Who's Who in Musicals: Additional Bios VII
by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2003)

 

Aimee, Marie
(b. Marie Aimee Tronchon)
Actress, singer
b. 1852 (Algiers) - d. Oct. 2, 1887 (Paris, France)

This attractive soprano earned fame as an operetta ingénue in France. After featured roles in such hits as Jacques Offenbach's original Paris production of Les Brigands (1869), a series of international appearances brought her to the United States. Aimee starred as Boulotte in the New York premiere of Barbe Bleue (1870), then formed her own company and toured North America for the next decade, winning acclaim in such popular Offenbach opera-bouffes as Le Grand Duchesse De Gerolstein, La Perichole, and La Vie Parisienne. When the initial American vogue for these works faded, Aimee's attempts to revive her European career proved unsuccessful. Cancer caused her death at age 35.

 

Aldredge, Theoni V.
(b. Theoni Athanasiou Vachlioti)
Costume Designer
b. Aug. 22, 1932 (Salonika, Greece) - d. Jan. 21, 2011 (Stamford, CT)

After training at the American school in Athens, this gifted designer emigrated to the United States and studied at DePaul University. In 1953, Theoni married the versatile character actor Tom Aldredge. She designed costumes for regional theatres, then made her Broadway debut creating costumes for Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). Serving as principal costume designer for Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Theatre Festival for more than 20 years, Ms. Aldredge eventually costumed more than 100 Broadway productions. Her roster of musicals included A Chorus Line (1974), 42nd Street (1980), Dreamgirls (1981), Woman of the Year (1981), The Secret Garden (1991) and the Roundabout revival of Follies (2001). She received Tony Awards for her work on Annie (1977), Barnum (1980) and La Cage Aux Folles (1983). Her costumes were featured in numerous films, including Moonstruck (1987) and Addams Family Values (1993), and she received an Academy Award for costuming The Great Gatsby (1974). Uninterested in publicity, she spent her final years out of the public eye before her death due to heart failure at age 88.

 

Battle, Hinton
Actor, singer, dancer
b. Nov. 29, 1956 (Neubracke, Germany)

Handsome and dynamic, Battle performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem before making his Broadway debut as the original Scarecrow in The Wiz (1975). After appearing in Dancin (1978), he received his first Tony for Best Featured Actor in the Duke Ellington revue Sophisticated Lady (1981). Battle took home a second Tony for creating the role of Uncle Dipsy in The Tap Dance Kid (1984), and a third for playing John in Miss Saigon (1991). He has also appeared in the replacement casts of Ain't Misbehavin and the long-running revival of Chicago, and served as co-director and choreographer of Off-Broadway's Evil Dead: The Musical (2006).

 

Belmore, Bertha
(b. Bertha Cousins)
Actress, singer
b. Dec. 20, 1882 (Manchester UK) - d. Dec. 14, 1953 (Barcelona, Spain)

Belmore began as a dancer before her formidable personality and comic timing made her a popular character actress in comedies and musicals. She was featured in the original London production of Irene (1919), delighted Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies and took over the role of Parthy during the original run of Show Boat in 1929. She played a series of comic "dragon ladies" in such London hits as Give Me a Ring (1933) and Blue For a Boy (1950). As Broadway's original Pomposia in Rodgers & Hart's By Jupiter (1942), she shared the show-stopping "Life With Father" with Ray Bolger. Her last Broadway role was Sidonie in the non-musical Gigi (1951).

 

Black, Don
(b. Gerald Blackstone)
Lyricist
b. June 21, 1936 (London)

A sometime columnist, comedian and theatrical agent, Black began writing lyrics in his 30s. His pop hits included the Academy Award winning title song to Born Free. He contributed to the London musicals Maybe That's Your Problem (1970), Billy (1974) and Bar Mitzvah Boy (1978). Black collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the one act song cycle Tell Me On a Sunday (1980), which became part of Song and Dance (1982) on Broadway. After Merlin (1983) failed in New York and Budgie (1988) fizzled in London, Black worked with Lloyd Webber and co-lyricist Charles Hart on Aspects of Love (1989). He and Lloyd Webber worked with co-lyricist Christopher Hampton on Sunset Boulevard (1993). Black collaborated with composer A.R. Rahman on the stage musical Bombay Dreams (2002), and re-teamed with Hampton to provide lyrics for Frank Wildhorn's short-lived Dracula, The Musical (2004). In 2007, Black was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 

