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Who's Who in Musicals:
Additional Bios XVI

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2004)

Ring, Blanche

Actress, singer
b. Apr. 24, 1871 (Boston, MA) - d. Jan. 17, 1961 (Santa Monica, CA)

(Note: Some early sources list Ring's birth date as 1877, an inaccuracy she encouraged until her death.) This small but energetic performer's family had been in theatre for several generations. She toured in stock and vaudeville, regularly encouraging audiences to sing along with her. Ring made her Broadway debut as "Millie Canvass" in The Defender (1902) singing her vaudeville hit, "In the Good Old Summertime." As audiences sang along with gusto, Ring began a four decade reign as one of Broadway's top musical comediennes. In Tommy Rot (1902), she played "Innocence Demure" and introduced "The Girl From Avenue A."

Ring usually sang with a pronounced brogue, delighting Irish-American listeners. She appeared in more than 20 stage musicals, introducing several hit songs, including "Come Josephine In My Flying Machine." Ring caused such a sensation with "I've Got Rings On My Fingers" in The Midnight Sons (1909) that she had to reprise the song in her next show, The Yankee Girl (1910). Taking over the lead in The Merry Widow Burlesque (1908), Ring interpolated her popular "Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay," and introduced "The Where Has My Hubby Gone Blues" in the pre-Broadway tour of No, No, Nanette (1925), but walked out of that show before the New York opening.

Ring's many non-musical stage roles included "Mistress Quickly" in a stellar Broadway revival of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I (1926). She was featured as "Mrs. Grace Draper" in Strike Up the Band (1930), and made her final musical appearance in the short-lived Right This Way (1938). After starring opposite Eva LaGallienne in the ill-fated costume drama Madame Capet (1938), Ring retired from Broadway. She appeared in several silent and sound films, playing herself in If I Had My Way (1940), but was unable to make much impact on screen. Married four times, her union with character actor Charles Winninger ended after a prolonged separation in 1952. She suffered a stroke in 1958 and died three years later in a nursing home at age 89.

Rounseville, Robert Field

Singer
b. Mar. 25, 1914 (Attleboro, MA) - d. Aug. 6, 1974 (NYC)

A classically trained tenor, Rounseville had the unusual distinction of offering memorable performances in grand operas, as well as popular films and stage musicals. He appeared in the Broadway ensembles of Babes in Arms (1937), Knickerbocker Holiday (1938), and Higher and Higher (1940), then took the featured role of "Camille" in a hit revival of The Merry Widow (1943). After appearing as "Andrew Munroe" in Up in Central Park (1945), Rounseville alternated between grand opera , regional theatre and films.  In 1951, he was the first "Tom Rakewell" in the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress at La Fenice in Venice. That same year, he created the role of "Channon" in the world premiere of David Tamkin's The Dybbuk at New York City Opera.

Then came two big screen appearances; the title role in a highly cinematic adaptation of Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman (1951), and the rough edged fisherman "Mr. Snow" in Carousel (1956). Back on Broadway, Rounseville originated the title role in Candide (1956), introducing Leonard Bernstein's "It Must Be So" and "Make This Garden Grow." On television, he appeared in several opera productions, and played Nanki-Poo opposite Groucho Marx's Ko-Ko in an NBC broadcast of The Mikado (1960). He appeared with Metropolitan Opera diva Dorothy Kirstein on a highly regarded studio recording of The Student Prince, and starred in NY City Center revivals of Brigadoon and Show Boat. Rounseville was the original "Padre Perez" in Man of La Mancha (1965), in which he introduced "To Each His Dulcinea." He repeated this role in a 1972 Lincoln Center revival. Two years later, at age 60, he died of a heart attack while teaching a voice class in his Carnegie Hall studio.

Rupert, Michael

(b. Michael Ruppert)
Actor, singer, composer
b. Oct. 23, 1951 (Denver, CO)

At age 16, Rupert made an impressive Broadway debut as "Bibi" in The Happy Time (1968), sharing the John Kander & Fred Ebb showstopper "A Certain Girl" with co-stars Robert Goulet and David Wayne -- and earning his first Tony nomination. Unlike many child performers, his talent and looks improved with time. After several years in TV and film, Rupert took over the title role in the long-running original Broadway production of Pippin  in 1976. He created the pivotal role of "Marvin" in William Finn's March of the Falsettoes (1981) Off Broadway, and served double duty as composer and co-star of the Off-Broadway stand-up comedy musical Three Guys Naked From the Waist Down (1985).

Rupert won a well-deserved Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical playing the manic "Oscar" in a revival of Sweet Charity (1986). After composing and starring as "Alex" in the short-lived Mail (1988), he played "Marvin" again Off-Broadway in Falsettoland (1990), and led the cast when Finn's two one acts came to Broadway as the surprise hit Falsettoes (1992). He took over the role of Tateh during the original Broadway run of Ragtime (1999), appeared in the 2004 Paper Mill revival of Baby, and played "Professor Callahan" in the Broadway production of Legally Blonde (2007). He also directed the aclaimed Off-Broadway musical Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story (2005).

