Who's Who in Musicals: Mo to O

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 1997-2005)

Moore, Grace

Actress, singer
b. Dec. 5, 1898? (Slabtown, TN) - d. Jan. 26, 1947 (Denmark)

This attractive blonde soprano studied in France and sang in the legendary Black Cat Cafe in Manhattan's Greenwich Village before building her professional reputation in vaudeville and several Broadway musicals, including Hitchy-Koo (1920) and two editions of the Music Box Revue (1922-23). Moore's exquisite voice brought her a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, where she played various leading roles from 1928 to 1931. After the arrival of sound film led Hollywood to seek big voices for the silver screen, Moore was cast as opera legend "Jenny Lind" in the film A Lady's Morals (1930). She starred with fellow Met alumni Lawrence Tibbett in the first screen version of Sigmund Romberg's The New Moon (1930) – inexplicably reset in Tsarist Russia, it was a popular success.

Moore returned to Broadway as "Jeanne" in the short-lived operetta The DuBarry (1932) before starring as aspiring opera singer "Mary" in her most acclaimed film, One Night of Love (1934). Her performance earned an Oscar nomination and an enthusiastic nationwide following. Her film stardom with similar roles in Love Me Forever (1935), When You're in Love (1937) and I'll Take Romance (1937). When big screen operettas fell out of favor, Moore made a series of concert tours. During one such tour, she was killed in a plane crash just outside of Copenhagen at age 48.

Moore, Victor

b. Feb. 24, 1876 (Hammonton, NJ) - d. July 23, 1962 (East Islip, NY)

Moore was a vaudevillian for over 25 years, but is best remembered as one of Broadway's most beloved comedians. He made his Broadway debut with John Drew in the comedy Rosemary (1896). George M. Cohan cast him as Kid Burns in the smash hit Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway (1906) -- a role Moore repeated in the sequel, The Talk of New York (1907). Never much of a singer, Moore developed his comic skills (and an increasingly rotund waistline) over the next decade. By the time Moore appeared as bootlegger "Shorty McGee" in Oh Kay! (1926), he had perfected the bumbling, whiny persona that would carry him through more than a dozen musical stage hits.

Moore found his perfect comic nemesis in suave leading man William Gaxton. They scored a joint triumph in the Gershwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Thee I Sing (1931). Gaxton was smarmy President "John P. Wintergreen" and Moore was his befuddled Vice President "Alexander Throttlebottom" --

MOORE: I'm vice-president.
GAXTON: You don't say? Lost your other job, huh?

Audiences so enjoyed their chemistry that Gaxton & Moore shared the stage in six more musicals. Moore created the roles of "Moonface Martin" in Cole Porter's Anything Goes (1934) and "Oliver P. Loganberry" in Irving Berlin's Louisiana Purchase (1940). He and Gaxton made their last joint appearance in the short-lived Nelly Bly (1946). Moore starred solo in Cole Porter's Leave It To Me (1938), and won laughs in sixteen musical films, including Swing Time (1936) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946). His non-musical film appearances include The Seven Year Itch (1955). Moore made his last stage appearance at age 81 playing "The Starkeeper" in a NY City Center revival of Carousel (1957).

Monroe, Marilyn

(b. Norma Jean Mortenson)
Actress, singer
b. June 1, 1926 (Los Angeles, CA) - d. Aug. 5, 1962 (Hollywood, CA)

Hollywood's ultimate sex goddess, Monroe's breathy singing voice was showcased in several big screen musicals. She played "Lorelei Lee" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and her rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" surrounded by tuxedoed chorus boys thrusting fistfuls of jewels at her became an iconic cinematic moment. She was part of an all-star line up in There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), and sizzled through several numbers as "Sugar Kane" in the comedy Some Like It Hot (1960) before dying of an apparent drug overdose at age 36. Some would argue that Monroe's most historic musical moment was her seductive crooning of "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy.

Montgomery, David C.

Actor, dancer
b. April 21, 1870 (St. Joseph, MO) - d. April 20, 1917 (Chicago, IL)

This nimble performer teamed with Fred Stone in 1894. Their acrobatic song and dance act soon made them vaudeville headliners on the prestigious Keith circuit. The made their Broadway debut in The Girl From Up There (1901), which played London the following year. They followed this with their most memorable hit, The Wizard of Oz (1903). With Montgomery as "The Tin Man" and Stone as "The Scarecrow," the show enchanted theatergoers, running almost a year in New York and touring the US to tremendous acclaim.