Blasel, Karl
Actor, singer
b. Oct. 16, 1831 (Vienna) - d. June 16, 1922 (Vienna)

Blasdel was a star of imperial Austria's musical stage for eight decades, with long reigns as a lead comedian at Vienna's two most prestigious operetta houses, the Carltheatre and Theatre an der Wein. Blasel starred in works by almost every prominent European composer of his time, particularly works in the German repertory, including Der Rastelbinder (1902), Madame Sherry (1903) and Die Shutzenliesel (1906). Loved by audiences and colleagues, he continued performing these works until just before his death at age 90.

 

Braham, David
Composer, conductor
b. 1838 (London, UK) - d. April 11, 1905 (New York City)

David Braham emigrated to the United States with his brother Joseph in 1856, where their talent as violin players led to jobs with various orchestras. They enjoyed long and prosperous musical careers, as would their sons, who kept the family name in show business well into the next century. David became the orchestra leader at Broadway's Theatre Comique and composed songs with various lyricists. He met variety performer Edward "Ned" Harrigan in 1871, establishing a close personal and professional bond. They began writing songs which Harrigan used in his act with gifted comedian Tony Hart. When they parodied New York City's infamous paramilitary militias in "The Mulligan Guard," audience response was so enthusiastic that Harrigan and Braham eventually wrote a series of farcical musical comedies built around fictional saloonkeeper and aspiring politician Dan Mulligan.

Beginning in 1878 with The Mulligan Guards' Picnic, these shows starring Harrigan & Hart were among the most popular musical productions on Broadway. Braham's catchy melodies and Harrigan's humorous topical lyrics were sung in every working class tavern and middle class parlor in the city, including such titles as "The Babies On Our Block," "Paddy Murphy's Home," "John Reilly's Always Dry" and the ever popular "Mulligan Guard." Harrigan married Braham's daughter Annie in 1876. Harrigan and Braham remained close after their theatrical collaboration ended in the 1890s. Braham was conducting the orchestra at Wallack's Theatre at the time of his death at age 67. Many of his songs were featured in the short-lived Broadway musical Harrigan and Hart (1985)

 

Broderick, Matthew
Actor
b. March 21, 1962 (New York, NY)

Son of dramatic actor James Broderick, Matthew was a student at Manhattan's Walden School when a knee injury led him from athletic pursuits to acting in student productions. He appeared in various workshops, playing Harvey Fierstein's son in the Off-Broadway run of Torch Song Trilogy. Broderick left that hit production to make his Broadway debut as Eugene in Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical Brighton Beach Memoirs (1982). He received a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play, which he dedicated to the memory of his father, who had died of cancer months before. Broderick appeared as Eugene again in Simon's Biloxi Blues (1985), and starred in the 1988 film version.

By that time, Broderick was an established screen star, winning recognition with his boyish comic charm. He returned to Broadway as J. Pierpont Finch in a revival of Frank Loesser's How to Succeed in Business (1995), where his "nebbishy" performance brought him the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Broderick starred in a variety of stage and film projects before originating the role of accountant Leo Bloom in the musical stage version of Mel Brooks' The Producers (2001), winning acclaim with co-star Nathan Lane. He starred as Harold Hill in the uneven ABC-TV version of The Music Man (2003), and played Bloom in the poorly received screen version of The Producers (2005). Since 1997, he has been married to actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

 

Fabray, Nanette
(b. Nanette Theresa Fabares)
Actress, singer
b. Oct. 27, 1922 (San Diego, CA)

This exuberant, much-loved comedienne got her start in vaudeville as "Baby Nanette." She made her screen debut in several "Our Gang" comedy shorts, and later played Mistress Margaret Radcliffe in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Unable to make further headway in Hollywood, Fabray headed to Broadway, where her fresh-scrubbed looks and jubilant personality made her an immediate audience favorite in the revue Meet the People (1940). After appearances in the hit musicals Let's Face It (1941) and By Jupiter (1943), she won further attention in the less successful My Dear Public (1943) and Jackpot (1944), and took over the lead role in the long-running Bloomer Girl (1945). Fabray achieved full stardom when she originated the role of Sarah Longstreet in High Button Shoes (1947), introducing "Papa, Won't You Dance With Me?" and sharing "I Still Get Jealous" with co-star Jack McCauley.

