Who's Who in Musicals:
Additional Bios III
by John Kenrick
b. Oct 10, 1947 (Alexandria, VA)
A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, this gifted actor made his Broadway debut as a replacement in the original production of 1776. Beach's strong baritone voice and knack for comic characterization made him a favorite with audiences as well as casting directors. After appearing as Nigel Rancour in the short-lived mystery spoof Something's Afoot (1976), he took over the role of Rooster Hannigan in the long-running original Broadway production of Annie. He played more than 35 roles in the one-night run of The Moony Shapiro Songbook (1981), then won praise as the conniving Duke in the musical Doonesbury (1983).
As the original Lumiere in Disney's stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (1994), Beach stopped the show with "Be Our Guest" and earned his first Tony nomination. He then triumphed as the outrageous director Roger DeBris in The Producers (2001), where his manic performance (and riotous renditions of "Keep It Gay" and "Springtime for Hitler") earned a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Beach repeated his over the top performance in the screen version, and remained in the New York cast long enough to become the only Tony-winning actor to appear on stage and screen simultaneously in the same role. He next starred as Albin in the first Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles (2005), and played Thenadier in a revival of Les Miserables (2006). Along with appearances in regional theatre, Beach's many TV roles have included guest appearances on Cheers, Will & Grace, Murder She Wrote, and Queer as Folk.
DeSylva, B.G. "Buddy"
(b. George DeSylva)
Lyricist, librettist, film & stage producer
b. Jan. 27, 1895 (New York City) - d. July 11, 1950 (NYC)
(b. Raymond Brost)
b. Dec. 16, 1896 (Buffalo, NY) - d. Dec. 31, 1970 (Greenwich, CT)
(b. Louis Brownstein)
b. Dec. 10, 1893 (Odessa, Russia) - d. Feb. 5, 1958 (NYC)
Brown was five years old when his family emigrated to the United States. At age 21, he collaborated with veteran composer Albert Von Tilzer on the popular 1912 song "I'm the Loneliest Gal in Town." Brown continued to churn out assorted hits for Tin Pan Alley song publishers until 1925, when he began a long collaboration with composer (and former song promoter) Ray Henderson and fellow lyricist (and one-time vaudevillian) Buddy DeSylva. DeSylva's early lyrics included "Look For the Silver Lining" (music by Jerome Kern), and the Al Jolson hits "April Showers" and "California Here I Come."
The new team of DeSylva, Henderson and Brown contributed "It All Depends on You" to Jolson's Broadway hit Big Boy (1926), then turned out full scores for the 1925 and 1926 editions of George White's Scandals, including "The Birth of the Blues" and "Lucky Day." The trio enjoyed their greatest Broadway success with Good News (1927), a college football musical that included "The Best Things in Life Are Free" and "The Varsity Drag." With ten more Broadway scores, their hit songs include "You're The Cream in My Coffee" for Hold Everything (1928) and "Button Up Your Overcoat" for Flying High (1930).
In 1931, the trio ended their collaboration. On their own, Brown and Henderson wrote "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" for the 1931 Scandals. Brown acted as lyricist, librettist, director and producer on his last three Broadway shows Strike Me Pink (1933), Calling All Stars (1934) and Yokel Boy (1939). Henderson retired after composing songs for the Shubert-produced 1943 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies. From 1931 on, DeSylva worked solo as a stage and screen producer. His most memorable film was Birth of the Blues (1941), and his Broadway productions included the Cole Porter hits DuBarry Was a Lady (1939) and Panama Hattie (1940) for both of which DeSylva also served as co-librettist. DeSylva was one of the founders of Capitol Records.
Brown, Nacio Herb
b. Feb. 22, 1896 (Deming, NM) - d. Sept. 28, 1964 (San Francisco, CA)
This former tailor became a vaudeville accompanist before e started writing songs. After collaborating with several lyricists, he linked up with former vaudeville vocalist Arthur Freed. Together, this duo provided the songs for MGM's first feature length musical, Broadway Melody (1929), including "Broadway Melody" and "You Were Meant for Me." Over the next eight years, Freed and Brown provided catchy songs for numerous MGM films, including "Singin' in the Rain" for Hollywood Revue of 1929, "Alone" for A Night at the Opera (1935), and "You Are My Lucky Star" for Broadway Melody of 1936. After they writing "Good Morning" for the film version of Babes in Arms (1939), Freed concentrated on producing, and Brown went on to work with others.
