Who's Who in Musicals:
Additional Bios XVII
by John Kenrick
(b. Helen Becker)
b. Apr. 24, 1905 (New York City) - d. Aug. 4, 1966 (NYC)
A dancer at the Metropolitan Opera, Tamiris played an integral role in establishing the Federal Dance Project under the WPA. She made her Broadway debut staging the dances for Up in Central Park (1945), including a memorable Currier & Ives-inspired ice skating party. Suddenly in demand, her choreography was seen in a hit revival of Show Boat (1946) and the long-running original production of Annie Get Your Gun (1946). She would usually be at her best creating dances to fit historic or exotic settings.
Tamaris choreographed the hit revue Inside USA (1948), and received an early Tony Award for her dances in the now-forgotten musical comedy Touch and Go (1949) before staging a string of ill-fated musicals -- including the contemporary satire Flahooley (1950) and the period piece Carnival in Flanders (1953). She had far better luck evoking 1890's Coney Island in By the Beautiful Sea (1954), the raffish Marseilles waterfront in Fanny (1954) and the Pennsylvania Dutch world of Plain and Fancy (1955). A leading figure in the world of classical dance, she was co-founder of the Dance Repertory Theatre, and headed the School of American Dance for a dozen years. In 1960, she formed the Tamiris-Nagrin Dance Company with husband Daniel Nagrin.
Tanner, James Tolman
b. Oct. 17, 1858 (London) - June 18, 1915 (London)
After getting his start as an actor and playwright, Tanner became the creative right-hand of producer George Edwardes, serving as librettist, director, and so-called "architect in chief." for many of the Gaiety Theatre musicals -- the first British musical comedies, and the first works of that genre to enjoy international success. After providing the plot idea for A Gaiety Girl (1893), he directed The Shop Girl (1894), An Artist's Model (1895) and A Modern Trilby (1895). Thereafter, Tanner concentrated on creating libretti for such hits as The Toreador (1901), A Country Girl (1902), The Orchid (1903), Our Miss Gibbs (1909), A Quaker Girl (1910) and The Girl From Utah (1913). He died suddenly at age 56.
(b. Ernst Seifert)
b. May 16, 1892 (Linz, Austria) - Jan. 8, 1948 (London)
This lyric tenor became one of the greatest operetta stars of the 20th Century, his wooden acting and a rather well-stuffed physique offset by a golden voice. He appeared in numerous Vienna productions, culminating with the role of Sou Chong in Franz Lehar's Das Land des Lachelns (1929), introducing the popular "Das ist mein ganzes Herz.". The same show opened in London as The Land of Smiles (1931), where Tauber's English rendition of "You Are My Heart's Delight" won fresh acclaim. He played the title role in Paganini (1937), and was Franz Shubert in London's short-lived version of Blossom Time (1942). Because of his strong opposition to the Nazi policies, he left Austria and filed for British citizenship. Tauber both composed and starred in Old Chelsea (1942), introducing his own hit composition, "My Heart and I." He made his last major stage appearance in the Broadway version of his greatest Lehar hit, Yours Is My Heart (1946). A longtime smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1947, and continued singing until a few weeks before his death at age 55.
(b. Marie Susan Etherington)
b. July 15, 1864 (London) - Oct. 15, 1942 (London)
Best remembered as a dramatic character actress, Tempest first found stardom on the musical stage. A classically trained soprano, she was featured in several forgettable West End musicals before taking over the title role in the long-running Erminie (1885). When Tempest took over the title role in Dorothy (1887), she was credited with turning a minor success into a record-setting hit. A scandalous affair with her producer only added to the young actress's box office appeal. She starred in Doris (1889) and as "Kitty Carol" in both the London (1889) and New York (1990) productions of The Red Hussar, before touring the US in a repertory of operas and operettas.
Tempest returned to London to star as "Adele" in An Artist's Model (1895), then triumphed in the title role of The Geisha (1897), introducing "Love, Love" and "The Amorous Goldfish." After starring in The Greek Slave (1898) and the well-received San Toy (1899), she had a final argument with Edwardes, married a playwright and limited herself to non-musical roles. She spent her remaining years playing sharp-tongued ladies in drawing room comedies with great success, originating the role of Judith Bliss in Noël Coward's comedy Hay Fever (1925) and playing Fanny Cavendish in the London production of The Royal Family. She was named a Dame of the British Empire in 1937, and continued acting until months before her death at age 78.