Montgomery and Stone's hilarious physical antics made them the toast of Broadway in a series of hit musicals. They co-starred in The Red Mill (1906), introducing Victor Herbert's "The Streets of New York." They alternated appearances in The Old Town (1909), The Lady of the Slipper (1912) and Chin-Chin (1914) with frequent vaudeville tours. Devoted friends offstage, their partnership ended with Montgomery's unexpected death at age 47. Stone went on to many years of successful solo stardom.

Moreno, Rita

(b. Rosita Dolores Alverio)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. Dec. 11, 1931 (Humacao, Puerto Rico)

This versatile star began performing as a teenager, and made her film debut playing Tina in The Toast of New Orleans (1950). She appeared as Teuru in Pagan Love Song (1950) and Zelda in Singin' in the Rain (1952). She won attention as Hugette in a weak remake of The Vagabond King (1956) and as Tuptim in the acclaimed screen version of The King and I (1956). Moreno received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her memorable performance as Anita in West Side Story (1961).

Thanks to the decline in musical films, Moreno concentrated on non-musical stage and television roles in the decades that followed. She won a Tony for spoofing her own "Latin spitfire" image as the outrageous Googie Gomez in Terence McNally's comedy The Ritz – a role she repeated on film. Moreno's only major musical stage roles have been on the London stage, as Ilona in She Loves Me (1964) and a brief stint as Norma Desmond in the long-running Sunset Boulevard. She is one of the few performers who can lay claim to an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy award.

Morgan, Helen

Actress, singer
b. Aug. 2, 1900 (Danville, OH) - d. Oct. 8, 1941 (Chicago, IL)

After getting her start singing in Chicago nightclubs, this diminutive chanteuse made her legit debut as a supporting performer in the touring cast of Sally (1924). With Prohibition at its height, Morgan gained notoriety as a Manhattan speakeasy hostess. In these smoky illegal clubs, she sang perched atop pianos in order to be seen over the crowd. Morgan's unique vulnerability made her one of the great American torch singers. Broadway appearances in George White's Scandals (1925) and Americana (1926) led producer Florenz Ziegfeld to cast her as the original Julie LaVerne in Show Boat (1927). Her heart wrenching renditions of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Bill" (the latter sung atop a piano) were showstoppers.

Morgan next starred on Broadway in Sweet Adeline (1929) singing Kern and Hammerstein's "Why Was I Born?" and "Don't Ever Leave Me." She starred in the early screen musicals Applause (1929) and Glorifying the American Girl (1929), but the already visible effects of her years of heavy drinking did not go over well with movie audiences. After appearing in Ziegfeld's final Follies (1931), she repeated the role of Julie in the revival of Show Boat (1932) as well as the 1936 screen version, which remains the best visual record of the tragic power she could bring to a song. That same year, Morgan starred in the national tour of George White's Scandals, but fading health forced her into retirement at age 36. She died of cirrhosis of the liver five years later.

Morrow, Doretta

(b. Doretta Marano)
Actress, singer
b. Jan. 27, 1928 (Brooklyn, NY) - d. Feb. 28, 1968 (London, UK)

In a career that lasted barely a decade, this attractive lyric soprano originated key roles in several major Broadway musicals, introducing some classic love songs. As Kitty in Where's Charley (1948), she sang "My Darling, My Darling." The original Tuptim in The King and I (1950), she introduced Rodgers and Hammerstein's "We Kiss in a Shadow," and shared "My Lord and Master" and "I Have Dreamed" with baritone Larry Douglas. 

Morrow played Tina in a TV production of Knickerbocker Holiday (1950), and made her only film appearance co-starring with Mario Lanza in Because You're Mine (1952). She returned to Broadway as Marsinah in Kismet (1953), introducing "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and "Stranger in Paradise. She repeated the role in London in 1955. After starring in the US tour of Fanny (1957) and the London cast of Cole Porter's Aladdin (1957), Morrow married and withdrew from public life. She died of cancer at age 40.

Morse, Robert

Actor, singer
b. May 18, 1931 (Newtown, MASS)

Boyish looks and extraordinary comic instincts made Morse a favorite with Broadway audiences from his debut as Barnaby Tucker in Thornton Wilder's comedy The Matchmaker (1955), a role he repeated in the 1958 film version. After playing Ted in Say Darling (1958), he earned rave reviews as the naive Richard Miller in Bob Merrill's Take Me Along (1959). As the unscrupulous J. Pierpont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), Morse introduced Frank Loesser's "I Believe in You" and won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.