Brown collaborated with composer Richard Whiting and lyricist Buddy DeSylva on the Broadway musical Take a Chance (1932), giving stars Ethel Merman and Jack Haley the delightful duet "You're an Old Smoothie." Brown's most memorable post-Freed film song was "You Stepped Out of a Dream," which he wrote with Gus Kahn for MGM's Ziegfeld Girl (1941). The best of the Freed & Brown song catalog was featured in Singin' in the Rain (1952), still acclaimed as the big screen's best original musical comedy. For that film, Brown came out of semi-retirement to co-write Donald O'Connor's bone-crunching comic solo "Make 'Em Laugh."
b. Jan. 30, 1934 (Lynn, MA)
Grimes made her New York stage debut in The Littlest Revue (1956), and was appearing in a nightclub act when Noel Coward cast her in the title role of his comedy Look After Lulu (1959). That short run led to her being cast in the title role of Meredith Willson's musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960), in which she introduced "I Ain't Down Yet." With her superb comic timing, raspy voice and bubbly charm, Grimes won a Tony but thanks to inexplicable Tony committee logic, it was for Best Featured (rather than Leading) Actress in a Musical. A few seasons later, she triumphed as the ghostly Elvira in High Spirits (1964), a musical version of Coward's Blithe Spirit co-starring comedienne Bea Lillie.
Grimes continued her connection with Coward's plays when she starred as Amanda in an acclaimed Broadway revival of his Private Lives (1969), receiving the Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Her many non-musical Broadway appearances include Neil Simon's California Suite (1976), a revival of Tartuffe (1977), and the comic thriller Trick (1979). She starred as the egotistical actress Dorothy Brock in Gower Champion's original production of 42nd Street (1980). Even the gifted Grimes could not breathe life into the off-Broadway musical Sunset (1983), which closed in one night. Her last Broadway appearance to date was in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending (1989). Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2003, she is the mother of actress Amanda Plummer.
(b. June Stovenour)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. June 10, 1926 (Rock Island, IL) - d. July 6, 2005 (Brentwood, CA)
Taking her last name from stepfather Bert Haver, June performed as a big band singer before she made her screen debut in The Gang's All Here (1943). Her dancing talent and dazzling looks made her a natural addition to 20th Century Fox's collection of musical blondes. In a dozen films, she was almost always cast in period roles with an emphasis on dancing. Haver's early roles included Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944) and co-starring with Betty Grable in The Dolly Sisters (1945) -- because of their similar appearance, Haver was occasionally referred to as "The Pocket Grable."
Whatever her limitations as an actress, Haver was a capable vocalist, introducing "On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City" in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946) and "Give Me the Simple Life" in Wake Up and Dream (1946). She starred as Marilyn Miller in the mediocre Look for the Silver Lining (1949), and played the title role in The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950). After The Girl Next Door (1953) Haver's only film with a contemporary setting she retired from films at age 27, announcing that she would become a nun. She spent several months in a Kansas convent, then left to marry her onetime co-star Fred MacMurray. The couple adopted twin girls, and remained together until MacMurray's death in 1991. Aside from one television appearance as herself on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957), Haver remained outside of the show business spotlight until her death due to respiratory failure at age 79.
(b. Alfredo Arnold Cocozza)
b. Jan. 31, 1921 (Philadelphia, PA) - d. Oct. 7, 1959 (Rome, Italy)
Using a variation of his mother's maiden name (Maria Lanza), this energetic tenor got his first major break while serving in the Army during World War II. An appearance in the armed forces stage show Winged Victory (1943) led to Lanza being billed as "the service Caruso." Placed under contract by MGM, he made his screen debut opposite soprano Kathryn Grayson in MGM's That Midnight Kiss (1949). Both singers sparked further excitement in The Toast of New Orleans (1950), introducing the passionate "Be My Love" -- a chart-topping song that became Lanza's signature hit.
MGM producer Joe Pasternak showcased Lanza in the ultimate tenor film bio, The Great Caruso (1951). Although a limited actor, Lanza appealed to a wide audience. He starred as an opera-singing GI in Because You're Mine (1952), but chronic overeating and a reputation temperamental behavior harmed his career. When he suddenly withdrew from a lavish film version of The Student Prince (1954), MGM had actor Edmund Purdom lip-synch to Lanza's pre-recorded vocal tracks. Lanza starred in Serenade (1956), then moved to Italy, where he introduced the hit "Arrivederci, Roma" in The Seven Hills of Rome (1958). He finished For the First Time (1959) shortly before entering a clinic in Rome, where he died of a heart attack at age 38. Some fans have speculated that his death was the result of foul play, but it was most likely due to years of extreme binge eating and crash dieting. His heartbroken wife Betty died five months later of a drug overdose.
b. Dec. 18, 1928 (Montreal, Canada)
This Canadian native composed jazz instrumentals and worked as a church musician before collaborating with librettists James Rado (b. 1939) and Gerome Ragni (1942-1991) on the "tribal rock musical" Hair (1967). After a brief off-Broadway run at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre, the show was revised for its 1968 re-opening at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre. Although shut out by the Tonys, Hair became a cultural phenomenon as its score topped the pop charts. "Let the Sunshine In," "Good Morning Starshine" and "Aquarius" became lasting hits, and Broadway's hippie "happening" lasted for 1,742 performances.
