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

(Copyright 2004)

 

Grossmith, George
Actor, singer
b. Dec. 9, 1847 (London) - d. Mar. 1, 1912 (Folkestone, UK)

After getting his start as a minor British variety performer, Grossmith was cast as the original "John Wellington Wells" in Gilbert and Sullivan's first full-length comic operetta, The Sorcerer (1877). It marked the beginning of a long reign as the D'Oyly Carte troupe's leading comic, and Grossmith's diminutive stature set a casting pattern that would stick with the G&S comedy roles for years to come. He originated such roles as "Sir Joseph Porter" in HMS Pinafore (1878), "The Major General" in Pirates of Penzance (1879), "Reginald Bunthorn" in Patience (1881), the ""The Lord Chancellor" in Iolanthe (1882), "King Gama" in Princess Ida (1884), "Ko-Ko" in The Mikado (1885), and" Jack Point" in Yeoman of the Guard (1888). Grossmith sometimes suffered from severe opening night jitters, but became renowned for his mastery of intricate patter songs.

His son George Grossmith Jr. (1874-1935) enjoyed a long and varied West End career as a performer, librettist, lyricist, director and producer. His roles included "Beautiful, bountiful Bertie" in The Shop Girl (1894), "Hughie" in Our Miss Gibbs (1909), and "Billy Early" in No, No Nanette (1925). Contemporaries referred to both father and son by the same name, sometimes leading to  confusion in various books and articles.

 

Halevy, Ludovic
Lyricist, librettist
b. Jan. 1, 1834 (Paris) - d. May 8, 1908 (Paris)
Meilhac, Henri
Lyricist, librettist
b. Feb. 21, 1831 (Paris) - d. July 6, 1897 (Paris)

Halevy was the first librettist to collaborate with composer Jacques Offenbach. Their intimate "operetta" Ba-ta-clan (1855) firmly established the popularity of this new form of musical entertainment, and marked the birth of the modern book musical. Their first full-length hit was Orphee aux Enfers/Orpheus in Hell (1858). After established playwright Meilhac joined the team, the trio proceeded to create a series of "opera bouffes" that are still enjoyed today. In fact, Halevy & Meilhac remain among the most successful librettists of all time.

Halevy & Meilhac's lasting Offenbach masterworks include La Belle Helene (1864), Barbe-Bleue (1866), La Vie Parisienne (1866), La Grand-Duchesse de Gerolstein (1867), La Perichole (1868) and Les Brigands (1869). All of these operettas were translated into numerous languages, becoming the first musicals to enjoy international success. After Offenbach's death in 1880, Halvey and Meilhac continued to write for the stage, including the libretto for Lecocq's Le Petit Duc (1878), numerous plays, and such classic grand opera libretti as Manon and Carmen. They scored another triumph with their libretto for the lasting Johnann Strauss II operetta Die Fledermaus (1874). Meilhac contributed to Herve's Mam'zelle Nitouche (1883). After Meilhac's death, one of his comedies was adapted into the landmark 1905 Viennese hit Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow).

 

Hall, Owen
(b. James Davis)
Librettist
b. April 10, 1853 (Dublin) - d. April 9, 1907 (Harogate, UK)

After checkered careers in law, politics and journalism, this theatre critic and inveterate gambler wrote his first musical script on a dare from London producer George Edwardes. The result was A Gaiety Girl (1893), the first in a series of international hits that would enrich both men -- with Davis using the pseudonym "Owen Hall" for all his stage credits. This was an ironic nod ("owing all') towards his gambling debts. The success of An Artist's Model (1895), The Geisha (1896) and The Greek Slave (1898) could hardly prepare anyone for the popularity of Florodora (1899), which triumphed in the UK, US and Europe. Hall also penned libretti for The Silver Slipper (1901), The Girl From Kay's (1902) and several less memorable shows. Despite his success, Hall's gambling left him nearly bankrupt when he died on the eve of his 54th birthday.

 

Halliday, Robert
Actor, singer
b. April 11, 1893 (Loch Lomond, Scotland) - d. March 1975 (California)
Herbert, Evelyn
(b. Evelyn Houstellier)
Actress, singer
b. 1989 (Philadelphia) - d. Oct. 31, 1975 (California)

Handsome baritone Halliday emigrated to the US, making his Broadway debut in the ensemble of The Rose Girl (1921). He worked his way into featured roles, winning attention as "Rollo Metcalf" in the Gershwin hit Tip-Toes (1925) -- in which he sang "Nice Baby" with Jeanette MacDonald. Halliday graduated to romantic leads as the original "Pierre/The Red Shadow" in The Desert Song (1926), where he introduced "The Riff Song" and "One Alone," and shared the title ballad with wife and co-star Evelyn Herbert -- who made her Broadway debut in Stepping Stones (1923), and rose to soprano stardom in Princess Flavia (1925) and My Maryland (1927)