Morse appeared in numerous big screen comedies, reprising the role of Finch in the movie version of How to Succeed (1967). He returned to Broadway as Jerry (and "Daphne") in Sugar (1972), a musical based on the film comedy Some Like It Hot. After starring in the funny but ill-fated musical So Long, 174th Street (1976), Morse retreated to film and television work for more than a decade. He made a triumphant return to the stage as Truman Capote in the one man comedy Tru (1989), winning the Tony for Best Actor in a Play. He was cast as Captain Andy in Hal Prince's lavish revival of Show Boat (1994), but left the production before it went to New York. Likewise, he originated the role of the Wizard in Wicked (2003), but withdrew before the Broadway opening. 

Mostel, Zero

(b. Samuel Joel Mostel)
Actor, comedian, singer
b. Feb. 28, 1915 (Brooklyn, NY) - d. Sept. 8, 1977 (Philadelphia, PA)

This mercurial actor began his career in nightclubs, using his massive bulk and towering rage to bring out the comedy in unlikely situations. Mostel played minor roles in various films and appeared on Broadway as Hamilton Peachum in Duke Ellington's Beggars Holiday (1946). A supporter of liberal causes, he was blacklisted during the political witch hunts of the 1950s, but eventually found both refuge and acclaim in the theatre, starring in both musical and dramatic roles.

Mostel received a Tony for his tumultuous performance as a man turning into an animal in Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1961). He won another Tony as Pseudolus, the Roman slave who connives his way to freedom in Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) – introducing "Comedy Tonight". Two seasons later he received a third Tony for his most memorable role, the irrepressible Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (1964). In this landmark Hal Prince production, Mostel introduced Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's "If I Were a Rich Man," and shared "Sunrise, Sunset" and "Do You Love Me?" with co-star Maria Karnilova.

Although brilliantly funny, Mostel could be maddeningly self-indulgent on stage. It didn't matter who or what was on stage – he mugged and ad libbed at will. Such behavior led to Mostel being let go from Fiddler just nine months after the opening. His non-musical appearance in Ulysses in Nightown won critical acclaim, and his performance as the unscrupulous Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' screen classic The Producers (1967) is the best filmed example of Mostel's "larger than life" performing style. In the 1970s he toured in several revivals of Fiddler, bringing the show back to Broadway in 1976. He died unexpectedly the following season during the pre-Broadway tour of The Merchant.

Neagle, Anna

(b. Marjorie Robertson)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. Oct. 20, 1904 (London, UK) - d. June 3, 1986 (Surrey, UK)

One of England's most beloved stage performers, Neagle made her West End debut in the dancing chorus of Charlot's Revue (1925). She appeared in the ensembles of various musicals, eventually co-starring with Jack Buchanan in Stand Up and Sing (1931). Neagle starred in a series of films in Britain and Hollywood, mostly produced by husband Herbert Wilcox -- including screen versions of Irene and No, No Nanette. She also co-starred in a series of comedies with actor Michael Wilding. Neagle returned to the London stage for starring roles in The Glorious Days (1953) and Charlie Girl (1965). She sang and danced as Sue in the West End revival of No No Nanette (1973), and played Mrs. Higgins in a hit revival My Fair Lady (1979). Despite the effects of Parkinson's disease, Neagle remained active, making her final stage appearance as the Fairy Godmother in a pantomime version of Cinderella (1985) at the London Palladium.

Nelson, Gene

Actor, dancer, singer
b. Mar. 24, 1920 (Seattle, WA) - d. Sept. 16, 1996 (Woodland Hills, CA)

This athletic, long-legged dancer got his professional start as an ice-skater touring with Sonja Henie, and made his film debut as part of her ensemble in Second Fiddle (1938) and Everything Happens at Night (1939). After enlisting to serve in World War II, Nelson was assigned to the Broadway cast of Irving Berlin's fundraising revue This is the Army (1942). He also appeared in the film version and subsequent international tour. Nelson returned to the big screen with a small role in I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now? (1947), but won major attention with a brilliant song and dance turn in the Broadway revue Lend An Ear (1949). Warner Brothers then featured him in a series of popular big screen musicals, including The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950), Tea For Two (1950), The West Point Story (1950), Lullaby of Broadway (1951) and Three Sailors and a Girl (1953).

