Who's Who in Musicals: Additional Bios XI
by John Kenrick
(b. Delia O'Callaghan)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. Nov. 29, 1870 (Grenola, KS) - d. Feb. 27, 1955 (Flintridge, CA)
This vaudeville legend was raised in Cincinnati. She worked as a store
clerk before beginning her 50+ year stage career (using
her mother's maiden name) by making her Broadway debut in the chorus of The Pearl of
Pekin (1889). She appeared in A Trip to Chinatown (1891), La
Poupee (1897), The Rounders (1900) and the
Broadway and London productions of The Belle of Bohemia
(1900-01). Using her increasing girth to her advantage, Friganza became
one of the most popular "road" stars in a series of musical
comedies, confirming her success in New York when she
triumphed as the Widow Crocker in Broadway's he Prince of
Pilsen (1904). She later co-starred with Weber
& Fields in Twiddle Twaddle (1906),
played "Caroline Vokins" in The Orchid (1908), "Mrs.
Waxtapper" in The American Idea (1908), appeared in
The Passing Show of 1912, and starred as "Blanche Moss"
in Canary Cottage (1917).
Friganza made her vaudeville debut in 1906, but did not tour
the circuits regularly until 1912. She then became one of vaude's
top headliners, and a particular favorite at New York's Palace Theatre.
In an act that blended comedy and music, she made constant fun of her
weight, but it was her talent that kept audiences cheering. She appeared in
silent and sound films, and made her final Broadway appearance in Murray
Anderson's Almanac (1929). Crippling arthritis forced her into retirement in
1940. Although married three times, Friganza was a devout Catholic, and spent
her final years teaching drama in the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, a
b. July 1, 1856 (Sandusky, Ohio) - d. May 7, 1915 (The Lusitania)
One of the greatest stage producers of all time, this groundbreaking
Jewish-American entrepreneur worked his way through a
series of theatre jobs before presenting his first drama in
1886. His many successes included the New York premiere of
Oscar Wilde's comedy The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).
Closely allied with the Klaw and Erlanger
theatrical syndicate, he began producing musicals in both London and New
York in the 1890s, including The Shop Girl (1895), Madame Sherry
(1903), A Waltz Dream (1908) and The Dollar Princess (1909).
From 1910 on, Frohman concentrated his efforts on Broadway, importing
such London hits as The Arcadians (1910), The Sunshine Girl
(1913) and The Girl From Utah (1914) -- a production which
interpolated Jerome Kern's
"They Didn't Believe Me," opening a
new era in the musical theatre. Frohman eventually had more than 700
stage productions to his credit, but took particular pride in
having produced both the New York (1899) and London (1901) premieres of
James Barrie's play Peter Pan. Trapped on the torpedoed Lusitania,
Frohman went down with the ship. His recovered body is buried in the
Union Field Cemetery, Queens, NY. Frohman never married, but his longtime
live-in companion Charles Dillingham
went on to a notable producing career of his own.
b. Nov. 18, 1920 (Washington, DC) - d. May 28, 2000
This onetime casting director made his producing debut on Broadway with
the well-received musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(1951), and had even greater success with Wonderful Town (1953).
He formed a long lasting producing partnership with Lawrence Carr. After
the so-so By the Beautiful Sea (1954) and the outright failure of
Shangri-la (1956), the duo presented the Tony winning Redhead
(1959) in the same year as the costly disappointment Saratoga
(1959). Even the beloved Judy Holliday
could not save the troubled Hot
Spot (1963), but Carr and Fryer scored a double triumph three years
later producing both Sweet Charity (1966) and the long-running Mame
(1966) -- the latter based on Auntie Mame, one of many non-musical
hits Carr produced over the years.