Halliday and Herbert both enjoyed a rare combination of physical and vocal beauty, and their genuine passion for each other delighted audiences. They co-starred in The New Moon (1928), Halliday playing "Robert Mission" and Herbert originating the roles of "Marianne," and jointly introducing "Wanting You" and "Lover Come Back to Me." They also co-starred in Princess Charming (1930) and the London production of Waltzes From Vienna (1931). Ms. Herbert then starred in the ill-fated Melody (1933), and made her final Broadway bow in a brief revival of Bitter-Sweet (1934). Halliday starred in the short-lived Music Hath Charms (1934) and the spectacular Center Theatre staging of White Horse Inn (1936). He made his final Broadway appearance in the poorly received Three Wishes For Jamie (1952). After that, Halliday and Herbert enjoyed a long retirement at their "New Moon" ranch, dying within months of each other in 1975.

 

Hassall, Christopher Vernon
Lyricist
b. Mar. 24, 1912 (London) - d. Apr. 25, 1963 (London)

Hassall was an experienced actor serving as Ivor Novello's understudy in a minor London drama when Novello invited him to provide the lyrics for a new musical. The success of Glamorous Night (1935) opened a fifteen year professional partnership that included seven long-running West End hits. Glamorous Night (1935 - "Fold Your Wings"), Careless Rapture (1936 - "Music in May"), Crest of the Wave (1937 - "Rose of England"), The Dancing Years (1939 - "Waltz of My Heart"), Arc de Triomphe (1943) and King's Rhapsody (1949 - "Some Day My Heart") delighted audiences, but were all judged "too British" for America. After Novello's death, Hassall contributed the libretto and lyrics for the well received Dear Miss Phoebe (1950), and wrote the screenplay for a film version of King's Rhapsody (1955). He died at age 51 -- sources differ as to the cause.

 

Hayward, Leland
Producer, agent
b. Sept. 13, 1902 (Nebraska City, NB) - d. Mar. 18, 1971 (Yorktown Heights, NY)

A longtime Hollywood publicist & agent, Hayward's list of more than 150 clients included such musical screen legends as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Judy Garland. In 1945, he sold his agency and began producing for the stage and screen. Along with more than a dozen stage dramas -- including State of the Union (1945) and Mr. Roberts (1948) -- Hayward produced six major Broadway musicals. He teamed with Rodgers & Hammerstein to co-produce their Pulitzer Prize winning South Pacific (1949), solo produced Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam (1950), and teamed with Joshua Logan to present Harold Rome's Wish You Were Here (1952). Hayward also co-produced the simultaneous hits Gypsy (1959) and The Sound of Music (1959), which both became core works in the musical theater repertory. After producing the poorly received Berlin musical Mr. President (1962), he slowed his pace, presenting two unsuccessful dramas -- the last of which reached Broadway three months after his death due to a stroke at age 68.

 

Hazell, Hy
(b. Hyacinth Hazel O'Higgins)
Actress, singer
b. Oct. 4, 1922 (London) - d. May 10, 1970 (London)

This brassy British comedienne made her West End debut in the ensemble of On Your Toes (1937). She was featured in a long series of pantomimes before winning stardom as aging film star "Dixie Collins" in the West End hit Expresso Bongo (1958). She found international success as man-hungry "Mrs. Squeezum" in Lock Up Your Daughters (1959), a role she repeated in Australia. She might have conquered Broadway as "Catherine the Great" in Frank Loesser's Pleasures and Palaces (1965), but the show closed before reaching New York. Hazell bounced back from this disappointment by starring as "Kay" in the long-running London hit Charlie Girl (1965), and played "Mrs. Peachum" in a revival of The Beggar's Opera (1968). After the short-lived Ann Veronica (1969), she was appearing as "Golde" in London's Fiddler on the Roof when she accidentally choked to death at age 48.

 

Heneker, David
Composer, lyricist
b. Mar. 31, 1906 (Southsea, UK) - d. Jan 30, 2001 (Wales)

After serving as a brigadier in the British army (1925-1948), Heneker succeeded as a pop composer before turning his talents to a series of West End hits. He contributed music and lyrics to Expresso Bongo (1958) and lyrics only to the simultaneous hit Irma La Douce (1958) -- which succeeded on Broadway two years later. After collaborating on the modest success Make Me An Offer (1959), Heneker triumphed with the full score to the acclaimed Tommy Steele vehicle Half a Sixpence (1963). Heneker's unpretentious melodies and well-crafted lyrics helped to give this show profitable runs in both London and New York. A spirited but over-produced 1967 screen version did little justice to the material.

