Who's Who in Musicals: Co-Cu
by John Kenrick
Cochran, Charles B.
b. Sept. 25, 1872 (Sussex, UK) - d. Jan. 31, 1951 (London, UK)
Often referred to as "The British Ziegfeld," Cochran could claim a far longer and more successful career. He championed many of Britain's finest musical comedians, including Gertrude Lawrence, Jack Buchanan, Hermoine Baddeley, Elisabeth Welch and Bea Lillie. Cochran also played a vital role in the career of Noel Coward, featuring his songs in several revues and producing many of his finest book musicals - including Bitter Sweet (1929) and Conversation Piece (1934). Cochran also produced Private Lives, Coward's most popular comedy. Along with the landmark revues On With the Dance (1925), This Year of Grace (1928) and Words and Music (1932), Cochran produced the West End stagings of Rodgers & Hart's Ever Green (1930), as well as Cole Porter's Nymph Errant (1933) and Anything Goes (1935). Cochran remained active through the late 1940s and published two autobiographies recalling his years in the theatre. After being trapped in a scalding bath, he died at age 78.
Cohan, George Michael
Actor, composer, lyricist, librettist, playwright, producer, director
b. July 4, 1878 (Providence, RI) - d. Nov. 5, 1942 (New York City)
One of the most versatile talents the theater will ever know, Cohan got his start in variety and vaudeville with his family act, "The Four Cohans." They made their joint Broadway debut in George's musical The Governor's Son (1901), but it was in Little Johnny Jones (1904) that the young Cohan established himself as a top-level composer, lyricist, librettist, director and actor. Teaming up with producer Sam Harris, he proved an adept manager as well. By the time Cohan was thirty, he was referred to as "The Man Who Owns Broadway." Cohan's twenty-eight Broadway musicals included Forty-five Minutes From Broadway (1906) with "Mary's a Grand Old Name" and its popular title tune, George Washington Jr. (1906) with the rollicking march "You're a Grand Old Flag," and Little Nellie Kelly (1922). His "Over There" became an ounofficial theme song for American troops during World War One. He also wrote 20 non-musical plays, and produced several shows written by others.
The only thing that matched Cohan's talent was his ego he knew his worth as a theatrical talent and never let anyone forget it. While his unshakeable confidence helped to make him a success, it also led to his greatest professional disaster. When American actors unionized in 1919 to end years of abusive treatment, Cohan took this as a personal insult and sided with the producers. The result was a feud with Actors Equity that echoed through Cohan's later years. He starred in Eugene O'Neill's comedy Ah, Wilderness! (1934) and played "President Franklin Roosevelt" in Rodgers & Hart's musical satire I'd Rather Be Right (1937) always refusing to sign a standard Equity contract. He appeared in only one sound film, playing a dual role in the unsuccessful Phantom President (1932). To the end of his career, Cohan ended his performances by saying, "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I assure you, I thank you." For more on his extraordinary life and career, see our special sub-site Cohan 101.
(b. Seymour Kaufman)
b. June 14, 1929 (New York City) - Nov. 18, 2004 (NYC)
An outstanding jazz musician with classical training, Coleman's stage scores ran the gamut from rock to operetta. He made his Broadway debut with music and lyrics for John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953). With lyricist Carolyn Leigh, he composed Wildcat (1960) for Lucille Ball ("Hey, Look Me Over") and Little Me (1962) for Sid Caesar ("Real Live Girl"). Coleman collaborated with lyricist Dorothy Fields on director Bob Fosse's production of Sweet Charity (1966). The score included "Hey Big Spender" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now," the latter introduced on Broadway by Gwen Verdon. Coleman and Fields also provided the score for director Michael Bennett's Seesaw (1973).
Coleman composed the intimate hit I Love My Wife (1976) with book and lyrics by Michael Stewart, and penned the international hit Barnum (1980) ("The Colors of My Life") with Stewart and co-librettist Mark Bramble. The versatile Coleman teamed with Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the operetta-style spoof On the 20th Century (1978), winning a Tony for Best Score. They shared another Best Score Tony for Will Rogers Follies (1991). Coleman co-produced, composed the music and even provided some lyrics for the ill-fated Welcome to the Club (1989), while simultaneously composing the Tony-winning hit City of Angels (1989) with lyrics by David Zippel. Coleman's last Broadway score to date was for the The Life (1997), featuring lyrics by Ira Gasman. He died of a sudden heart attack at age 75.