Nelson's most memorable screen performance was as Will Parker in Oklahoma (1956), singing and dancing up a storm with "Kansas City" and "All er Nothin'." His virile, energetic dance routines and affable personality made him popular with audiences and co-workers. When a horse-riding accident ended his dancing career in the late 1950s, he became a television and film director, helming several Elvis Presley musicals. He returned to Broadway to create the role of Buddy in Stephen Sondheim's Follies (1971), introducing "The Right Girl" and "Buddy's Blues" and garnering a Tony nomination. Nelson stepped into the long-touring revival of Good News (1974) just in time for its all too brief Broadway run. He made occasional TV appearances and continued to direct in various media until shortly before his death due to cancer at age 76.

Newley, Anthony

Actor, singer, composer, lyricist, librettist, director
b. Sept. 24, 1931 (London, UK) - d. April 15, 1999 (Jensen Beach, Florida)

Working with fellow composer-lyricist Leslie Bricusse, Newley co-wrote, directed and starred in Stop The World - I Want To Get Off (1961) in London and New York. He played Littlechap, a lower-class man who defies the establishment and rises to wealth and fame. Newley's poignant rendition of "What Kind of Fool Am I?" helped make the show a hit, and earned him many devoted fans. He then co-wrote, directed and starred in David Merrick's New York production The Roar of The Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (1965). This time, he was Cocky, a little man who who must play the game of life versus the powerful Sir – played with relish by Cyril Ritchard. Newley's ballad "Who Can I Turn To" became a solo hit. Newley and Bricusse also co-authored a third variation on this morality theme, the London musical The Good Old Bad Old Days (1972). A modest success, it featured Newley playing yet another little man dealing with the ultimate established authority – God.

An eccentric, passionate performer, Newley appeared in several musical films including Doctor Doolittle (1967) and Mr. Quilp (1975), and co-wrote the scores for both Mr. Quilp and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) with Bricusse. He co-authored and starred in the ill-fated stage musical Chaplin, which closed during its pre-Broadway tour. Newley made numerous concert tours and TV appearances, including a wide variety of non-musical roles. In his later years, he won kudos starring in the British stage production of Bricusse's Scrooge, and made his final TV appearance as a used car salesman on the long running British series Eastenders in 1998. He died after a bout with renal cancer at age 67.

Nicholas, Fayard

Dancer, singer
b. Oct. 20, 1914 (Mobile, AL) - d. Jan 24, 2006 (Los Angeles, CA)

Nicholas, Harold

Dancer, singer
b. Mar. 27, 1921 (Winston-Salem, NC) - d. July 3, 2000 (New York City)

Easily the most spectacular tap-dancing team in show business history, the Nicholas Brothers proved their dazzling talents in an unbroken stream of breathtaking dance routines that graced every performance medium of the 20th Century. Child stars in black vaudeville, they were a featured act at Harlem's prestigious Cotton Club from 1932 to 1934. A penchant for daring leaps and splits soon brought the young brothers well-deserved attention. They segued to Broadway two years later, appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies (1936) and Blackbirds of 1936. They then played Ivor and Irving DeQuincy in Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms (1937).

The Nicholas Brothers made several minor film appearances before Fox Studios featured them as specialty dancers in a series of 1940s screen musicals. Their knockout routines wowed audiences in Down Argentine Way (1940), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Orchestra Wives (1942), and Stormy Weather (1943). Frustrated by the color barrier that kept them from the screen stardom they deserved, the brothers returned to Broadway to costar in St. Louis Woman (1946). In that show, Harold introduced the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer classic "Come Rain or Come Shine."

After accepting Gene Kelly's invitation to share a film-stealing dance with him in MGM's The Pirate (1948), the brothers spent the next decade living and performing in Europe, where their race was less of an issue. Harold eventually returned to the US, making occasional stage appearances. Fayard won a Tony Award as one of the choreographers of the hit revue Black and Blue (1989), and both brothers were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991. The following year, they were the subject of the moving documentary We Sing and Dance. Both men continued appearing at special events and in show biz documentaries through their final years. Harold died as a result of heart failure at age 79, and Fayard passed away six years later after suffering a stroke at age 91.

Novello, Ivor

(b. David Ivor Davies)
Composer, lyricist, librettist, actor
b. Jan. 15, 1893 (Cardiff, Wales) - d. Mar. 6, 1951 (London, UK)

The strikingly handsome Novello built his reputation writing popular tunes, including the international World War I hit "Keep the Home Fires Burning." He appeared in a number of silent films (including Hitchcock's early hit The Lodger) and contributed individual songs to several minor stage musicals before teaming with lyricist Christopher Hassall to create the full score for Glamorous Night (1935). This initiated a string of long-running West End musical hits that ran into the 1950s, including Careless Rapture (1936), Crest of the Wave (1937), The Dancing Years (1939), Perchance To Dream (1945), King's Rhapsody (1949) and Gay's The Word (1951). 

