Who's Who in Musicals:
by John Kenrick
(b. Catherine Gloria Balotta)
b. Nov. 20, 1926 (Cleveland, OH)
A gifted comedienne, Ballard appeared in USO shows before making her vaudeville debut on the RKO movie house circuit in 1943. She appeared in various national tours, as well as the London revue Touch and Go (1950) before making her New York debut as "Helen of Troy" in The Golden Apple (1954). Offbeat but sexy look, wicked comic timing and a socko belt voice brought Ballard rave reviews. After starring in the road flop Reuben Reuben (1955) she appeared in an ill-advised attempt to revive The Ziegfeld Follies (1957). That same year, Ballard played one of the stepsisters in Rodgers and Hammerstein's television musical Cinderella (1957), introducing "Why Would a Fellow Want a Girl Like Her?" with Agnes Ghostley.
Ballard originated the role of "The Incomparable Rosalie" in the Broadway hit Carnival (1961), introducing the hilarious "Humming." She became a popular favorite on American television, most notably in the NBC sitcom The Mothers-In-Law (1967-1970). Ballard enjoyed perennial success in cabarets, nightclubs and regional theatre productions, making only two return visits to Broadway -- in the title role of the short-lived Molly (1973), and taking over as "Ruth" in the long-running revival of The Pirates of Penzance (1982).
b. Nov. 6. 1960 (Bethesda, MD)
A cum laude graduate of Yale, this powerful singing actor appeared on the TV series Fame before making his Broadway debut originating the demanding title role of The Who's Tommy (1993), earning his first Tony nomination. It was the first of many troubled characters Cerveris would play in the course of his stage career. He originated the role of shipbuilder "Thomas Andrews" in Titanic (1997), and took over the title role in the off-Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 1999 -- a performance he repeated in Los Angeles and London.
Cerveris began a prolonged series of appearances in Stephen Sondheim musicals when he received the Tony as Best Featured Actor for his performance as "John Wilkes Booth" in the Broadway production of Assassins (2004). After co-starring with Patti Lupone in a Lincoln Center revival of Sondheim's Passion (2005), he teamed with her again for a Broadway revival of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (2005). Cerveris starred as "Kurt Weill" in Lovemusik (2006) before taking on a string of non-musical roles, including "Jorgen Tesman" in a Broadway revival of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (2009). After portraying Juan Peron in the New York revival of Evita (2012), he played gay father Bruce in Fun Home (2015), for which he received the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
An avid fan of rock music, Cerveris is guitarist in Bob Mould's band and has released a solo CD. His brother Todd and sister Marissa have also appeared in Broadway musicals.
b. July 13, 1971 (St. Louis MO)
This handsome tenor made his Broadway debut playing the title role in a revival of Candide (1997), and became a popular and critical favorite when he originated the role of factory worker-turned-stripper "Malcolm MacGregor" in The Full Monty (2000). Danieley has made numerous concert appearances, winning critical praise in the Encores productions of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Strike Up the Band, and as "Lt. Cable" in the Carnegie Hall/PBS all-star concert staging of South Pacific. He created the role of "Aaron Fox" in the Broadway production of Curtains (2007). Danieley married actress Marin Mazzie in 1997, and although they have made numerous joint concert appearances, they did not share a Broadway stage until they took over the leads in Next to Normal in 2010. He played the schoolmaster in Kander & Ebb's The Visit (2015).
b. Nov. 23, 1907 (David City, NE) - d. Sept. 24, 1978 (Colorado Springs)
Etting was studying art in Chicago when she began performing in a nightclub chorus. Her good looks and naturally powerful singing voice soon won her featured spots, and later star status. After making her mark in nightclubs, Etting made her Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927, introducing Irving Berlin's showstopper "Shakin' the Blues Away." Ziegfeld gave her a featured role in the musical comedy Whoopee (1928), where she introduced "Love Me Or Leave Me" -- which became her signature hit. After introducing "Get Happy" in the short-lived Nine Fifteen Revue (1930), she returned to Broadway a week later singing "Ten Cents a Dance" in Simple Simon. She made her final Broadway appearance reprising the classic "Shine On Harvest Moon" in Ziegfeld's valedictory Follies of 1931.