Fryer produced a number of films, including The Boston Strangler,
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the poorly received screen version
of Mame. Back on Broadway, he produced the underrated Chicago
(1975), was on the producing teams for On the 20th Century (1978),
the Tony-winning Sweeney Todd (1979) -- and the
distinguished failures Merrily We Roll Along (1981)
and A Doll's Life (1982). While serving as artistic director for
the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, Fryer co-produced the Broadway
productions of Noises Off (1983), Benefactors (1985) and Wild
Honey (1986). He died of complications from Parkinson's disease at age 79.
b. Sept. 1685 (Banstable, UK) - d. Dec. 4, 1732 (London)
Gay pursued a dual career for several years, writing for the stage while
jockeying for a position at the British royal court. When his opposition
to Britain's long-lasting first Prime Minister Robert Walpole blocked
Gay's political ambitions, he channeled his frustrations into a
satirical "ballad opera" libretto peppered with biting lyrics
set to pre-existing opera arias and barroom ballads. The Beggar's
Opera (1728), with its unblinking look at corruption in so-called
respectable circles caused such a sensation that the British government
banned its planned sequel, Polly. In his final year, Gay provided
the libretto for Handel's opera Acis and Galatea (1732). He died
at the home of his longtime patroness, the Duchess of Queensberry, and
is buried in Westminster Abbey. His Beggar's Opera
is still performed, and has inspired several later works,
including Brecht &
Weill's 1928 masterwork
Die Dreigroschenopera (The Threepenny Opera).
(b. Reginald Moxon Armitage)
b. July 15, 1898 (Wakefield, UK) - d. Mar. 4, 1954 (London)
Trained to be a church musician, Gay changed course when his novelty
songs landed in a series of London revues, including The Charlot Show
of 1926 and Folly to Be Wise (1931). His greatest success
came with the score for Me and My Girl (1937), including the
title tune and "The Lambeth Walk." The latter, performed with
relish by comedian Lupino Lane, helped
make this show the West End's
longest-running World War II hit. Gay turned out songs for films and the pop
market, as well scores and specialties for a succession of book musicals
and revues -- including the Lane vehicles La-De-Da-De-Da (1943), Meet
Me Victoria (1944) and Sweetheart Mine (1946). Noel Gay's last musical
was Bob's Your Uncle (1948), a lighthearted throwback to prewar times that
postwar audiences embraced for 363 performances. In the 1980s, his son
Richard Armitage produced revivals of Me and My Girl that enjoyed
extraordinary success in the UK, US and Australia.
b. Nov. 23, 1919 (Metairie, LA) - d. Set. 28, 2000 (New York City)
After making his Broadway debut in the ensemble of Make Mine
Manhattan (1948), Gennaro danced in such hits as Kiss Me Kate
(1948) and Guys and Dolls (1950). He was part of the "Steam
Heat" trio in The Pajama Game (1954), and shared "Mu-cha-cha"
with Judy Holliday in
Bells Are Ringing (1956). He staged the
dances for the short-lived Seventh Heaven (1955), then served as
Jerome Robbins's co-choreographer for the
acclaimed West Side Story (1957).
According to Chita Rivera, "Peter Gennaro choreographed every step
of 'Mambo' and 'America' and does not get credit for it."
Gennaro spirited and athletic choreography triumphed in Fiorello
(1959) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) -- and can still be
relished in the 1964 film version starring Debbie
Reynolds. After trying to enliven the ill-fated Mr. President (1962),
Bajour (1964) and Jimmy (1973), he won fresh acclaim with his work
for Reynolds in Irene (1973). Perhaps his greatest success came with the
international hit Annie
(1977) -- Gennaro's stagings of "Easy Street" and "Never
Fully Dressed Without a Smile" have been copied, but never topped.
Gennaro worked on a short-lived revival of Little Me (1977),
the poorly received Carmelina (1979), and the London productions
of Bar Mitzvah Boy (1978) and Singin' In the Rain (1983).
