Who's Who in Musicals: I To K
by John Kenrick
Irving, George S.
(b. George Shelasky)
b. Nov. 1, 1922 (Springfield, MA)
This beloved character actor made an auspicious debut in the original ensemble of
Oklahoma! (1943), only to find himself
drafted within days to serve in World War II. He returned, and eventually appeared in
more than twenty two Broadway musicals. Irving's mellifluous voice and gift for broad
comedy provided some of the brightest moments in both flops and hits.
Call Me Mister (1946), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949),
Me And Juliet (1953), Bells Are Ringing (1956), Irma La Douce
(1960) and The Happy Time (1968) were among his hits. His most memorable moments
in flops include the hilariously profane "Butler's
Song" which he sang as "Marlowe" in So Long, 174th Street (1976).
Irving won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical playing the outrageous fashion
designer "Madame Lucy" in the revival of Irene (1974). His brilliant performance as
"Mr. Macawber" was not enough to save Copperfield (1981), but he won well-earned
raves for his performances as "Sergei" in On Your Toes (1983) and
"Sir John" in the NY production of Me And My Girl (1986). Irving was married to the late
Maria Karnilova for over fifty years. They
appeared as the "King" and "Queen" in NY City Opera's production of Rodgers and
Hammerstein's Cinderella. At New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, Irving
appeared as "Pickering"
in My Fair Lady (2002), "Merlin/Pellinore" in Camelot (2003)
and "Mr. Marachek" in She Loves Me (2004). His delightful one man
show toured briefly in the summer of 2004, and he once again played "Marlowe"
in the York Theatre's Enter Laughing (2010), a
revised version of So Long 174th Street).
(b. Elsie Bierbower)
b. Mar. 16, 1889 (Columbus, Ohio) - d. Feb. 26, 1956 (Los Angeles, CA)
Elsie made her stage debut at the age of 8, and an enchanting personality
soon made her one of vaudeville's most popular stars.
She was relentlessly encouraged by her mother Jane, who made the
claim, "There are Elsie Janises born every day, but not mothers to
give up their whole lives for them." When Elsie's father objected to
the little girl having a career, her mother swiftly divorced him. Little
Elsie was always noted for her celebrity impersonations and topical
songs, which evolved over the years to reflect changing tastes.
Janis made her New York debut at age 16 in the New York Theatre
roof garden revue When We Were Forty-One (1905). Her Broadway
musical appearances included The Vanderbilt Cup (1906), The Fair Co-Ed
(1908) and a Cinderella
re-do called The Lady of the Slipper (1912). She triumphed in London on
several occasions, including two editions of The Passing Show (1915-1916).
Ziegfeld featured Janis in The Century Girl (1917). Although one
of her biggest hit songs was "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier,"
she entertained troops during World War I so tirelessly that she became known as
"The Sweetheart of the AEF."
After the war, Janis returned to vaudeville and re-conquered
Broadway in a revue shamelessly called Elsie Janis and Her Gang
(1919). She starred in the national tour of the
Gershwin Brothers' hit Oh Kay in the late
1920s. When vaudeville faded, Janis became a story and talent consultant for Paramount
Studios. She provided scripts and lyrics for various films, including the early screen
musical Madam Satan (1930). Her only known talking film appearance
was in Women in War (1939). When she died at age 66, childhood friend Mary
Pickford was at her bedside.
(b. Asa Yoelson)
Minstrel, vaudevillian, singer, actor
Mar. 26, 1886? (Seredzius, Lithuania) - Oct. 23, 1950 (San Francisco, Cal.)
The exact date of his birth is in doubt, but his impact on popular culture is
undeniable. The immigrant son of a Russian cantor, Jolson starred in various vaudeville
acts before joining Lew Dockstader's Minstrels in 1909. While performing in blackface
he introduced the "mammy songs" and jazz whistling which became his
trademarks. His blackface character Gus had an "everyman" quality that
appealed to audiences of the time, and his exuberant singing style was frequently
imitated but never equaled. He made his Broadway debut at the Winter Garden Theatre
in La Belle Paree (1911), beginning a long association with that house and
its owners, Lee and Jacob Shubert. The Shuberts billed
Jolson as "The World's Greatest Entertainer," a title Jolson readily
He starred in thirteen Broadway musicals, including Robinson Crusoe Jr.