Etting's heartfelt way with a song made her one of the top-selling recording and radio stars of the 1920s and 30s. Because of Etting's unconventional beauty, Hollywood was never quite sure how to use her. She appeared in dozens of musical short subjects from the 1920s onwards, but only appeared in a few early talking features, including Roman Scandals (1933). Her longtime marriage to small time Chicago mobster Martin "The Gimp" Snyder plagued her early career, and his attempt to murder Etting's second husband (Myrl Alderman) led to scandalous press coverage in the late 1930s. Etting enjoyed a comeback in nightclubs during the late 1940s, and her colorful story provided the basis for the entertaining (if semi-fictionalized) screen musical Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) -- Doris Day played Etting, with James Cagney as Snyder.
b. April 8, 1912 (Oslo, Norway) - d. Oct. 12, 1969 (Oslo)
After winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals (1928, 1932, 1936), and an astounding ten World Figure Skating championships, this attractive blonde ended her amateur career and began appearing in professional exhibitions. Placed under contract at 20th Century Fox, Henie's success in One in a Million (1936) led to her starring in a popular series of eleven skating musicals through the late 1940's. She left the singing to others, and had sufficient charm to make up for her limitations as an actress.
Towards the end of World War II, it became widely known that Henie had been on cordial pre-war terms with Nazi officials, and this compromised her popularity. But Henie augmented her fading screen career by touring, and by producing a series of extremely successful skating spectaculars that enjoyed profitable runs in New York. She retired from performing in 1956. At the time of her death due to leukemia at age 57, she was one of the ten wealthiest women in the world.
(b. Lena Calhoun Horne)
b. Brooklyn, NY (June 30, 1917) - New York City (May 9, 2010)
This strikingly attractive African American vocalist made her professional debut at age 16 in the chorus of Harlem's legendary Cotton Club, and sang for some years with Charlie Barnet's big band. She appeared in Broadway's short-lived Blackbirds of 1939 and became a favorite in New York nightclubs before MGM signed her, making her the first black performer given an extended contract by any Hollywood studio. Horne was usually limited to singing one or two songs, making it easy for distributors in bigoted Southern states to edit out her appearances. However there was no way to edit out her sizzling performances in Cabin in the Sky (1943) and Stormy Weather (1943), two films that cemented her popularity. Horne recorded with many of the top swing bands of the 1940s, and became a popular pin-up girl for American GI's during World War II.
In the 1950s, Horne's involvement in the civil rights movement led to her being blacklisted from films and television, but her commitment to the cause remained unshaken. With the help of husband and arranger Lennie Hayton, she continued to make popular recordings and appear in nightclubs, including stints in Las Vegas. Horne starred as "Savannah" in the successful Broadway musical Jamaica (1957), and sang with vocalist Harry Belafonte in a recorded jazz adaptation of Porgy and Bess. She remained a top star in nightclubs for decades to come. Her later film roles include Glinda in The Wiz (1978). She returned to Broadway in triumph with the one-woman hit Lena Horne: A Lady And Her Music (1981), which brought Horne a special Tony Award for "distinguished achievement." She continued making concert and television appearances through the 1990s, then unofficially retired. This gifted and unique performer died in 2010 at age 92.
b. 1962 (Pittsburgh, PA)
The daughter of producer Gary Marshall, this versatile talent began her Broadway career as assistant to brother Rob Marshall in staging the dances for numerous productions, including Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1993). Ms. Marshall then served as choreographer for the revivals of 1776 (1997) and Kiss Me Kate (1999), the short lived Seussical (2000), and revivals of Follies (2001) and Little Shop of Horrors (2003). She was both director and choreographer for an acclaimed 2000 City Center Encores concert staging of Wonderful Town that moved to Broadway in 2003, bringing her a Tony Award for Best Choreography. Finally established as a director-choreographer, she brought her energetic style to revivals of The Pajama Game (2006) -- winning a second Tony for choreography -- Grease (2008), and Anything Goes (2011), which brought her a third Tony for choreography. She directed the Gershwin-inspired Nice Work if You Can Get It (2012), and the short-lived Broadway comedy Living On Love (2015). Her television projects include the dances for Matthew Broderick's Music Man (2003) and directing Tracey Ullman in Once Upon a Mattress (2005).
