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

(Copyright 2004)

 

Blossom, Henry M.
Lyricist, librettist
b. May 10, 1866 (St. Louis, MO) - d. Mar. 23, 1919 (New York)

Blossom left his family's insurance business to become a novelist, and a dramatization of one of his stories led to a long and prolific career writing for the theatre. After creating the book and lyrics for The Yankee Consul (1903), he teamed with composer Victor Herbert on the smash hit operetta Mlle Modiste (1905), which included the popular "Kiss Me Again." Blossom and Herbert then collaborated on The Red Mill (1906), which included the perennial favorites "Moonbeams," "Ev'ry Day is Ladies Day With Me" and "The Streets of New York." Blossom worked on sixteen more shows over the next thirteen years, but none attained the same level of success as his early hits.

 

Bond, Jessie Charlotte
Actress, singer
b. Jan. 11, 1853 (London) - d. June 17, 1942 (Worthing, UK)

Discovered at age 25 by Richard D'Oyly Carte, Bond took over the role of Hebe in the original London production of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore (1878). Her charming stage persona and professional reliability overshadowed her initial uncertainty with dialogue, making her a key member of the early D'Oyly Carte troupe. She originated many featured roles in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon, including Kate in Pirates of Penzance (1879), Lady Angela in Patience (1881), the title role in Iolanthe (1882), Pitti Sing in The Mikado (1885), Mad Margaret in Ruddigore (1887), Phoebe in Yeoman of the Guard (1888) and Tessa in The Gondoliers (1889). After a twenty year career, she married and left the professional stage, giving occasional benefit performances and entertaining wounded servicemen during World War I.

 

Bordoni, Irene
Actress, singer
b. Jan. 16, 1895 (Corsica) - d. Mar. 19, 1953 (New York City)

Discovered by producer Andre Charlot, this petite comedienne honed her eye-rolling, coquettish manner on the French stage before coming to New York at age 17 in the revue Broadway to Paris (1912). She spoofed the great lovers of history in As You Were (1920) and in The French Doll (1922) introduced George & Ira Gershwin's "Do It Again." Bordoni had her greatest success introducing Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" in Paris (1928), and appeared in the 1930 screen version. Porter so appreciated her talents that his stellar list of superlatives in "You're the Top" includes "you're the eyes of Irene Bordoni."

Bordoni's starring vehicle One More Night (1931) closed on the road, and Great Lady (1938) was a quick flop, but she scored well in Louisiana Purchase (1940) introducing Irving Berlin's "It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow." After the failure of The Lady From Paris (1950), she triumphed as "Bloody Mary" in the national tour of South Pacific (1951). Forced to withdraw from the Broadway bound Maggie (1953) due to illness, she died soon afterward at age 58.

 

Braham, Leonora
Singer, actress
b. Feb. 3, 1853 (England) - d. Nov. 23, 1931 (London)

Trained on the British stage, this attractive soprano starred in the Broadway productions of Princess Toto (1879) and Billee Taylor (1880). She returned to London to originate the title role in Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience (1881), beginning a stellar association with the D'Oyly Carte troupe. Braham originated the roles of Phyllis in Iolanthe (1882), Yum Yum in The Mikado (1883) -- introducing "The Sun Whose Rays" -- and Rose Maybud in Ruddigore (1887). She left the Savoy to tour Australia for a year, and returned to find her services were less in demand. Braham continued appearing in minor West End roles and touring the provinces until her retirement sometime around 1900.

 

Bramble, Mark
Librettist
b. Dec. 7, 1950 (Maryland)

This onetime assistant to producer David Merrick created the libretti for several Off-Broadway projects before collaborating with Michael Stewart on the ill-fated Broadway musical The Grand Tour (1979). After working on a short lived adaptation of Elizabeth and Essex (1980), Bramble scored his first triumph by re-teaming with Stewart for Barnum (1980). Within months, they had an even greater success with 42nd Street (1980) -- both shows went on to enjoy long runs in New York and London. For the next decade, Bramble made a second career of directing 42nd Street in Europe, Australia and the US, and co-directed the triumphant 2001 Broadway revival. As a solo librettist, his revised version of The Three Musketeers (1983) closed quickly, and his adaptation of Hugo's Notre Dame (1991) did not get beyond a British tryout. 

 

Brandram, Rosina
(b. Rosina Moult)
Singer, actress
b. July 2, 1854 (London) - d. Feb. 2, 1907 (Southend-on-Sea, UK)

This formidable contralto became the D'Oyly Carte troupe's top character actress, originating many beloved Gilbert and Sullivan characters. Hired for the ensemble in The Sorcerer (1877), she took over the role of Little Buttercup in the original London production of H.M.S. Pinafore (1879) and originated the role of Kate in the Broadway debut of Pirates of Penzance (1880). Brandram served as a replacement and understudy until she was cast as the original Lady Blanche in Princess Ida (1884). From then on, she originated many of the middle aged blowhard female characters Gilbert so loved to poke fun at. Brandram was the first to play Katisha in The Mikado (1885), Dame Hannah in Ruddigore (1887), Dame Carruthers in Yeoman of the Guard (1888), and the Duchess of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers (1889). She remained a leading member of the D'Oyly Carte company into the next century, making occasional appearances under other managements.

