Who's Who in Musicals:
by John Kenrick
Aarons, Alexander A.
b. 1891 (Philadelphia) - d. Mar. 14, 1943 (Beverly Hills)
Son of theatrical producer and manager Alfred E. Aarons (1865-1936), Alex produced La La Lucille (1919) and the Astaire vehicle A Night Out (1925) before forming a lucrative partnership with former actor Vinton Freedley. They produced a series of hits with scores by George and Ira Gershwin, including Lady Be Good (1924), Tip-Toes (1925), Oh, Kay (1926), Funny Face (1927), and Girl Crazy (1930). They also produced DeSylva, Henderson & Brown's Hold Everything (1928). At the height of their success, Aarons and Freedley built the Alvin Theatre (a combination of their first names, Al + Vin). The deepening economic depression and the failure of Pardon My English (1933) forced them into bankruptcy, ending the partnership. In later years, Aarons relocated to Hollywood. At the time of his death, he was working as a consultant on the Gershwin bio pic Rhapsody in Blue (1945).
b. May 23, 1887 (London) - d. Dec. 6, 1958 (London)
Her mother, music hall legend Lottie Collins (1865-1910), popularized "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay." Jose got her start in music halls, making her West End debut in The Antelope (1908). She found stardom on Broadway, appearing in Vera Violetta (1911), The Merry Countess (1912), and sharing a duet with Al Jolson in The Whirl of Society (1912). Her revue appearances included the Ziegfeld Follies (1913) and The Passing Show (1914).
Back in London, the dark haired Collins triumphed as the gypsy girl "Teresa" in the long-running Maid of the Mountains (1917), introducing "Love Will Find a Way" and "A Paradise For Two." The production played to capacity audiences for almost four years, and only closed because Collins was tired of playing it. She remained a London favorite for several years, starring in A Southern Maid (1920), Sybil (1921), The Last Waltz (1922), Catherine (1923), Our Nell (1924) and Frasquita (1925). She spent the remainder of her long career appearing in revues and non-musical roles.
b. Feb. 8, 1879 (Warnsdorf, Austria) - d. Mar. 18,1961 (Vienna)
(b. Ludwig Pollitzer
b. March 1, 1872 (Vienna) - d. 1942 (Theresienstadt
Treumann was a theatre buff who abandoned a business career and made his way to the stage in light baritone roles at Vienna's Carltheatre. After Gunther made her debut the same house in a revival of Die Geisha (1901), she became a fixture in such hits as Das Susse Madel (1901). Gunther and Treumann were paired in a series of operettas, including Der Opernball and Franz Lehar's Der Rastelbinder (1902). Although neither was particularly attractive by contemporary standards, their stage chemistry delighted audiences and critics alike. They moved on to the Theater an der Wein to share their greatest triumph, originating the roles of "Hanna" and "Danilo" in Lehar's Die Lustige Witwe (1905). The first couple ever to sing and dance to "The Merry Widow Waltz," Gunther and Treumann would return to these roles several times over the years.
Gunther went on to star in Die Dollarprinzessen (1907), Das Furstenkind (1909), Eva (1911) and other hits, happy to remain in Austria where her fame was unshakeable. She remained active on Vienna stages until the late 1940s. Treumann continued to co-star periodically with Gunther until the 1920s, and enjoyed a solo career as both a performer and director. He retired after 1933.
(b. Viktor Hirschfeld)
b. Jan. 4, 1858 (Vienna) - d. Feb. 30, 1940 (Vienna)
This prolific author provided libretti for seventy five Viennese operettas. His early hits included Der Doppelganger (1886), Der Opernball (1898), Wiener Blut (1899), and composer Franz Lehar's Der Rastelbinder (1902). Leon frequently collaborated with Leo Stein, most notably to create the book and lyrics for Lehar's world-class hit, Die Lustige Witwe (1905) -- The Merry Widow. Leon remained active well into the 20th Century, providing the libretto for Lehar's Das Land des Lachelns (1930), among other works.
(b. Gillian Barbara Pyrke)
b. Feb. 20, 1927 (Bromley, UK)
After dancing with the Sadler's Wells ballet troupe, Lynne played Claudine in the London production of Can Can (1953), and Wanda in a revival of Rose Marie. She choreographed several revues before finding international success with The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd (1964) and the US production of Pickwick (1965). She remained active on both sides of the Atlantic, staging the dances for Broadway's How Now Dow Jones (1968) and London's Ambassador (1971), The Card (1973) and the film versions of Half a Sixpence (1966) and Man of La Mancha (1973).
A Royal Shakespeare Company revival of A Comedy of Errors brought Lynne in contact with director Trevor Nunn, who chose her to create the sinuous feline choreography for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats (1981) which Lynne would restage in numerous international productions through the 1980s. Lynne had similar worldwide success with Webber's Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love. She also choreographed Tomfoolery (1980), a West End revival of Cabaret (1986), and the London (2004) and NY (2005) productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was made a CBE in 1997.