(b. Elizabeth Cohen)
librettist, screenwriter, actress
b. May 3, 1915 (New York City) - d. Nov. 23, 2006 (NYC)
This graduate of NYU's Steinhardt School and Adolph Green got their start as writer/performers in 1930s New York cabaret and network radio, teaming with actress Judy Holliday in a comedy act known as "The Revuers." Comden & Green made their Broadway debut in On The Town (1944), for which they wrote the book and lyrics, with music by composer Leonard Bernstein -- Comden originated the role of "Claire DeLoone". The lyricists introduced "I Get Carried Away," and the score included the hit song "New York, New York" ("a hell of a town!"), and the soulful "Lonely Town." Comden and Green next became part of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, where they wrote lyrics and original screenplays for such classic films as Singin' In The Rain (1952) and The Bandwagon (1953). They returned to New York to collaborate with Bernstein on Wonderful Town (1953), winning their first joint Tony for Best Book of a Musical.
Eventually, Comden and Green created the lyrics and/or libretti for more than a dozen Broadway musicals. They teamed with composer Jule Styne to add key songs to Mary Martin's memorable Peter Pan (1954), including "Never Never Land" and the hilarious "Captain Hook's Waltz." With Styne, they created Bells Are Ringing (1956) for old friend Judy Holliday, giving her the touching "The Party's Over" and the catchy hit "Just in Time." The same trio wrote the modestly successful Do Re Mi (1960), which included "Make Someone Happy." In the 1960s and 70s, Comden and Green toured in several versions of their delightful two-person show. They won Tonys for the book and lyrics of Jule Styne's Hallelujah Baby (1969), the only time Best Musical went to a show that had already closed.
Comden and Green received another joint Tony with the libretto for Applause (1970). Teamed with composer Cy Coleman, they provided Tony-winning book and lyrics for On the Twentieth Century (1978). The Will Rogers Follies (1991) brought the three of them yet another Tony for Best Score. Comden and Green remained active collaborators, writing together almost daily until Green's death in 2002. They had enjoyed the longest lasting writing partnership in musical theatre history. At Green's memorial, Comden broke many to tears when she took the stage alone for the first time in decades and said, "Oh my, it feels awfully lonely out here."
b. October 25, 1927 (Atlanta, GA)
This beloved performer has long dazzled audiences with a crystalline soprano voice, classic beauty and a disarming stage presence. She won her first Broadway raves as "Sandy" in Flahooley (1951), then appeared as "Hilda Miller" in Plain and Fancy (1955) and originated the role of "Cunegonde" the cult favorite Candide (1956) in which she introduced Leonard Bernstein's death-defying aria "Glitter and Be Gay." She created the role of "Marian Paroo" in Meredith Willson's The Music Man (1957), introducing "Goodnight My Someone," "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You." Cook's enchanting performance brought her a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and made her a top-rank Broadway star. She starred as "Anna" in an acclaimed City Center revival of The King and I (1960) and played "Leisl Brandel" in the short-lived Arthur Schwartz- Howard Dietz musical The Gay Life (1961), introducing "Magic Moment" and "The Label on the Bottle."
Cook also created the role of "Amalia" in Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's She Loves Me (1963), introducing "Dear Friend," "Will He Like Me?" and "Ice Cream." After the failure of both Something More (1964) and The Grass Harp (1971), she withdrew from the public eye for several years. She cast aside her ing'nue attitude and took on a more generously proportioned figure. In the late 1970s, Cook began a new career of cabaret and concert appearances, making a sensational debut at Carnegie Hall and releasing a series of popular recordings. Her only returns to musical theater have been for the historic New York Philharmonic concert version of Follies and the short-lived British musical production of Carrie (1988). She enjoyed Broadway concert runs in Mostly Sondheim (2001) and On Broadway (2004), and continues to make acclaimed cabaret appearances. In her 80s, she won personal raves in the Broadway revue Sondheim on Sondheim (2010).
b. 1890 - d. Feb. 29, 1944 (Encino, CA)
Although not as well remembered as Busby Berkeley, Connolly was one of the most prominent choreographers in show business from the 1920s onwards. After making his New York debut dancing in Hitchy-Koo (1920), he choreographed two dozen Broadway productions, including The Desert Song (1926), Good News (1927) for which he staged the original "Varsity Drag" Funny Face (1927), The New Moon (1928), and two editions of the Ziegfeld Follies (1931, 1934).