After the unsuccessful London musical Isabel's a Jezebel (1970), MacDermot teamed with playwright John Guare to create a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971). After a free admission summer run in New York's Central Park (again, produced by the Public Theatre), this charming show moved to Broadway; won the Tony for Best Musical and enjoyed a healthy run. After the costly Broadway productions of Dude (1972) and Via Galactica (1972) failed within weeks of each other, MacDermot withdrew from the Broadway scene for more than a decade. His genial adaptation of The Human Comedy (1984) got a promising reception downtown at the Public Theatre, but a Broadway transplant closed after just 13 performances. Since then, MacDermot has concentrated on regional theatre projects, revivals of Hair, and occasional films. In 2009, Hair returned to Broadway in triumph, receiving a Tony for Best Revival. That same year, MacDermot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
b. Nov 5, 1963 (Philadelphia)
This Philadelphia native was acting on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow when she was was cast as an orphan in the pre-Broadway showcase cast of Annie (1976). An amazing belt voice and unaffected stage manner set the twelve year old charmer apart, and she was promoted to the title role while the show was in development. Critics and audiences raved when McArdle introduced the popular ballads "Tomorrow" and "Maybe," and no one was surprised when she became the youngest person (up to that time) to receive a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She starred as young Judy Garland in the TV musical bio film Rainbow (1978), and made a special appearance in Liberace's nightclub act.
Unlike many child performers, McArdle's voice and wholesome good looks improved with the passage of time. After finishing her education, she returned to Broadway as a train called "Ashley" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's roller skating spectacle Starlight Express (1987). In 1993, she took over the role of Fantine in the long-running Les Miserables -- her daughter Alexis Kalehoff (b. 1989) appeared as little Cosette. A favorite in regional theatres, McArdle won particular acclaim in a tour of Annie Get Your Gun. She originated the role of Margy Frake in the Broadway adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair (1996), singing the classic "It Might As Well Be Spring." McArdle re-energized the long running New York production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, taking over the role of Belle in 1999 and remaining for several seasons. She made a cameo appearance as "The Star to Be" in Disney's TV version of Annie, and in 2010 played Miss Hannigan in a Long Beach, California production.
(b. Joseph Papirofsky)
b. June 22, 1921 (Brooklyn) - d. Oct. 31, 1991 (NYC)
From 1956 until his death, this daring producer was the founding director of The New York Shakespeare Festival. Starting with free performances in city parks, the company became one of the most adventurous production entities in the American theatre, staging innovative productions of classics, new plays and musicals. Papp's Public Theatre set up residence at the old Astor Library on Lafayette Street in 1967, where one of his first productions was the landmark rock musical Hair (1967). Papp later produced a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971) that went from a free run in Central Park to a Tony-winning triumph on Broadway. Both of these musicals featured music by newcomer Galt MacDermot.
Papp was open to all sorts of unusual projects. When choreographer Michael Bennett came to him with the idea of building a musical around the experiences of Broadway dancers, Papp gave the show a creative home. Months of workshops (then a revolutionary concept) resulted in A Chorus Line (1975), a massive hit that brought the Public Theatre millions of dollars during its decade-plus Broadway run. Papp's Public Theatre also produced an acclaimed revival of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera (1976), as well as Elizabeth Swados' original teenage musical Runaways (1978). Papp's Central Park revival of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (1981) translated into a Broadway smash this time with no rights due to the long-dead authors. Pirates ran for two years with a series of stellar casts, making a solid profit.
Papp had no success with MacDermot's musical adaptation of The Human Comedy (1984), but repeated the Central Park-to-Broadway success formula with Rupert Holmes' Tony-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985). Papp's many non-musical hits included For Colored Girls, Plenty, and Miss Margarida's Way, as well as acclaimed revivals of Much Ado About Nothing and The Cherry Orchard. Never one to shrink from controversy, Papp was one of the most colorful theatrical personalities of his time. He died of prostate cancer at age 70.
Reams, Lee Roy
Actor, singer, dancer, director
b. August 23, 1942 (Covington, Kentucky)
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, this handsome and versatile performer toured with Juliet Prowse in The Boy Friend before making his Broadway bow in the ensemble of Sweet Charity (1966) -- a task he repeated in the 1969 film version. Reams created the role of hairdresser Duane Fox in Applause (1970), the first positive depiction of an openly gay character in a mainstream Broadway musical. His fresh looks, soaring tenor voice and extraordinary dance ability won him the role of Henry Spofford in Lorelei (1974), starring Carol Channing. He next played Cornelius Hackle in Channing's 1978 revival of Hello Dolly!, winning praise for his rendition of composer Jerry Herman's "It Only Takes a Moment."
As the original Billy Lawler in Gower Champion's stage adaptation of 42nd Street (1980), Reams sang and danced up a storm, earning a Tony nomination and his longest Broadway run to date. In recent years, he took over the role of Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, directed Channing's farewell revival of Hello Dolly!, directed and appeared in An Evening With Jerry Herman (1998), and played manic director Roger DeBris in the first national tour of The Producers (2002) -- a role he later took over on Broadway. Reams has been active as both a director and actor in various regional theatres, including The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. His many television appearances include Show Boat (PBS), In Performance at the White House (PBS) and Jerry Herman at the Hollywood Bowl.