(1916), Sinbad (1918), Bombo (1921) and Big Boy (1925), none of
which are revivable today. These loosely constructed shows were flexible enough
for Jolson to interpolate new songs whenever he felt so inclined. His hits include
"Mammy," "Swanee," "Rock-a-bye Your Baby" and
"California, Here I Come." By the 1920s, thanks to Jolson's endless touring
and numerous best-selling recordings, almost everyone in America knew his name and his
voice. In a time before radio, sound film or television, that was an astounding
In 1927, Jolson starred on screen in
The Jazz Singer, the landmark feature
that made talking film a commercial sensation. He appeared in a dozen more movies, but
the camera never did full justice to his bigger-than-life performance style. When his
fourth wife Ruby Keeler became a major film star, Jolson's
jealous behavior drove her to divorce. Two film bios based loosely on his life (and
using his singing voice on the soundtrack) revived his flagging career
The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949). He was a popular
presence on radio, both as a guest artist and as the star of his own variety series. A
dedicated USO performer from World War I onwards, Jolson died of a heart
attack shortly after an
exhausting tour of US military camps in Korea. For more on this mercurial talent, see
Herbert G. Goldman's Jolson: The Legend Comes to Life (Oxford Univ.
Press, NY, 1988). You can also find more in our special site feature,
b. Mar. 31, 1934 (Smithton, PA)
A warm soprano voice and wholesome beauty attracted the attention of
Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II, who
personally selected Jones to play Laurie in the screen
version of Oklahoma (1955) and Julie Jordan in Carousel (1956)
both opposite handsome baritone Gordon MacRae.
Jones made her final musical screen appearance as Marion the librarian in
The Music Man (1960). A fine dramatic actress, she won an Oscar playing
a prostitute in Elmer Gantry (1960). Married at one time to
actor Jack Cassidy, she co-starred with him in
Maggie Flynn (1968), a short-lived Broadway musical about New
York's Civil War draft riots. Jones worked with stepson David Cassidy in the
popular 1970s television sitcom The Partridge Family. She has continued
to make frequent concert and television appearances, and hosted the
PBS documentary Hollywood Singing and Dancing (2008).
b. June 17, 1869 (Leeds, UK) - d. Jan. 29, 1946 (Kew, Surrey, UK)
Though his works are rarely heard today, Jones was the one of the first British
stage composers after Arthur Sullivan
to enjoy international success. His early scores show Sullivan's stylistic
influence, including such tuneful hits as A Gaiety Girl (1893) and
The Geisha (1896), both with lyrics by Harry Greenbank. Jones was closely
associated with producer George Edwardes, who is
credited with popularizing musical comedy in Britain. One of Jones' last shows for
Edwardes was The Girl From Utah (1913), a mediocre show which is primarily
remembered because its 1916 Broadway production added the song which brought fame
to composer Jerome Kern
"They Didn't Believe Me."
Unwilling to adapt to changing musical tastes, Jones stopped composing in
1916, opting for a prolonged retirement.
b. Feb. 17, 1928 (Littlefield, TX)
b. Sept 12, 1929 (Dallas TX)
The musicals of Schmidt and Jones offer a distinctive combination of
sentiment and structural innovation. Their intimate
masterpiece The Fantasticks
(1960) ran for an astounding 41 years at New York's Sullivan Street Playhouse,
introducing "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "Try to Remember."
For Broadway, this team fashioned 110 in the Shade (1963), the two person
gem I Do, I Do (1966), and the less popular Celebration (1969). In
the 1970s, they developed a experimental series of musicals at an off-Broadway
theater of their own, resulting in Philemon (1975), among other shows. Their
musical version of Thornton Wilder's Our Town has yet to be seen in New York.
b. Feb. 10, 1884 (New York City) - d. Sept. 18, 1947 (Los Angeles, CA)
Kalmar got his start working with various composers, but spent most of his career
collaborating with Harry Ruby. They met
in the 1910s, and went on to create songs for
such Broadway revues as The Ziegfeld Follies (1920) and The Greenwich Village
Follies (1922). Their successful scores for Five O'Clock Girl (1927) and
Animal Crackers (1928) attracted major attention just as film made the
switch to sound, and Kalmar and Ruby became one of Hollywood's first top songwriting
Kalmar and Ruby's songs were often far more memorable than the films they adorned.