b. Oct. 9, 1960 (Rockford, IL)
This gifted actress made her Broadway debut in 1985 as a replacement in the original production of Big River, and stepped into various roles in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (1987) before her voluptuous looks and powerhouse soprano voice brought her critical praise creating the role of Clara in Sondheim's Passion (1994). Mazzie rose to star status originating the role of Mother in Ragtime (1998), and a year later re-teamed with her Ragtime colleague Brian Stokes Mitchell to costar as Lilli in the highly acclaimed revival of Kiss Me Kate (1999). Mazzie again costarred with Mitchell when she played Aldonza in a revival of Man of La Mancha (2002), and layed Lalume to his Hajj in the Encores concert staging of Kismet (2005). She took over the role of Lady of the Lake in the NY cast of Spamalot in 2006, and starred as Guenevere in the PBS Live at Lincoln Center broadcast of Broadway specials on PBS. Mazzie married Broadway actor Jason Danieley in 1997, and although they have made numerous joint concert appearances, they did not share a Broadway stage until they took over the leads in Next to Normal in 2010. Since then, Mazzie has appeared in the play Enron (2010), and played egocentric actress Helen Sinclair in the short-lived musical adaptation of Bullets Over Broadway (2014).
Dancer, actress, singer
b. Dec. 31, 1922 (Philadelphia, PA) - d. Nov. 1, 1961 (Fire Island, NY)
By age 11, she was studying dance with Catherine Littlefield, dropping out of high school to join Littlefield's ballet company. McCracken toured Europe and danced at Radio City Music Hall before creating the role of Sylvie, "the girl who falls down" in Oklahoma (1943). Although she didn't have a word of dialogue, Agnes DeMille's landmark choreography made McCracken an immediate celebrity. In Bloomer Girl (1944), she graduated to a speaking role, but dancing was clearly her greatest strength.
McCracken starred as "Maribelle Jones" in Jerome Robbins' dance musical Billion Dollar Baby (1945), and was featured in the short-lived Dance Me a Song (1950). She earned rave reviews as the acerbic "Betty Lorraine" in Me and Juliet (1953), introducing "It's Me!" A heart murmur made further dancing impossible, spurring McCracken to pursue dramatic roles in such plays as Odets's The Big Knife and Van Druten's I Am a Camera. She had two ill-fated marriages -- in the 1940s to dancer Jack Dunphy (who later became Truman Capote's longtime companion) and in the 1950s to Bob Fosse. When her health failed, she retreated to her Fire Island home, where she died from complications of diabetes at age 38.
(b. Joseph Mansfield)
b. Jan. 10, 1889 (Salt Lake City, UT) - d. Aug. 8, 1971 (Los Angeles, CA)
To avoid being connected with then-famous actor Richard Mansfield (no relation), this clean cut performer used his stepfather's last name. Touring from early childhood, Santley had no formal schooling. A child star on the road, he had to wait until age 21 to enjoy Broadway musical stardom in A Matinee Idol (1910) and Judy Forgot (1910). He also starred in Irving Berlin's Stop! Look! Listen! (1914) and the national tour of Jerome Kern's Oh Boy! (1917). He co-starred with wife Ivy Sawyer in Betty (1916), the first of 11 musicals they would work together in over the next decade.
Santley and Sawyer proved inseparable both on and off stage, appearing in Oh, My Dear (1918), The Half Moon (1920), several editions of Berlin's Music Box Revue, and The Wild Rose (1926). Their final joint appearance was in Just Fancy (1927), which Santley also co-authored and directed. After taking over Fred Astaire's role in the Broadway production of Gay Divorce (1933), Santley recognized that his youthful charms were fading. Retiring from the stage, he enjoyed a long second career as a Hollywood screenwriter and director, and later became a successful television producer.
Wiman, Dwight Deere
b. Aug. 8, 1895 (Moline, IL) - d. Jan. 20, 1951 (Hudson, NY)
This "gentleman producer" was an heir to the John Deere manufacturing fortune. After studying drama under Monty Woolley at Yale and appearing in several silent films, he established his credentials with a series of non-musical productions before producing and directing the intimate revue The Little Show (1929). He produced and co-authored the skits for two sequels, and became one of the few innovative musical producers to survive and thrive during the Great Depression. After producing Fred Astaire's career-making Cole Porter hit Gay Divorce (1932), Wiman shepherded five Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musicals to Broadway, including On Your Toes (1936), Babes In Arms (1937), I Married An Angel (1938) and By Jupiter (1942). He also produced Kurt Weill's operatic version of Street Scene (1947). During World War II he served as director of entertainment for the Red Cross in Britain. Wiman presented numerous non-musicals, eventually having 56 Broadway productions to his credit in a career barely spanning a quarter century. He died at age 55.