(b. Richard Barker Cobb)
b. Mar. 2, 1847 (London) - d. Oct. 19, 1912 (London)
With a background in comic opera, Temple became the first leading baritone of the D'Oyly Carte troupe, originating some of the most beloved roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. He was the first to play "Sir Marmaduke Poindexter" in The Sorcerer (1877) and "Dick Deadeye" in HMS Pinafore (1878). Temple was the first "Pirate King" in Pirates of Penzance (1880), the original "Colonel Calverly" in Patience (1881), "Strephon" in Iolanthe (1882), and the armor-shedding warrior "Arac" in Princess Ida (1884).
Temple's most memorable performance came in the title role of The Mikado (1885), where he introduced "A More Humane Mikado" -- which was almost cut, but reinstated at the ensemble's request, and thereafter proved to be a reliable show-stopper. He introduced "The Ghosts High Noon" as "Sir Roderic" in Ruddigore (1887), and was the original "Sergeant Meryll" in Yeoman of the Guard (1888). After leaving the D'Oyly Carte company, he worked in a series of forgettable shows, performing into the early 20th Century.
(b. Norma Allison)
b. Nov. 13, 1904 (Columbus, KS) - d. Nov. 15, 1989 (Lynne, CT)
An attractive soprano, Terris made her Broadway debut in Queen O'Hearts (1922). After touring in Little Nellie Kelly (1923) and Be Yourself (1924), she appeared in A Night in Paris (1926) before winning her most memorable performance -- as the original Magnolia in Show Boat (1927). With Howard Marsh, Terris introduced "Make Believe," "You Are Love" and "Why Do I Love You?" They later co-starred in the short-lived Well of Romance (1930). Terris returned as Magnolia in the first revival of Show Boat (1932), but after the short-lived Great Lady (1938), left Broadway for good. She made several appearances in St. Louis Muny operettas, spending her later years as a volunteer at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut.
b. Jan. 30, 1871 (St. Helier, UK) - d. April 6, 1949 (Fleet, UK)
(b. Ellaline Lewin)
b. April 13, 1871 (Stanley, Falkland Islands) - d. June 16, 1971 (Richmond, UK)
Hicks made his mark as a light musical comedy star in London's The Shop Girl (1895), singing "Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back." When his wife, attractive soprano Ellaline Terriss took over as his co-star, the show became an even greater hit, opening the way for many more joint appearances on the West End in years to come. They co-starred in The Circus Girl (1896), A Runaway Girl (1898) -- which Hicks co-authored -- and The Cherry Girl (1903). When illness forced Terriss to miss several performances as The Dashing Little Duke (1909), Hicks took over her role.
After the failure of Captain Kidd (1910), Hicks and Terriss concentrated on comedy roles and music hall tours. Their brief return to musical comedy, Cash on Delivery (1917), confirmed the wisdom of their new career course. Hicks was knighted in 1935. He wrote numerous screenplays and made frequent film appearances in his later years, including the title role in Scrooge (1935) and playing "Sir John" in Lambeth Walk (1939), the film version of Me and My Girl. Terriss enjoyed a long retirement, living to see her 100th birthday.
b. Jan. 24, 1884 (London) - d. April 10, 1949 (London)
This prolific writer worked on some two dozen London musicals before collaborating with Guy Bolton on his first Broadway success, Lady Be Good (1924), with a score by George and Ira Gershwin. This led to two more Gershwin musicals, Tell Me More (1925) and Tip-Toes (1925). Thompson and Bolton scored a rare triple Broadway success as Rio Rita (1927), Funny Face (1927) and The Five O'clock Girl (1927) all triumphed in the same year.
After working alone on the hit Sons O' Guns (1929), Thompson returned to England, where he turned out a number of profitable but now forgotten West End musicals, including Seeing Stars (1935) and Going Places (1936), often in partnership with Bolton. In Thompson's final years, he and Bolton scored a surprise Broadway hit with the old-fashioned musical comedy Follow The Girls (1944).