Few recall the movie Check and Double Check, but the catchy "Three Little
Words" remains a standard. "Only When You're in My Arms" and
"A Kiss to Build a Dream On" are classic examples of the smooth blend of
words and music that mark Kalmar and Ruby at their best. MGM immortalized the team in
the entertaining and highly fictionalized biographical musical Three Little Words
b. March 18, 1927 (Kansas City, Mo.)
Kander started his theatrical career as the rehearsal pianist for Gypsy (1959).
After working with James and William Goldman on the unsuccessful A Family
Affair (1962), Kander began a collaboration with lyricist
Fred Ebb that has lasted more than thirty five years.
Their first show was Flora The Red Menace (1964), a moderate success that
helped launch the career of a star who would be closely linked with many
of Kander and Ebb's hit songs – Liza
Minnelli. The moderate success of Flora led to the triumph of Cabaret
(1966), a landmark musical drama that featured Joel
Grey as the leering Emcee. It received eight Tony Awards, including
honors for Best Composer and Lyricist (the Best Score category did not
exist that year), as well as Best Musical. The original production racked
up 1,166 performances, and enjoyed successful runs in London and
Kander and Ebb's later scores included The Happy Time (1968), Zorba
(1968), 70 Girls 70 (1971), Chicago
(1975), Woman of the Year (1980), The
Rink (1984), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), Steel Pier (1997)
and the films Funny Lady (1975) and New York, New York (1977).
Kander & Ebb's musicals are notable for their often startling originality,
each score having a unique sound and style. Superb musical dramatists, they
were masters at writing songs that can stand on their own while being fully
integrated into the show they are written for. Liza
Minnelli is closely identified with several of their biggest hit songs, including
"Cabaret" and "New York, New York".
The film version of
Chicago (2002) became the first musical in thirty five years to win the
Academy Award for Best Picture. Kander & Ebb's four decade
collaboration ended with Ebb's death in 2004, but two more of their works
eventually reached Broadway -- Curtains (2007) and The
Scottsboro Boys (2010).
(b. Maria Dovgolenko)
Dancer, singer, actress
b. Aug 3, 1920 (Hartford, CT) - d. Apr 20, 2001 (New York City)
Karnilova began her career as a dance soloist with The Ballet Theatre and The
Metropolitan Opera. She danced in the Broadway ensembles of Stars in Your Eyes
(1939), Call Me Mister (1946), Miss Liberty (1949) and
Two's Company (1952). Her first speaking role was as stripper
"Tessie Tura" in
Gypsy (1959), where she helped introduce the show-stopping "You Gotta Get
a Gimmick." Karnilova's charming performance as "Signora Pandolfi" in the
short-lived Bravo Giovanni (1962) led to her most memorable role
"Golde" in Fiddler on the Roof (1964). She shared the touching "Do You Love
Me?" with Zero Mostel, and received the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a
Musical. She was nominated again for her performance as "Madame Hortense" in the
musical stage version of Zorba (1968), singing the disarming
"No Boom Boom."
Karnilova played "Grandmama Inez" in the stage adaptation of Gigi (1973), and
was "Mrs. Peterson" in the ill-conceived Bring Back Birdie (1981). She returned to
the role of "Golde" in Hershel Bernardi's well-received revival of Fiddler
(1981), and made her final stage appearance as "The Queen" in NY City Opera's production of
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her "King" in that production was her
longtime husband, Tony-winning actor George S. Irving.
Kaufman, George S.
Librettist, director, lyricist
Nov. 14, 1889 (Pittsburgh, Pa.) - June 2, 1961 (New York City)
Mostly remembered for the comedies he wrote with Moss
Hart, Edna Ferber,
and others, Kaufman contributed all or part of the librettos for fifteen Broadway
musicals, including Animal Crackers (1928), The Band Wagon (1931),
the Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Thee I Sing (1931) and Silk Stockings
(1955). He contributed lyrics to several unsuccessful projects, including
Hollywood Pinafore (1945). Kaufman directed the acclaimed original productions
of Of Thee I Sing and Guys and Dolls (1950).
(b. David Daniel Kaminskey)
Actor, singer, dancer
Jan. 18, 1913 (Brooklyn, NY) - Mar. 3, 1987 (Los Angeles, CA)
This gifted performer was a struggling nightclub comedian when he made
his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue (1939). Kaye's rendition of
"Anatole of Paris" was one of the highlights of the show. Soon afterward,
he married the song's author, Sylvia Fine, who continued to provide him with
hilarious special material for the rest of his career. Kaye dazzled audiences
as effeminate photograper "Russell Paxton" in
Lady in the Dark
(1940) singing Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill's tongue-twisting showstopper
"Tschaikowsky." Kaye then starred as soldier "Jerry
Walker" in Let's Face It (1940), where he
introduced Cole Porter's "Let's Not Talk About
Love" and Fine's "Melody in 4-F."