Connolly did some of his most memorable work in Hollywood. He staged the dances for over a dozen films at Warner Brothers, including Sweet Adeline (1935), Go Into Your Dance (1935), and the classic "dancing on a typewriter" sequence in Ready, Willing and Able (1937). He moved on to MGM, beginning with the classic dances for The Wizard of Oz in 1939 (just think of what it took to manage all those munchkins!), Broadway Melody of 1940 and For Me and My Gal (1942).
(b. Esmerelda Courtneidge)
b. April 1, 1893 (Sydney, Australia) - d. April 26, 1980 (London, UK)
Actor, singer, producer
b. April 24, 1892 (Ely, UK) - d. Mar. 25, 1978
Courtneidge made her London debut at the age of ten as a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. During World War I, she appeared in music halls as a male impersonator, earning a reputation for racy comedy. She was featured in several London musicals before meeting and marrying musical comedy star Jack Hulbert in 1923. Courtneidge and Hulbert co-starred in a series of London musical hits, including The Little Revue Starts at 9 (1923), By the Way (1925), Lido Lady (1926) and The House That Jack Built (1929). Courtneidge's boisterous mix of elegance and slapstick was considered "too British" for American audiences. While her occasional visits to Broadway brought hostile reviews, she remained London's darling.
Through the 1930s, Courtneidge appeared in a number of films. She and her husband returned to the stage with Hide and Seek (1937) and the long-running Under Your Hat (1938). During World War II, they made several frontline tours to entertain the troops, and delighted Londoners with Full Swing (1942) and Something in the Air (1943). Hulbert became Cicely's director, staging Under the Counter (1945) and Gay's the Word (1951), a London hit with songs by Ivor Novello.
Hulbert's efforts as a producer eventually panned out, and he occasionally toured England with his wife in comic plays and revues. Courtneidge was miscast as "Madame Arcarti" in the London production of High Spirits (1964), a musical based on Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Honored with the title Dame of the British Empire in 1972, Courtneidge made her final film appearance that same year in Not Now Darling. The still-devoted couple shared the stage a final time in their 70s, reviewing their careers in Words and Music (1976).
Coward, Noel Pierce
Actor, singer, playwright, composer, lyricist, director, producer
b. Dec. 16, 1899 (Teddington, England) - d. Mar. 26, 1973 (Jamaica)
Noel Coward not only did it all he did it with a personal flair that made him one of the definitive cultural figures of the 20th Century. As a child actor, Coward played "Slightly" in London's Peter Pan as well as many other roles. He achieved West End stardom while starring in his own play The Vortex (1924). Coward's hit comedies included Hay Fever (1925), Private Lives (1930), and Blithe Spirit (1941). He contributed songs to producer Andre Charlot's London revues, and created the complete scores numerous book musicals. Many of Coward's earliest hits were produced by London showman Charles Cochran, including Bitter Sweet (1929), Words and Music (1932), and Conversation Piece (1934). Coward's epic drama Cavalcade (1931) became an Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1933. His later book musicals included Sail Away (1961) and The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963).
Coward was closely identified with Gertrude Lawrence, a friend who appeared with him in Private Lives and the play cycle Tonight at 8:30 (1936). Coward made successful cabaret appearances in London and Las Vegas. His best screen performances were in the non-musicals In Which We Serve (1942) and Our Man In Havana (1960). Coward's final stage project was directing longtime friend Bea Lillie in High Spirits (1964), a Broadway musical version of Blithe Spirit. His songs are featured in two popular revues Cowardly Custard and Oh Coward. For more, you can read Philip Hoare's comprehensive biography Noel Coward (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995) or check out our special section, Noel Coward 101.
(b. Michael Dumble-Smith)
b. January 19, 1942 (Salisbury, UK)
As a choirboy, he toured in the premier production of Benjamin Britten's Let's Make an Opera, and went on to work extensively in British radio, television and film. Despite a meager singing voice, his goofy comic style led to several male ing'nue roles in musical films, including "Hero" in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) and "Cornelius" in Hello Dolly (1969). He starred in several British sitcoms, making his stage musical debut playing the title role in Billy (1974). Polishing his singing skills, he followed this with the title role in the London production of Flowers for Algernon (1979).
A West End sensation in the title role of Barnum (1981), he won an Olivier Award for his performance, which was recorded for home video release. Andrew Lloyd Webber selected Crawford to create the title role in Phantom of the Opera (1986). Crawford's eccentric, soulful performance electrified audiences for one year in London and one in New York, receiving the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He also starred in the Los Angeles production. Since then, he has recorded several albums and made numerous international concert tours. He starred in the Las Vegas spectacle EFX (1995), returned to Broadway as the blood-sucking "Count von Krolock" in the short-lived Dance of the Vampires (2002). On the West End, he played the morbidly obese "Count Fosco" in The Woman in White (2004), and the title role in Lloyd Webber's production of The Wizard of Oz (2011).