Ryskind, Morrie

Librettist, lyricist
b. Oct. 20, 1895 (New York City) - d. Aug. 24, 1985 (Washington DC)

After providing lyrics and skits to revues, Ryskind unleashed his gift for zany comedy by co-authoring (with George S. Kaufman) the libretto for the Marx Brothers vehicle Animal Crackers (1928). When the Marx quartet went to Hollywood, Ryskind came along to adapt their stage hits for the screen, as well as pen a series of screenplays, including My Man Godfrey (1936) and Stage Door (1936).

Ryskind re-teamed with Kaufman to create the Broadway libretto for the biting political satire Strike Up the Band (1930), which had a score by George and Ira Gershwin. Ryskind & Kaufman re-teamed with the Gershwins to write the Pulitzer-Prize winning hit Of Thee I Sing (1931), and its short-lived sequel Let 'Em Eat Cake (1933). Ryskind had somewhat gentler fun with corrupt politicians in Louisiana Purchase (1940). After directing the ill-fated The Lady Comes Across (1942), he worked for several years in Hollywood until he was blacklisted for supposedly leftist political views. Ryskind eventually veered to the right, serving as the first editor of The National Review.

Saidy, Fred

(b. Fareed Milhelm Saidy)
Librettist
b. Feb. 11, 1907 (Los Angeles) - d. May 14, 1982 (Santa Monica, CA)

A journalist and screenwriter, Saidy wrote revue sketches before co-authoring the book for Bloomer Girl (1944) with Sig Herzig. Saidy had a solo triumph with the satirical libretto to Finian's Rainbow (1947). His big business satire Flahooley (1951) came and went quickly, but his Lena Horne vehicle Jamaica (1957 had a profitable run, and earned Saidy his only Tony nomination. He co-authored the well-received Betty Hutton TV musical Satins and Spurs (1954). After his Offenbach pastiche The Happiest Girl in the World (1961) closed quickly, Saidy collaborated on the screenplay for Finian's Rainbow, which was filmed in 1968.

Sanderson, Julia

(b. Julia Sackett)
Actress, singer
b. Aug. 20, 1887 (Springfield, MA) - d. Jan. 27, 1975 (Springfield, MA)

Born into an acting family, this attractive soprano was encouraged in her theatrical ambitions from an early age. At five foot three, with blue eyes and light brown hair, Sanderson embodied the Edwardian era's ideal of petite beauty. Making her New York debut as a teenager playing "Lady Mabel" in Winsome Winnie (1903), then a chorus role in A Chinese Honeymoon (1902), this small and attractive soprano had her first featured Broadway role as "Gillette" in a revival of Wang (1904). She followed with appearances as "Dora" in The Tourists (1906), "Peggy" in The Dairymaids (1907), and the London production of The Hon'ble Phil (1908), leading to her first star billing in the title role of Broadway's Kitty Grey (1909). After heading the London cast of The Dashing Little Duke (1909), Sanderson played Eileen in the New York run of The Arcadians (1910). She then co-starred in The Siren (1911) with Donald Brian, beginning their reign as Broadway's most popular musical stage duo of the 1910s.

Photos verify Sanderson's beauty, while period recordings reveal a voice of limited range but audible charm. In The Sunshine Girl (1913), Sanderson introduced "Honeymoon Lane." In The Girl From Utah (1914), she re-teamed with Brian to introduce " They Didn't Believe Me," the Jerome Kern song that helped define the sound of American popular music. The duo co-starred one more time in Sybil (1916), a now-forgotten musical comedy that delighted audiences of that time. After Rambler Rose (1917), The Canary (1918), and Hitchy-Koo (1920), Sanderson scored personal successes in Tangerine (1921) and Moonlight (1924). A favorite in vaudeville, she also starred in national tours of No, No, Nanette (1925) and Oh, Kay! (1927). She retired from the stage with her third husband, musician Frank Crumit. They co-hosted a weekly radio series from 1929 until Crumit's death in 1943, after which Sanderson retired to her estate in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Schneider, Hortense Catherine

Singer, actress
b. April 30, 1833 (Boreaux, France) - d. May 5, 1920 (Paris)

The first important star in musical theatre history, Schneider made her Paris debut in Le Violoneux (1855), a one act operetta by composer Jacques Offenbach. Over the next ten years, this petit and attractive soprano built her resume with his competitors, and lead such a scandalous private life that she was openly referred to as "le passage des Princes." Schneider originated the title role of La Belle Helene (1864), the first in a quartet of Offenbach super hits. Barbe-blue (1866) was followed by the title role in Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein (1867), where Schneider introduced "Dites-lui" and the show-stopping "Sabre Song." She also starred as the titular street singer in La Pericole (1868), and repeated most of these roles in London.