After entertaining the troops on both fronts during World War II, Kaye starred
in a series of films for producer Sam Goldwyn, including Up In Arms
(1944), The Kid From Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
(1947), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952),
and The Court Jester (1956). Kaye co-starred with
Bing Crosby in White Christmas
(1954), and made frequent nightclub and concert appearances in England and the US.
Kaye starred in his own popular CBS television variety series in the 1960s,
returning to Broadway as the Biblical character "Noah" in the
-Martin Charnin musical Two By Two (1969).
Kaye misbehaved shamelessly throughout the run, even turning a broken leg into an
excuse to terrorize his fellow actors with his wheelchair and crutches. In Kaye's
later years, he made frequent television appearances and toured the world as a
spokesperson for UNICEF.
(b. Harold Clifford Leek)
b. April 13, 1917 (Gillespie, Illinois) - d. Nov. 7, 2004 (Palm Desert,
This handsome, six foot three inch baritone came from an impoverished family that
disapproved of his show business aspirations. After stints as a singing waiter
and performing for factory workers during World War II, he made his stage debut
taking over the role of "Billy Bigelow" in the 1945 national tour of
Carousel. Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II then selected him to
star as "Curly" in the London production of Oklahoma (1947). He changed
his name to "Howard Keel" when he was was hired by MGM to play
"Frank Butler" in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) opposite
Betty Hutton. Keel's robust voice and easy
comic acting brought him immediate big-screen stardom. Co-starring with
some of the top female musical screen stars of the 1950s,
he played "Gaylord Ravenal" in Show Boat
(1951) opposite Kathryn Grayson,
"Bill Hickock" in Calamity Jane (1953) opposite
Doris Day, "Bill Graham" in
Kiss Me Kate (1953) opposite Grayson,
and "Sgt. Mike Malone" in a remake of Rose Marie (1954).
Keel's most memorable screen role was as "Adam Pontipee" in
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),
introducing "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Sobbin'
Women" and sharing "When You're In Love" with co-star
Jane Powell. With screen musicals fading,
Keel bid the form farewell after playing "Hajj"
in Kismet (1955). On Broadway, he
co-starred with Carol Lawrence in
Harold Arlen's ill-fated Saratoga (1959),
and took over the male lead in No Strings in 1963. He starred as
"Lewis Lambert Strether" in the
musical Ambassador (1971), which is possibly the only musical to flop
resoundingly in both London and New York. Keel re-teamed with Jane Powell
in 1977 for a record-setting US tour of South Pacific. In 1981,
he joined the cast of TV's popular drama series Dallas, and played the
role of "Clayton Farlow" for the next ten years. Keel continued to appear in
concerts until shortly before his death due to colon cancer at age 85.
(b. Ethel Hilda Keeler)
Actress, dancer, singer
b. Aug. 25, 1909 (Halifax, Canada) - d. Feb. 28, 1993 (Rancho Mirage, CA)
Keeler's acting amounted to little more than awkwardly reciting dialogue and her
singing talents were almost non-existent, but audiences found her unpolished
sincerity appealing. She danced in the choruses of several speakeasies and minor
Broadway musicals before her unaffected charm brought her to Hollywood for a
screen test. While there, she met Al Jolson, who pursued
her relentlessly until she agreed to marry him in
1928. The marriage was rocky from the start. When producer
Florenz Ziegfeld starred Keeler as
"Dixie Dugan" in Show Girl
(1929), Jolson stole the opening night by unexpectedly standing in his aisle seat
and singing the song "Liza" while his startled wife danced. When Keeler
acclaim, a jealous Jolson talked her into quitting the show. She spent the next four
years in the thankless role of housewife to the greatest egomaniac in show business.
Keeler came into her own when film mogul Darryl F. Zanuck cast her in the landmark
Warner Brothers musical 42nd Street (1933).