(b. Harry Lillis Crosby)
b. May 3, 1903 (Tacoma, WA) - d. Oct. 14, 1977 (Madrid, Spain)
A childhood enthusiasm for a newspaper comedy feature called "The Bingville Bugle" earned him the nickname "Bingo" soon shortened to Bing. As one of the three Rhythm Boys, Crosby was singing with Paul Whiteman's band when the advent of microphones and radio made a more intimate and jazzy form of singing possible. As "crooning" (singing with a wavering, cry-like undulation between notes) became all the rage in the 1920s and 30s, Crosby became a superstar. With dozens of hit recordings and a popular radio series, Crosby helped redefine the sound of American popular music. Paramount Studios made Crosby their primary musical star, featuring him in more than 40 screen musicals between 1930 and 1950. Along with his resonant singing voice, Crosby always came across as relaxed and natural making him an irresistible screen star. His memorable films included The Big Broadcast (1932), Mississippi (1935), Anything Goes (1936), Pennies From Heaven (1936) and Holiday Inn (1942). Crosby's early film songs included "Temptation," "Three Little Words," "Blue Hawaii," "Ac-Cen-Tuate the Positive" and one of the top selling songs of all time, "White Christmas."
Crosby appeared with Bob Hope in a series of seven "Road" comedies, introducing the hit songs "Road to Morrocco" and "Put It There, Pal." Although the two stars were good friends off screen, writers concocted a fictional feud that kept their radio fans laughing for decades. As the genial "Father O'Malley" in Going My Way (1944), Crosby introduced "Swingin' On a Star" and won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He repeated the role in Bells of St. Mary's (1945), singing "Aren't You Glad You're You." One of the top radio stars of the 1940s, his string of films hits continued with Blue Skies (1946) and The Emperor Waltz (1948). Through the next decade, Crosby segued easily into television, and starred in another eleven musical films, including White Christmas (1954), The Country Girl (1954) and High Society (1956).
Along with his annual televised Christmas specials, Crosby co-starred with Julie Andrews in the TV musical High Tor (1956). The underestimated Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964) was Crosby's last musical film. His laidback talents aged well, and enthusiastic audiences applauded his occasional concert appearances. He was one of the narrators of MGM's That's Entertainment (1974), and continued performing to the end of his life. A negative book published by his alcoholic son Gary has long since been discredited (by Gary's brothers, among others) as hateful bilge. Bing Crosby remains one of the most beloved performers of the 20th Century. For more, see Gary Giddens's detailed biography Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams - The Early Years 1903-1940. (Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 2001).
b. Mar. 2, 1930 (Knoxville, TN)
A superb dramatic actor with a powerhouse baritone, Cullum made his Broadway debut creating the role of Sir Dinidan in Lerner and Loewe's Camelot (1960). As understudy for King Arthur, he became friends with Richard Burton and was cast as Laertes in Burton's all-star production of Hamlet. Cullum achieved star status playing Dr. Mark Brucker in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965), introducing Lerner and Lane's "Come Back to Me" and the soaring title tune. Cullum took over the grueling title role in the original production of Man of La Mancha in 1967, a part he would return to with relish throughout his career. He later took over as Edward Routledge in 1776, singing the fiery "Molasses to Rum" a task he repeated with extraordinary effectiveness in the 1972 film version.
Cullum won his first Tony as the peace loving farmer Charlie Anderson in the Civil War musical Shenandoah (1975), and his second playing the maniacal producer Oscar Jafee in the comic operetta On the Twentieth Century (1978). His numerous television roles include a farmer in the apocalyptic The Day After (1983), and the garrulous bar owner Holling in the popular CBS series Northern Exposure.
Cullum has returned frequently to the theater, starring in a revival of Shenandoah and taking over the role of Captain Andy in the long-running Hal Prince revival of Show Boat. He scored a fresh triumph as the greedy tycoon Caldwell P. Cladwell in the satiric musical Urinetown (2001), and originated the role of Old Max in the Broadway version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2006). At age 80, Cullum won fresh praise creating the role of the Interlocutor in Kander & Ebb's The Scottsboro Boys (2010), reaffirming his place as one of the American theater's most versatile and beloved stars.