Despite Schneider's popularity, fiery tantrums and walk-outs made her a nightmare to work with. La Diva (1869) failed, as did Herve's La Veuve de Malabur. (1873), so Schneider turned to a revival of La Perichole before appearing in Herve's La Belle Poule (1875). When critics complained that Schneider looked old, she promptly retired from the stage. She remained a prominent and respected figure in Parisian society for the next five decades.

Secombe, Harry

Actor, singer
b. Sept. 8, 1921 (Swansea, UK) - d. April 11, 2001 (Surrey, UK)

This rotund Welsh tenor first showed his flair for comedy on British radio and television. He conceived and starred in the musical Pickwick (1963), a Dickens-inspired hit in which Secombe introduced the popular "If I Ruled the World." He repeated this role in the American production two years later, returning to London to star as a generously proportioned D'Artagnan in The Four Musketeers (1967). He won international acclaim as Mr. Bumble in the screen version of Oliver! (1968). After a featured role in the embarrassing film Song of Norway (1970), Secombe limited his musical appearances to holiday pantomimes for the next two decades. He starred in a revised Chichester Festival revival of Pickwick in 1993.

Smith, Edgar

Librettist, lyricist
b. Dec. 9, 1857 (Brooklyn) - d. Mar. 8, 1938 (Bayside, NY)

Originally an actor, this prolific writer contributed sketches, translations or original librettos to more than 60 Broadway productions between 1886 and 1930. Smith is best remembered for working burlesque musicals starring Joe Weber and Lew Fields, most notably Hurly Burly (1898), Cyranose de Bric-a-Brac (1898), Fiddle-Dee-Dee (1900), Twirly Whirly (1902) and Whoop-Dee-Doo (1903). He also wrote the much-abused libretto for the Al Jolson vehicle Robinson Crusoe Jr. (1916).

Smith, Robert Bache

Lyricist, librettist
b. June 4, 1875 (Chicago) - d. Nov. 6, 1951 (NYC)

This onetime reporter graduated from writing sketches for vaudeville to penning the lyrics for Broadway's Twirly Whirly (1902), which featured actress Lillian Russell's trademark hit, "Come Down Ma' Evenin' Star." While most of his musicals are forgotten, some of Smith's songs are still heard today. Occasionally teamed with his brother, librettist/lyricist Harry Smith, he also worked frequently with composer Victor Herbert -- their score for Sweethearts (1913) included the popular title tune and "Every Lover Must Meet His Fate." After The Pajama Lady (1930) closed out of town, Smith retired.

Stein, Joseph

Librettist
b. May 30, 1912 (New York City) - Oct. 24, 2010 (NYC)

This Bronx native began his career writing for various radio shows, providing comedy material for such stars as Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers and Tallulah Bankhead.  He was also part of the now-legendary writing team for Sid Caesar's landmark TV revue Your Show of Shows. After contributing to the successful Broadway revue Lend an Ear (1948) and the short lived Alive and Kicking (1950), Stein concentrated on writing librettos for book musicals, including Plain and Fancy (1955), Mr. Wonderful (1956), and the less successful efforts The Body Beautiful (1958) and Juno (1959). His luck took a decided turn with Take Me Along (1959), a warmly received adaptation of O'Neill's Ah Wilderness. His Enter Laughing (1963) -- a comedy based on the youthful experiences of colleague Carl Reiner -- succeeded on Broadway and was adapted for the big screen.

Stein's book for Fiddler On the Roof (1964) was a dramatic masterpiece, earning him two Tony Awards and traveling the world in countless productions and translations. Stein had continued success with the libretti for Zorba (1968) and the revival of Irene (1973). His later works were plagued with poor reviews and brief runs, including a musical version of Enter Laughing called So Long, 174th Street (1976), King of Hearts (1978), Carmelina (1979) and Rags (1986) all faded quickly. Although The Baker's Wife (1976) closed out of town, it later received a much-praised studio recording, succeeded in London and has enjoyed an afterlife in regional productions. Enter Laughing: The Musical (Stein's revised version of So Long 174th Street) won fresh praise off-Broadway in 2009. He remained active until his death at age 98 due to complications from a fall.

Stuart, Leslie

(b. Thomas Augustine Barrett)
Composer
b. Mar. 15, 1863? (Southport, UK) - d. Mar. 27, 1928 (Richmond, UK)

Stuart composed music hall numbers and interpolations for West End musicals before creating the score for Florodora (1899). Featuring the memorable "Tell Me Pretty Maiden," it had long runs and frequent revivals in both London and New York. Although his later shows are not often mentioned today, several were considered successes, including The Silver Slipper (1901), The School Girl (1903), The Belle of Mayfair (1906) and The Slim Princess (1911).  Despite his success, gambling debts forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1911, after which his income came from music hall appearances and occasional revivals of Florordora. Leslie was portrayed by Robert Morley in the British biographical musical film You Will Remember (1940).

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