As chorine-turned-star Peggy Sawyer, she introduced the hit title tune and
"Shuffle Off to Buffalo." Director
Busby Berkeley starred her (frequently with
handsome tenor Dick Powell) in a quick series
of big screen hits, including Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade
(1933), Dames (1934), and Flirtation Walk (1934). The
Keeler unlike more technically gifted stars, she was just a normal person,
"one of us." When Jolson realized his wife's stardom was eclipsing his own,
he pushed for a joint project, but Go Into Your Dance (1935) only
affirmed his professional decline and her continuing popularity.
After dancing on a giant typewriter with Lee Dixon in Ready, Willing,
and Able (1937), Keeler tired of both Jolson and Hollywood. She divorced Jolson,
married a wealthy stock broker and made no more screen appearances after
Sweetheart of the Campus (1941). She spent thirty contented years in private
life before returning to Broadway as tap dancing housewife "Sue Smith" in an acclaimed
revival of No, No, Nanette (1971), supervised (officially, at least) by an
aging Busby Berkeley. Nostalgic audiences roared for Keeler, delighted to find
her old "gee I hope you like me" screen persona intact. She spent
her later years enjoying numerous tributes, always seeming a bit surprised by the
lasting interest and affection she inspired. She died of cancer at age 83.
Keith, Benjamin Franklin
Vaudeville manager, Theater owner
b. Jan. 26, 1846 (Hillsboro, NH) - Mar. 26, 1914 (Palm Beach, FL)
A traveling circus lured this New England farm boy into the world of show
business. Keith soon became involved in the management of variety shows presented
in his Boston "museum," which he opened in 1883. He would often
claim that this was the birthplace of continuous
vaudeville, even though this clean form of variety
was actually introduced by New York impresario
Tony Pastor. Keith eventually joined forces with
manager E.F. Albee, and the new team made a quick
fortune with unauthorized productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
Keith and Albee started presenting top class vaudeville at Boston's Bijou
Theater in 1887. It proved so profitable that the team expanded into a chain
of theaters, known as "The Keith Circuit." Keith and Albee took
over several competitors, including the respected Orpheum Circuit and its
legendary flagship theatre, New York's Palace.
Although Albee had the tougher reputation, Keith was equally ruthless. Keith's
no-nonsense wife Mary traveled the circuit enforcing strict decency standards
for all acts. Anyone she or Keith's local managers found offensive became
unemployable in any Keith house nationwide. Keith often carried a hammer in his
belt, and would delight in making minor repairs around his theaters. He was happy
to leave management of the circuit to Albee, and withdrew altogether
from involvement in the chain after 1909. Keith died five years later at
age 68. After his son Andrew died in 1918, full control of the circuit fell to
Albee, whose relentless greed helped to choke vaudeville to death.
(b. Eugene Curran)
Dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, director
b. Aug. 23, 1912 (Pittsburgh, PA) - d. Feb. 1, 1996 (Los Angeles, CA)
Though small in stature, this breezy, athletic dancer became one of the true
giants in the history of musical film. He was a Pittsburgh dance instructor with a
degree in economics when he made his Broadway debut in the chorus of
Leave It to Me (1938). While winning acclaim playing the title role in
Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey (1939),
Kelly made the acquaintance of dancer Stanley
Donen. Impressed with Donen's enthusiasm, Kelly hired
him as dancer and assistant choreographer for Best Foot Forward (1941).
MGM producer Arthur Freed brought Kelly out
to Hollywood, where Donen was already seeking work. Together, Kelly and
Donen collaborated in varying capacities on some of the finest musical films ever
made. Kelly's film debut in For Me and My Gal (1942) costarring with
Judy Garland brought Kelly immediate popularity.
Loaned out to Columbia to choreograph and co-star with Rita Hayworth in
Cover Girl (1944), Kelly danced with himself in a brilliant "shop
window" sequence conceived by Donen. Kelly won so much acclaim that
MGM refused to loan him out for any more musicals. He interrupted his career to serve
in the Navy during World War II, and directed several Defense Department films before
returning to Hollywood. Kelly co-starred with pop singer
Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh
(1945) and Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949). He re-teamed with Garland in The Pirate
(1948) and Summer Stock (1950) -- the latter featuring Kelly's brilliant dance
using a sheet of newsprint as a rhythmic prop.