(b. Eliza Hodges Thompson)
Actress, dancer, manager
b. Feb. 19, 1838 (London) - d. Nov. 17, 1908 (London)
Beginning as a child in London pantomimes, Thompson toured Europe as a dancer before appearing in a series of British burlesques -- musical shows that poked fun at legends, hit plays or social conventions, with women in revealing tights playing the major roles, and featuring rewrites of popular songs. She brought her own troupe of "British Blondes" to New York in Ixion (1868), where the sight of curvaceous women in tights playing male roles caused a sensation. Planned to last six weeks, their visit took up the better part of a year, breaking box office records. Thompson toured the USA and Britain several times over the next two decades, offering spoofs of Aladdin, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood and other popular tales.
Thompson was acclaimed for her disarming comic stage persona, but some colorful antics offstage added to her notoriety. Her public horsewhipping of a vituperative Chicago journalist inspired reams of press coverage. By the 1890s, Thompson's style of "high" burlesque fell out of fashion, and her career gradually fizzled out. An initially successful stint as a West End producer ended in failure, and several benefits were held to restore her financial security. After extended bouts with poor health, she died of pneumonia at age 60. For more, see Kurt Ganzl's carefully researched Lydia Thompson: Queen of Burlesque (NY & London: Routledge, 2002).
b. Sept. 19, 1889 (Kansas City, MO) - d. June 26, 1973 (Fallbrook, CA)
This diminutive character actor got his start in musicals, with featured roles in such forgettable vehicles as Girlies (1910) and Dr. Deluxe (1911). He found the role of a lifetime playing Eddie Kettle in Very Good Eddie (1915), introducing Jerome Kern's "Babes in the Wood." Truex took over the lead in Pitter Patter (1920), starred in Annie Dear (1924) and the London production of The Five O'clock Girl (1929). He co-starred in The Third Little Show (1931), the operetta Frederika (1937), and Helen Goes to Troy (1944). Truex starred in silent films with Mary Pickford, and continued to play character roles in sound films and television. He made his final musical Broadway appearance as ruthless mogul B.G. Bigelow in Flahooley (1951), but did not retire from acting until the mid-1960s.
Von Suppe, Franz
b. Apr. 18, 1819 (Spalato, Italy) - d. May 21, 1895 (Vienna)
The composer of more than 200 Viennese operettas, Von Suppe was one of the greatest figures in music during the late 19th Century. Although rarely heard today, Die Schone Galathee (1865), Fatinitza (1876) and Boccaccio (1879) were among the greatest hits of their time, enjoying international success.
(b. Robert Wiedenfeld)
b. Feb. 22. 1903 (Baltimore) - d. July 9, 1972 (Walnut Creek, CA)
A leading Metropolitan Opera star from 1937 through the early 1950s, this husky baritone made several memorable appearances in musicals. He was Broadway's original "Tony Esposito" in The Most Happy Fella (1956), introducing Frank Loesser's "My Heart is So Full of You." He also starred in the national tour. Weede played "Jacob Marley" in the TV musical The Stingiest Man in Town (1956). As "Phil" in Milk and Honey (1961), he was the first to sing Jerry Herman's "Shalom." After playing Edward Quinn in the ill-fated Cry For Us All (1970), he continued performing in operas and recitals until his death two years later at age 69.
b. April 4, 1913 (New York City) - d. Oct. 6, 1998 (NYC)
A successful novelist, Weidman received a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for co-authoring (with George Abbott) the libretto of the biographical musical Fiorello! (1959). He re-teamed with Abbott on the less successful Tenderloin (1960), then worked solo adapting his popular novel I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962). Weidman's update of The Blue Angel failed on Broadway as Pousse-Cafe (1966).
Wheeler, Hugh Callingham
b. Mar. 19, 1912 (Northwood) - d. July 26, 1987 (Pittsfield, MA)
This novelist and playwright became one of the most noted librettists of the 1970s. He adapted the Ingmar Bergman screenplay for Smiles of a Summer Night for Stephen Sondheim's musical A Little Night Music (1973) -- winning rave reviews and his first Tony. Wheeler updated the 1919 hit Irene (1973), and received a second Tony for his revised version of Candide (1973). His libretto could not save the incoherent rock musical Truckloads (1975), which closed in previews. Wheeler triumphed when he re-teamed with Sondheim for Sweeney Todd (1979), which brought both men Tonys. After The Little Prince and the Aviator (1982) died in previews, Wheeler retired.