Despite Fabray's extraordinary appeal and solid musical talent, Broadway seemed incapable of creating another popular vehicle for her. She received the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Susan Cooper in the innovative but short lived Love Life (1948). Fabray went on to star in Arms and the Girl (1950) and Make a Wish (1951) – both critical and commercial disappointments. Fabray returned to Hollywood for MGM's The Band Wagon (1953), sharing the hilarious "Triplets" number with co-stars Fred Astaire and Jack Buchannan. She received a Tony nomination playing First Lady Nell Henderson in Irving Berlin's Mr. President (1962), her last appearance in a Broadway musical to date.

Fabray found her greatest success in television. After receiving three Emmys for her work with Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour (1954), she became a regular presence on the small screen. Aside from dozens of guest appearances, she had recurring roles on such TV sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day at a Time and Coach. She appeared in the TV version of George M!. Hearing impaired since childhood, Fabray has been an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing.

 

Harrison, Rex
Actor, singer
b. March 5, 1908 (Huyton, UK) - b. June 2, 1990 (New York City)

One of the most versatile comic actors of the 20th Century, Harrison got his start in British provincial theatre during the 1920s. With triumphs on the West End, Broadway (receiving a Tony for Best Actor as Henry VIII in Anne of a Thousand Days) and the big screen, Harrison was a proven master of both grand drama and light comedy long before landing the greatest success of his career in My Fair Lady (1956), the musical version of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. As Henry Higgins, the phonetics professor who turns a cockney London flower girl into an elegant lady, Harrison made an acerbic and almost monstrous character irresistible. He talk-sang his way through lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe's "I'm An Ordinary Man" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," resurrecting the art of "sprechstimme" in musical stage performance. Harrison received a Tony for the Broadway production, repeated the role in London, and received an Academy Award for the 1964 screen version. In so doing, Harrison became the second actor to win both a Tony and an Oscar for the same musical role -- to date only Yul Brynner and Joel Grey have also achieved that dual honor.

Harrison played the title role in the screen musical Doctor Doolittle (1967), and although the film was poorly received, he introduced the Academy Award winning song "If I Could Talk to The Animals." He remained active on both stage and screen, appearing in numerous dramas and comedies, as well as a short-lived Broadway revival of My Fair Lady (1981). An enduring audience favorite, Harrison co-starred with Glynis Johns in a hit revival of The Circle (1990), which closed just weeks before his death due to pancreatic cancer at age 82.

 

Mercer, Johnny
Lyricist, composer
b. Nov. 18, 1909 (Savannah, GA) - d. June 25, 1976 (Los Angeles, CA)

This sophisticated lyricist and occasional composer contributed to some of the most memorable songs of the 20th Century. His lyrics began appearing in Broadway revues during the 1930s, and several successful jazz recordings led to work in Hollywood, where Mercer began turning out standards like "I'm An Old Cowhand," "Hooray for Hollywood," "Jeepers Creepers" and "Too Marvelous for Words." A personable performer, Mercer became a regular on radio, appearing with such stars as Bing Crosby and clarinetist Benny Goodman. In 1942, he helped co-found Capitol Records, one of the most influential recording companies of that era. While remaining a top Hollywood songwriter, Mercer made occasional trips back to Broadway. He teamed with composer Harold Arlen for the memorable St. Louis Woman (1946), which included "Come Rain or Come Shine." Mercer wrote both words and music for Top Banana (1951) and teamed with composer Gene de Paul for the hilarious comic strip hit Li'l Abner (1956). His later stage projects Saratoga (1959) and Foxy (1964) did not fare well.

Mercer's most memorable screen work included lyrics for Harry Warren's tunes in The Harvey Girls (1946) and Gene dePaul's music in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Mercer's hit film songs included "On the Atchison Topeka," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," "Moon River" and "The Days of Wine and Roses" – all four of which won Academy Awards for Best Song. His last film lyrics were for Darling Lili (1969), and his last stage project was the short-lived London musical Good Companions (1974). Mercer died due to an inoperable brain tumor at age 66. His only Tony nomination was posthumous, for the adapted stage score of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1983).

 

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