Kelly's screen version of On the Town (1949) was such a success that Freed
encouraged him to develop two of the greatest film musicals of all time. First came
the Academy Award winning
An American In Paris
(1951), in which he played ex-GI/artist Jerry Mulligan, and staged the most
ambitious and visually ravishing ballet Hollywood ever mounted. Then came the joyous
Hollywood spoof Singin' in the Rain (1952), in
which Kelly played silent movie star Don Lockwood, sharing the direction and
choreography with Donen. Kelly, Donald O'Connor
and Debbie Reynolds sang and danced their way
through "Good Mornin'," and Kelly's rain soaked, blissful rendition of
the title tune became one of the most familiar images in popular Western
culture. As the studio system fell apart in the 50s, Kelly's
musicals proved progressively less successful, ranging from the passable screen
version of Brigadoon (1954) to the uneven It's Always Fair Weather
(1955) to the ambitious but commercially disastrous Invitation to the Dance
(1956). Audience tastes were drifting away from musicals. By the time Kelly starred
as a nightclub singer in the charming Les Girls (1957), rave reviews were not
enough to make the film a hit.
A versatile comic and dramatic actor, Kelly's many non-musical roles include
the tragic war prisoner Victor in The Cross of Lorraine (1944), the
dashing D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (1948) and the wise-cracking
reporter Hornbeck in Inherit the Wind (1960). He also played Father O'Malley
in a short-lived TV series based on the film Going My Way.
Kelly played egotistical film star Pinky Benson in the Shirley MacLaine
vehicle What a Way to Go (1964), and he was Andy
Miller in the disappointing Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). His frequent
television appearances include an acclaimed musical version of
Jack and the Beanstalk (1966), as well as frequent TV specials.
Kelly directed the Broadway production of
Flower Drum Song (1954) and the lavish big screen version of
Hello Dolly! (1969). After appearing in That's Entertainment (1974)
and teaming with Fred Astaire for
That's Entertainment II (1976), his final screen role was in the otherwise
incoherent Xanadu (1980). In his final years, Kelly was delighted by the
resurgent interest in classic musical film. He made his last public appearance when
the Three Tenors paid musical tribute to him in Los Angeles. He died of
a stoke soon afterward at age 83.
Jan. 27, 1885 (New York City) - Nov. 11, 1945 (NYC)
Kern was the first composer to approach the American musical comedy as an art form.
A Tin Pan Alley song-plugger and Broadway rehearsal pianist, Kern's early songs found
their way into imported British musicals in need of a musical boost. When his
enchanting ballad "They Didn't Believe Me"
(lyric by Herbert Reynolds) was interpolated into The Girl From Utah (1914),
Kern's new, sophisticated sound caused a sensation. He teamed with
Guy Bolton and
P.G. Wodehouse to write a series of musicals for
Broadway's intimate Princess Theatre.
Very Good Eddie (1915), Oh Boy (1917) and Leave It To Jane
(1917) offered believable characters and plots relating to everyday middle class life.
While not quite as revolutionary as some scholars suggest, the Princess Theatre shows
made it clear that Kern was the pre-eminent theatrical composer of his time.
Kern continued to turn out musical comedy hits through the next decade, including
the Marilyn Miller vehicles Sally (1920)
with "Look for the Silver Lining" and Sunny (1925).
These two shows enjoyed similar success in Britain, making Kern the
first American composer to see his shows win acclaim on both sides of
the Atlantic. Collaborating
Oscar Hammerstein II,
he composed the epic Show Boat
(1927), a dazzling score which included "Make Believe,"
"Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' That Man."
Hammerstein also provided lyrics for Kern's Sweet Adeline (1929),
Music in The Air (1932) with "I've Told Ev'ry Little
Star," and Very Warm for May (1939) which included
"All The Things You Are," a soaring ballad that experts as varied as
Richard Rodgers and
Stephen Sondheim have called a model of musical
Kern's best music has a timeless appeal. He collaborated with lyricist
Otto Harbach on The Cat and the Fiddle (1931)
and Roberta (1933) the latter including the rapturous "Smoke Gets
in Your Eyes." Kern's film scores include Swing Time (1936), High, Wide
and Handsome (1937), Cover Girl (1944) and Centennial Summer (1946).
He was working on the score for what would become Annie Get Your Gun when a stroke felled him on
the streets of New York at age 60. Days later, Hammerstein quietly sang
"I've Told Ev'ry Little Star" into Kern's ear, and knew by the
lack of response that one of America's greatest composers was gone. But
as The New York Times put it in their editorial headline,
"His Music Will Not Die."