Malone, J.A.E. "Pat"
b. (Mhow, India) 1863 - d. Feb. 3, 1929 (London)
From 1894 onwards, Malone directed musical comedies for producer George Edwardes, including over a dozen "poor girl loves aristocrat and wins him against all odds" shows that packed both The Gaiety Theatre and Daly's Theatre for more than two decades. The longest runners included The Shop Girl (1894), The Geisha (1896) The Toreador (1901), The Quaker Girl (1910), and The Girl From Utah (1913). He directed many of the Broadway transplants of these titles, and staged the British premiere of The Merry Widow (1907). In later years, Malone staged the West End productions of such American musicals as Sally, Tell Me More and Kid Boots, and was working on the British hit Mr. Cinders (1929) at the time of his death.
b. July 29, 1933 (Liverpool)
This spirited British performer originated the role of "Polly" in The Boyfriend (1954), introducing the title tune and "I Could Be Happy With You." She toured the US as "Liza" in My Fair Lady (1957), then took over the same role in the long-running London production two years later. Rogers continued to perform successfully on both sides of the Atlantic, starring in the first West End production of She Loves Me (1964), the American tour of Half a Sixpence (1966), the replacement cast of Broadway's Walking Happy (1966), and the original West End cast of I Do, I Do and an all-star London revival of No, No, Nanette (1976). She later toured the US in Camelot and 42nd Street.
(b. Leo Rosenstein)
b. Mar. 25, 1861 (Lemberg, Austria) - d. July 28, 1921 (Vienna)
Alone and in collaboration with others, Stein wrote some of Vienna's most popular operetta libretti, including Weiner Blut (1899), Das Susse Madel (1902), Vera Violetta (1907) and Die Csardasfurstin (1911). He is best remembered for teaming with Victor Leon to create the book and lyrics for composer Franz Lehar's Die Lustige Witwe (1905) -- known in English as The Merry Widow. Stein remained active until shortly before his death at age 60.
Actor, producer, manager
b. Dec. 5, 1816 (New York City) - d. Nov. 3, 1876 (NYC)
Born into an acting family, Wheatley made his Broadway debut in at age 10 in William Macready's production of William Tell (1826). After a successful career as a juvenile romantic actor in such plays as Nicholas Nickleby (1834) and The Belle's (1843), Wheatley moved into theatrical management. After reviving the fortunes of theaters in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., he took over as manager of the prestigious Niblo's Garden in 1862. At Niblo's, Wheatley produced and occasionally appeared in a series of relatively successful dramas and musical spectaculars. He is credited with putting together The Black Crook (1866), a musical extravaganza that set a new long-run record for Broadway, and enjoyed such unprecedented nationwide success that it redefined the possibilities for commercial theatre in the United States. With his fortune made, Wheatley retired in 1868. After his wife's death a year later, he remarried and lived out his final years away from the spotlight.
b. Feb. 7, 1854 (Philadelphia) - d. Oct. 7, 1935 (NYC)
This much loved comic actor made his first musical appearances at Broadway's Casino Theatre in a series of operettas. Wilson had a high falsetto stage voice. Unlike most stage clowns of that time, his comedy was rooted in characterization as well as slapstick. Stardom came when he was cast as "Cadeaux," the hapless thief in Erminie (1886), a role he returned to in periodic revivals into the 1930s.
Wilson played many other roles over the years, appearing as "Napoleon" in The Little Corporal, the title role of Victor Herbert's Cyrano de Bergerac (1899), and "Little Sammy" in the New York production of The Toreador (1902). Popular with his peers, he was elected the first president of Actor's Equity and led the union through the landmark strike that established its power in 1919. He chose to be buried among the impoverished actors in the Actor's Fund plot in Kenisco Cemetery.
b. June 19, 1842 (St. Peter in der Au, Austria) - d. Aug. 17, 1898
(Baden bei Wein)
Zeller led an unusual double life as a civil service bureaucrat and a successful composer. He wrote eight operettas, including Joconde (1876), Der Vagabund (1886) and the popular Der Vogelhandler (1891) and Der Obersteiger (1894). A perjury charge led to prison and public disgrace in the mid 1890s. Zeller died soon afterward at age 56.
(b. Eva Brigitta Hartwig)
b. Jan. 2, 1917 (Berlin, Germany) - d. Apr. 9, 2003 (Santa Fe, NM)
A onetime member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, this strikingly beautiful dancer starred as ballet diva "Vera Barnova" in the first London production of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's On Your Toes (1937), a role she repeated in the 1939 film version. The same songwriters gave Zorina wings to play the heavenly "Angel" in their Broadway production of I Married An Angel (1938). Zorina next played the seductive "Marina Von Linden" in Louisiana Purchase (1940), another role she repeated on film. All these performances were choreographed by George Balanchine, who she married in 1938.
Zorina's professional relationship with Balanchine ended with the short-lived Dream With Music (1944) -- they divorced two years later. After a decade attempting to re-enter the world of classical dance, Zorina made a final Broadway appearance as "Vera Barnova" in a short-lived revival of On Your Toes (1954). She married record producer Goddard Lieberson (from 1946 till his death in 1977), and spent a prolonged retirement outside of the spotlight. Her final marriage was to Paul Wolfe from 1991 until her death at age 86.