 

Burnand, Francis Cowley
Librettist, lyricist
b. Nov. 11, 1836 (Ramsgate, UK) - d. April 21, 1919, (Ramsgate, UK)

A co-founder of the Dramatic Society at Cambridge University, Burnand became the leading librettist of the British burlesque tradition. His most memorable success was Ixion (1863), a musical spoof that found unprecedented success on both sides of the Atlantic. Because burlesque from the first relied heavily on cast improvisation and copycat competitors, these libretti were never published, and none are known to survive in written form. Burnand also translated Jacques Offenbach's early hits for the London stage, and provided the original librettos for Arthur Sullivan's Cox and Box and The Contrabandista. He was the longtime editor of Punch Magazine (1880-1905), where his penchant for puns and comic wordplay had a ready audience. Although rarely discussed today, Burnand had more than a hundred produced librettos to his credit.

 

Burns, David
Actor, singer
b. June 22, 1902 (New York City) - d. March 12, 1971 (Philadelphia, PA)

Born on Mott Street, this round faced comic with a rough-edged urban persona made his Broadway debut as Louis in Irving Berlin's Face the Music (1932), and his London bow in Cole Porter's Nymph Errant (1936). He played gangster-types in a succession of London productions, the returned to New York as a replacement in Pal Joey, Oklahoma and other musicals. Burns appeared in Billion Dollar Baby (1945), and shared the show-stopping "Ought to Be You" with Charlotte Greenwood in Porter's Out of This World (1950).  He made several minor film appearances, including that of a wise-cracking song promoter in MGM's Deep in My Heart (1954).

By originating the role of "Mayor Shinn" in The Music Man (1957), Burns initiated the golden phase of his musical stage career. He played "Brains Berman" in Do Re Mi (1960), then created the role of "Senex" in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (1962), winning the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Burns gave his most memorable performance as the original Horace Vandergelder in Hello Dolly! (1964), introducing "It Takes a Woman." Well received as "Colonel Purdy" in the short lived Lovely Ladies Kind Gentlemen (1970), he was next cast as an aging fur thief in 70 Girls, 70 (1971). During a pre-Broadway tryout performance, Burns suffered a heart attack and collapsed onstage, dying soon afterwards.

 

Caesar, Irving
(b. Isidor Caesar)
Lyricist, composer
b. July 4, 1895 (New York City) - d. Dec. 17, 1996 (NYC)

Early in his career, Caesar had two extraordinary successes. In 1918, he collaborated with composer George Gershwin on a score for The Demitasse Revue. The show was a quick failure, but one of its songs came to the attention of singer Al Jolson, who interpolated it into the long-running Sinbad (1918). "Swanee" became a top-selling hit, putting both Gershwin and Caesar on the professional map. Caesar's second mega-triumph occurred when he became one of the lyricists for the Vincent Youmans score to No, No, Nanette (1925). "Tea For Two" and "I Want to Be Happy" became lasting standards. Caesar also worked on Yes, Yes Yvette (1927), which failed to live up to its predecessor. Caesar contributed individual songs to hits like Hit the Deck (1927), and translated the lyrics for the long running White Horse Inn (1936), but his complete scores fell flat in more than fifteen other Broadway musical flops.

Caesar wrote more than 700 songs, and his individual pop songs often outshone those written for complete Broadway scores. He penned the lyrics for such Jolson hits as "My Mammy" and "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?" In his later years, he reveled in the 1971 rediscovery of No, No Nanette, and enjoyed being the self-appointed spokesperson for a lost era. Caesar spent his final decades as something of a forgotten man, always trying tp encourage public interest in his songs. He died at age 101, proud to the end that he (unlike George M. Cohan) was truly "born on the 4th of July."

 

Cameron, Violet
(b. Violet Lydia Thompson)
Actress, singer
b. Dec. 7, 1862 (London) - d. Oct. 25, 1919 (Worthing)

Cameron began as a child performer, then toured with her aunt, burlesque legend Lydia Thompson before achieving stardom as the ingénue in the British production of Les Cloches de Cornville. She added to her fame with several scandalous love affairs, but her popularity stemmed from her stellar performances in the London premieres of popular French operettas. She played Bettina in La Mascotte, the title role in Boccaccio (1882), Gretchen in Rip Van Winkle, and the title role of Falka (1883). Cameron's Broadway debut plans collapsed when the American press pounced on her latest illicit offstage liaison. She returned to Britain, where she remained active in theatre and music halls for the next twenty years. She made her final appearance as the Mother Superior in The School Girl (1903).

 

Carle, Richard
(b. Charles Nicholas Carleton)
Actor, singer, lyricist. librettist
b. July 7, 1871 (Somerville MA) - d. June 28, 1941 (Hollywood)

While acting as featured comic in such Broadway musicals as Excelsior Jr. (1895), this versatile talent co-authored two burlesques for the now-forgotten Rogers Brothers. He then co-authored and starred in Mam'selle 'Awkins (1900), and played leading comic roles in The Casino Girl (1900) and The Belle of Bohemia (1901). Realizing that critics were kinder to him outside of New York, Carle took the novel approach of opening his musicals in Chicago and turning New York into just another stop on his tours. While none of his resulting musicals were Broadway hits, he made handsome profits on the road, where he was hailed as a major star.

In the late 1920s, Carle became a character actor in Hollywood, appearing in more than 130 films, including The Merry Widow (1934), Anything Goes (1936) and San Francisco (1936). He made a few brief returns to Broadway, and co-starred in Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930).

 

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