Choreographer, director, dancer
Aug. 12, 1915 (Brooklyn, NY) - Dec. 23, 2007 (Los Angeles, CA)
After winning attention as a ballet soloist, Kidd won acclaim with his dynamic
choreography for the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow (1947)
and Guys and Dolls (1950), winning his first Tony for the
latter. His choreography had an athletic quality that let
men look masculine and women look strong yet still feminine a refreshing
formula. One of the hottest choreographers of the 1950s, he also
received Tonys for his dances in Can-Can (1953), Lil' Abner
(1956) and Destry Rides Again (1959). In Hollywood, he created vibrant
screen dances for The Band Wagon (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(1954), Star! (1968), Hello Dolly (1969) and Movie Movie (1978).
Kidd's made his big screen debut as ex-GI Angie Valentine in It's Always
Fair Weather (1954), co-starring with Gene Kelly and
Dan Dailey. He later played a
choreographer in the film Smile (1975), and appeared in the PBS TV
musical Actor (1978). His later work as a Broadway director/choreographer
included Skyscraper (1965), The Rothschilds
(1970), and short-lived productions of Good News (1974), Cyrano
(1973) and The Music Man (1980). Kidd took over the
direction of the musical version of The Goodbye Girl (1993),
worked on several music videos, and staged a
brief campfire dance for longtime friend
Julie Andrews in a live television
production of On Golden Pond (2001). At the time of Kidd's death
due to cancer in 2007, his family confirmed that his birth date -- long
announced as 1919 -- was actually 1915.
b. March 31, 1922 (Chicago, IL) - d. March 5, 1999 (Warwick, NY)
A powerful dramatic actor with a soaring baritone voice, Kiley made his musical
Broadway debut as the Caliph in Kismet (1953) introducing "Stranger
In Paradise" with soprano Doretta Morrow.
He co-starred with Gwen Verdon in Redhead
(1959), and with Diahann Carroll in the daring interracial love story
No Strings (1962). Kiley also took over the role of Fred during the
run of Here's Love (1963). His most memorable performance was as Don
Quixote in Man of La Mancha
(1965), introducing "Dulcinea" and "The Impossible
Dream." He repeated this sensational Tony-winning performance in several
tours and revivals through the 1970s.
Kiley's only major musical film appearance was as
The Aviator in Lerner and Loewe's The Little Prince (1974),
where he introduced "I Never Met a Rose." He made
frequent non-musical appearances on stage and television, and his mellifluous
voice made him a popular narrator of TV documentaries. His and co-star
Leslie Uggams recreated their original roles for the delightful 1993
recording of their 1968 Broadway flop, Her First Roman. Although Kiley
was over 70, his golden baritone soared with enviable ease as he gave
yet another witty and sensitive performance. It was his last musical
project before the long battle with cancer that marked his final years.
(b. Dennis Pratt)
Nov. 2, 1897 (Coventry, UK) - May 21, 1971 (New York City)
King starred in productions of Shakespeare and Chekov,
but with an operatic baritone voice, dashing looks and a commanding stage
presence, this Englishman became Broadway's top musical leading man in the
1920s and 30s. He got his training in the Birmingham Rep, and made
his musical debut in London as "Townbrake" in
Monsieur Boncaire (1919) before moving to the United States. His first
musical triumph in New York was playing miner "Jim Kenyon" in Rose Marie
(1924), introducing Rudolph Friml's "Indian
Love Call" with co-star Mary Ellis.
King starred as "Francois Villion" in The Vagabond King (1925), stopping
the show nightly introducing Friml's stirring "Song of the Vagabonds"
(". . . and to hell with Burgundy!"). As "D'artagnan" in The Three
Musketeers (1928), King introduced "Only a Rose" he repeated
the role two years later in London. Florenz Ziegfeld
cast him as "Gaylord Ravenal" in the first revival of Show Boat (1932).
and Lorenz Hart selected King to play
"Count Palafi" in I Married An Angel (1938), where he introduced the title ballad.
King's last musical stage role was the idealistic diplomat "Hugh Conway" in
Shangri-la (1956), Harry Warren's unsuccessful
adaptation of the film classic Lost Horizon. That same season, King saw his
son Michael originate the role of "Freddy Eynsford-Hill" in the mega hit
My Fair Lady. After appearing as "Emperor Chang" in
Cole Porter's TV musical Aladdin (1958),
King continued to appear in numerous non-musical roles.
His last Broadway role was "Baron Von Epp" in John Osborne's drama A Patriot
for Me (1969). He died three years later at age 73.
Back to: Who's Who In Musicals