Heneker had an even longer London run with Charlie Girl (1965), which lasted five and a half years. The brief runs of Jarrocks (1966) and Popkiss (1972) appeared to mark the end of his career, but he returned in his 70s with the underrated charmer The Biograph Girl (1980) and the poorly received Peg (1984), a musicalization of the 1912 comedy Peg O' My Heart.

 

Hirsch, Louis Achille
Composer
b. Nov. 28. 1887 (New York City) - d. May 13, 1924 (NYC)

After getting his start as a Tin Pan Alley song-plugger, this prolific tunesmith began contributing songs to Dockstader's Minstrels and various Broadway productions. Hirsch became a staff composer for the Shubert Brothers, providing lighthearted melodies for numerous musicals. He also contributed songs to several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies, and collaborated with lyricist Otto Harbach on the popular Going Up (1917). Hirsch and Harbach also wrote the score for George M. Cohan's production Mary (1920), including the hit song "Love Nest." (This warm but simple melody was resurrected years later as the theme song for TV's Burns & Allen Show.) He died of pneumonia at age 36.

 

Holm, Hanya
(b. Johanna Eckert)
Choreographer
b. Mar. 3, 1893 (Worms, Germany) - Nov. 3, 1972 (NYC)

After staging the dances for Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate (1948) and Out of This World (1950), Holm won further acclaim for her work on the short lived My Darlin' Aida (1952) and the critically favored Golden Apple (1954). Her greatest success came when she was selected to choreograph Lerner and Loewe's record-setting My Fair Lady (1956), a triumph she repeated in London a year later. While there, she created dances for the West End production of Where's Charley? (1958). Back in New York, she choreographed the ill-fated Christine (1960), and the lavish original production of Camelot (1960). After the failure of Anya (1965), Holm withdrew from the Broadway scene, dedicating herself to teaching dance and choreography. In later years, assistants re-created her dances for various revivals of My Fair Lady. For more, see Walter Sorell's book Hanya Holm, The Biography of an Artist (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press).

 

Hood, Basil
Lyricist, librettist
b. April 5, 1864 (Yorkshire, UK) - Aug, 7, 1917 (London)

This graduate of Sandhurst served in the British army, attaining the rank of captain before he turned writer, contributing to dozens of late 19th and early 20th Century London musicals, including Gentleman Joe (1895), The Rose of Persia (1899), Emerald Isle (1901) and Merrie England (1902). He also collaborated with composer Lionel Monckton on The Girls of Gottenberg (1907), but Hood's most notable accomplishments were his English versions of German and Viennese operettas. These were adaptations rather than translations, usually bearing limited resemblance to the original German texts. Frequently working in tandem with Adrian Ross, Hood wrote book & lyrics for the London and Broadway premieres of The Merry Widow (1907), The Dollar Princess (1908), A Waltz Dream (1911), The Count of Luxemburg (1911) and Gipsy Love (1912). With the outbreak of World War I, German operetta fell out of vogue. Hood took a demanding job with the British War Office, which combined with his ongoing theatrical pursuits contributed to his sudden death at age 53.

 

Howes, Sally Ann
Actress, singer
b. July 20, 1930 (London)

This attractive blonde soprano is the daughter of Bobby Howes (1895-1972), original star of London's Mr. Cinders (1929), He Wanted Adventure (1933) and Hide and Seek (1937). Sally Ann had the advantages of exceptional beauty and had a superb soprano voice. She began her career appearing in several 1950s West End musicals, eventually co-starring with her father when she played "Jennifer Rumson" in the London production of Paint Your Wagon (1953). She traveled to Broadway to take over the role of "Eliza Doolittle" in My Fair Lady (1958). While there, she married composer Richard Adler and starred as "Eve" in his African musical Kwamina (1961) -- the marriage ended soon after the show's brief run, but Adler and Howes supposedly remained on cordial terms.

After winning raves as "Fiona" in a brief City Center revival of Brigadoon (1963), Howes appeared as "Kit Seargant" in What Makes Sammy Run? (1964). She is perhaps best known for co-starring with Dick Van Dyke in the popular screen musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), playing heiress "Truly Scrumptous." She returned to London to star as "Anna" in a revival of The King and I (1973) and as Jenny Lind in Tommy Steele's production of Hans Andersen (1976). She made a triumphant appearance as Desiree in the New York City Opera production of A Little Night Music (1991), and was in the stellar Broadway cast of James Joyce's The Dead (2000). Her non-musical roles have included numerous TV appearances and "Queen Gertrude" in Hamlet.

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