She played the Fairy Godmother in the first
color remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965).
Holm frequently returned to Broadway, taking over the title role in Mame in 1967. She later
starred as headmistress "Julia Faysle" in the witty but short-lived
Utter Glory of Morrisey Hall (1979). She starred in daytime
soap opera for several years, and but cut back on appearances after a stoke
in 2002. In 2004, she celebrated her 87th birthday by marrying opera
singer Frank Basile.
Hopper, De Wolf Williams
father was Quaker lawyer John Hopper, while his mother Rosalie DeWolf came from a
noted colonial family. Hopper originally aimed to be a serious actor,
but at six foot three and 230 pounds, he was
far too large for most dramatic roles. Thanks to a loud basso singing voice,
Hopper soon made his mark in musicals, beginning in Harrigan and Hart's company.
He achieved leading man status in
Actor, singer, producer
b. Mar. 30, 1858 (New York City) - d. Sept. 23, 1935 (Kansas City, MO)
One of the first great male stars of the American musical stage, Hopper was
a native New Yorker. Hi
An acclaimed comedian, Hopper appeared in a number of Gilbert and Sullivan
patter roles. As a lifelong baseball fan, he was often called upon to give
his colorful recitation of Ernest L. Thayer's poem "Casey
at the Bat." Bald from childhood, he wore wigs both on and offstage quite unusual
for men of his era. Adding to his various eccentricities, the harsh medications he took to
alleviate throat problems gave Hopper's skin a bluish tint in his later years. With an insatiable
appetite for young actresses, he left a trail of six wives and countless mistresses in his
wake -- winning the nickname "the husband of his country." (Fifth wife
Hedda Hopper failed as an actress but went on to become one of Hollywood's most
feared gossip columnists.) After taking over the role of Lutz in Broadway's
The Student Prince (1927), Hopper made his last Broadway appearance
in the operetta White Lilacs (1928). He died of a heart attack at age
77, and his ashes are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.