These lavish, sentimental operettas usually starred Novello, despite the fact that he could not sing a note. He played the romantic lead and left the songs to his co-stars. Despite their popularity, these shows were deemed too syrupy and old-fashioned for Broadway. Novello had a gift for romantic melody comparable to Romberg's or Leh r's, as heard in "Waltz of My Heart," "We'll Gather Lilacs" and "Someday My Heart Will Awake."

Although a homosexual (his longtime companion was actor Bobby Andrews), Novello had a huge and enthusiastic female following for whom he could do no wrong. When he was found guilty of misusing petrol coupons during World War II (not a small thing in a country plagued by rationing), public sentiment was so sympathetic that authorities were forced to cut his two month sentence in half. With a mixture of affection and envy, Novello's friend and competitor Noel Coward said that "the two loveliest things in the British theatre are Ivor's profile and my mind." After the war, Novello's popularity was unaffected by changing public tastes. Just months after his Gay's The Word had opened to rave reviews, Novello returned home following a performance in his long-running hit King's Rhapsody and died of a coronary thrombosis. Thousands lined the streets for his funeral, which was broadcast over national radio. Long overdue American interest in Novello's music was sparked when his songs were featured in the film Gosford Park (2001).

Nunn, Trevor (Robert)

Director, librettist
b. Jan. 14, 1940 (Ipswich, UK)

Nunn was the premier director of the mega-musicals that dominated the musical theatre in the last decades of the 20th Century. After studying at Cambridge, he worked as a trainee in a Coventry repertory theatre and eventually joined The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1965. He succeeded Peter Hall as the company's artistic director from 1968 through 1987. Along with numerous classical plays and the internationally acclaimed two-part stage version of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, Nunn's talents graced a series of highly commercial musical projects composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber – the record-setting Cats (1981), Starlight Express (1984), and the somewhat less successful Aspects of Love (1989) and Sunset Boulevard (1993). 

With John Caird, Nunn adapted and directed RSC's production of Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil's Les Miserables (1985) in London, New York and elsewhere. In 1997, Nunn was named director of the Royal National Theatre, where directed the acclaimed revival of Oklahoma (1999) which came to Broadway three years later, as well as revivals of My Fair Lady (2001) and South Pacific (2002). He also remains active as a director of dramatic works for stage, film and television.

O'Connor, Donald

Actor, dancer, singer
b. Aug. 30, 1925 (Chicago, IL) - d. Sept. 27, 2003 (Calabasas, CA)

This brash but likeable song and dance man went straight from his family's vaudeville act to Hollywood, winning raves as Bing Crosby and Fred MacMurray's young brother in Sing You Sinners (1938) – their "Small Fry" trio proved an audience favorite. But Hollywood was not sure what to do with O'Connor. After a small part in the screen version of On Your Toes (1939) and a brief return to vaudeville, he was signed by Universal for a series of minor 1940s musicals, including Mr. Big (1943), Bowery to Broadway (1944) and Patrick the Great (1945).

After serving a stint in the military, O'Connor returned with a scene-stealing performance in the Deanna Durbin vehicle Something in the Wind (1947). He starred in several more Universal films, including Yes Sir, That's My Baby (1949), before Gene Kelly cast him as dancing musician Cosmo Brown in the MGM classic Singin' in the Rain (1952). His tour de force rendition of "Make 'Em Laugh" remains one of the best moments in musical film history – each of his two takes (the first was ruined by defective film) left him bedridden for days.

While headlining TV's Colgate Comedy Hour in the 1950s, O'Connor went on to star in a series of hit films, including I Love Melvin (1952), Call Me Madam (1953), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) and a remake of Anything Goes (1956). When big Hollywood musicals faded, O'Connor enjoyed success in nightclubs and television. He first made it to Broadway playing Albert Peterson in the ill-fated Bring Back Birdie (1981), returning as Captain Andy in the 1983 revival of Show Boat. Along with occasional guest appearances on television (Frasier, Murder She Wrote, The Nanny, etc.), O'Connor toured an autobiographical one man show through his final years, and made occasional appearances on such TV series as Frasier and The Nanny. He died due to congestive heart failure at age 78.