Gennaro served for many years as choreographer for Radio City Music
Hall, staging many classic routines for the Rockettes. His final
Broadway assignment was a revival of The Threepenny Opera (1989)
starring Sting. His daughter Liza became a dancer and choreographer, and
his son Michael has served as executive director of The Steppenwolf
Theatre Company and Paper Mill Playhouse.
b. Feb. 17, 1862 (Whitchurch, UK) - d. Nov. 11, 1936 (London)
When Arthur Sullivan died, Helen D'Oyly
Carte called in this noted
composer and conductor to finish the score to The Emerald Isle
(1901). German remained connected with the D'Oyly Carte company,
providing scores for Merrie England (1902), A
Princess of Kensington (1903) and Tom Jones (1907). He
collaborated with William Gilbert on
Fallen Fairies (1909), which got such a negative reception that
both men stopped writing musicals altogether.
b. (Carmarthen, UK) - Feb. 19, 1981 (Hove, UK)
This operatic contralto made her West End debut in Glamorous Night
(1935), the beginning of an extended association with the musicals of
who became both friend and mentor. Gilbert went on to
featured and starring roles in Careless Rapture (1936), Crest
of the Wave (1937), The Dancing Years (1939), Arc de
Triomphe (1943), Perchance to Dream (1945) and King's Rhapsody
(1949). She introduced Novello's "Fly Home, Little Heart,"
among others. Gilbert played "Mother Abbess" for most of the long
original London run of The Sound of Music (1961) and was
"The Housekeeper" in the West End Man of La Mancha (1968).
b. Dec. 5, 1850 (Graz, Austria-Hungary) - d. Apr. 20, 1918
Acclaimed as the greatest star of Viennese operetta, Girardi starred in
the premieres of classic works by Johann Strauss II, Carl Millocker and
Franz Lehar. He originated such now-classic roles as "Falke" in
Die Fledermaus (1874), the title character in Die Bettlestudent
(1882) and "Zsupan" in Die Zugerbaron.
(b. William Martyn-Green)
b. April 22, 1899 (London) - d. Feb. 8, 1975 (Hollywood, CA)
After several years appearing in British touring companies, Green joined
the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as a member of the ensemble in 1922. He
played a variety of small roles and understudied Henry Lytton before
succeeding him as principal comedian in 1932. A nimble and endearing performer,
Green toured the world in (and recorded) all the major works in the
and starred as "Koko" in the first film version of The Mikado
(1939). He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, then
resumed working with the Doyly Carte company until 1951. He then emigrated to the US,
where he directed, toured in and lectured on the G&S classics. He appeared in
several TV musicals, playing "Bob Cratchit" in The Stingiest Man in
Town (1956). Part of Green's left leg was amputated after an accident in 1959, but
he soon resumed performing. His last stage appearance was as "The Innkeeper"
in the Broadway production of The Canterbury Tales (1969). Later film appearances
include A Lovely Way to Die (1968) and The Iceman Cometh (1973).
He died of a blood infection at age 75.
b. May 29, 1923 (New York City) - d. Dec. 12, 1990 (NYC)
Green was the first historian to dedicate his career -- including a long series of books
-- to an academic consideration of musical theatre and film. His
unprejudiced analysis and clear writing style laid a solid foundation
for all those who followed him. The World of Musical Comedy, Ring
Bells! Sing Songs!, and his single volume encyclopedias of musical
theatre and film are still key reference works in the field.
(b. Charlotte Frances Greenwood)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. June 25, 1893 (Philadelphia) - d. Jan. 18, 1978 (Beverly Hills)
This long-legged comedienne is remembered for her solid comic
timing and high-kicking dance routines. She made her Broadway debut as a
dancing teenager in The White Cat (1905). At five foot eight she
was taller than most chorines, but her unique "heels over
head" kick steps made her a standout. She played a succession of
featured musical roles, winning major notice in The Passing Show of
1912. Greenwood became a Broadway star as "Letty" in Pretty Mrs. Smith
(1914) -- a role she repeated (with varying surnames) in So Long, Letty
(1916), Linger Longer, Letty (1916) and Letty Pepper (1922).
Greenwood moved on to specialties in several 1920s revues, and made
an easy transition to character roles in such Hollywood musicals as Flying
High (1931), Down Argentine Way (1940) and Springtime in
the Rockies (1942). She returned to Broadway to star as the goddess
"Juno" in Cole Porter's Out of This World
(1950), and was "Aunt Eller" in the big screen version of Oklahoma (1956)
-- high kicks intact at age 62. After a brief marriage to actor Cyril Ring, Greenwood
enjoyed a long marriage to songwriter Martin Broones. After filming Oklahoma,
she opted for a long and quiet retirement.
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