Ockrent, Mike

b. 1946 (London, UK) - d. Dec. 2, 1999 (New York City)

This gifted director's all too brief career in musical theatre began when he helped actor/author Stephen Fry revise the Noel Gay musical Me and My Girl. Ockrent directed the smash hit 1985 London production, as well as the equally successful 1986 Broadway version. After directing Rowan Atkinson's short-lived 1986 Broadway showcase, Ockrent began work on a revised version of George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy. With an updated book by playwright Ken Ludwig, a slew of extra Gershwin songs, and sensational choreography by Susan Stroman, the retitled Crazy For You (1992) had long runs in New York and London, winning Tonys and Olivier Awards as Best Musical – and for Ockrent as Best Director. Ockrent and Stroman married while working on the short-lived musical Big (1996). Ockrent directed the Disney concert version of King David (1997), and helmed Madison Square Garden's massive musical production of A Christmas Carol. He was working on the musical adaptation of the Mel Brooks film The Producers when his brilliant career was cut short by cancer. Stroman took over the project, helming it to Tony-winning success.

Offenbach, Jacques

(b. Jakob Offenbach)
b. June 20, 1819 (Cologne, Germany) - d. Oct. 5, 1880 (Paris)

The most popular theatrical composer of the 19th Century, and considered by many to be the Grandfather of the modern musical, Offenbach was a successful cellist and orchestral conductor before he began composing for intimate theatres in Paris. A bizarre law limited him to only three singing characters per production, but audiences embraced his work, beginning with the one act satire Bat-a-clan (1855) -- written in collaboration with librettist Ludovic Halevy. After the limiting stage production law was abolished, Offenbach and Halvey turned out their first large scale operetta, Orph e Aux Enfers (1858 - Orpheus in the Underworld). Teaming up with playwright Henri Meilhac, they followed this with a long string of hits, including La Belle Helene (1864), La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein (1867), La Perichole (1868), and Les Brigands (1869). By using songs to develop character and propel plot action, these operettas marked the birth of the book musical. Many of these works originally starred French soprano Hortense Schneider.

A German Jew who embraced Catholicism, Offenbach was a collection of seeming contradictions. Although dedicated to his wife and children, he had numerous affairs with actresses. They were attracted by his power and talent, because Offenbach was a skinny man with scraggly hair and a beak-like nose who suffered from painful arthritis and rheumatism throughout most of his adult life. Fast and prolific, he was always exasperated with colleagues who could not match his pace. His fiery temper could terrorize the uninitiated, but many colleagues treasured his friendship and learned to forgive his outbursts. 

Offenbach's operettas were translated into several languages, becoming the first musicals to achieve multi-lingual international success. The plots usually involved political and/or social satire, and Offenbach's lively melodies became world-wide favorites. Through the end of the 19th Century, a typical Broadway season saw well over a dozen Offenbach productions. He was working on his one grand opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), at the time of his death. Completed by a colleague, it debuted to acclaim in 1881 and remains a popular part of the opera house repertory. Offenbach's operettas are rarely heard today outside of France, but they made musical theater an important art form world wide in the late 1800s, inspiring Gilbert and Sullivan, Johann Strauss and others to further develop the form.

Orbach, Jerry

Actor, singer
b. Oct. 20, 1935 (Bronx, NY) - d. Dec. 28, 2004 (NYC)

A student of acting guru Lee Strasberg, Orbach appeared in several national tours before joining the cast of the long-running revival of Threepenny Opera in 1958. He was the original El Gallo in The Fantasticks (1960) – the Schmidt & Jones Off-Broadway hit in which Orbach introduced "Try to Remember."  He made his Broadway musical debut as the embittered puppeteer Paul in Carnival (1961), singing Bob Merrill's "Her Face." Orbach played character roles in several revivals before his Tony-winning performance as Chuck in Promises, Promises (1969), where he introduced the Burt Bacharach hit "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

As the original Billy Flynn in Chicago (1975), he stopped the show with Kander & Ebb's "All I Care About Is Love" and "Razzle Dazzle." He then created the role of the imperious Julian Marsh in the long running 42nd Street (1980), where his solo rendition of the title song provided a haunting finale. In the years that followed, Orbach worked extensively in television and film. He appeared as a judgmental father in the semi-musical Dirty Dancing (1987), and provided the Chevalier-esque voice of Lumiere in Disney's animated masterpiece Beauty and the Beast (1989) -- introducing Ashman & Menken's "Be Our Guest." From 1992 to 2004, he starred as veteran detective Lennie Briscoe on the NBC drama series Law and Order. While undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, this beloved performer died at age 69.

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