Who's Who in Musicals: Mo to O
by John Kenrick
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.
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
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
(b. Norma Jean Mortenson)
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.
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.
(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.
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
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.
(b. Doretta Marano)
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.
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.
(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
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
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.
(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
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.
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.
Actor, singer, composer, lyricist, librettist, director
b. Sept. 24, 1931 (London, UK) - d. April 15, 1999 (Jensen Beach,
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 as a 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.
b. Oct. 20, 1914 (Mobile, AL) - d. Jan 24, 2006 (Los Angeles, CA)
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
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.
(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
Lehár'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)
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
(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.
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
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.
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
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.
(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, Orphée 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
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
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
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
"All I Care About Is Love" and "Razzle Dazzle."
He then created the role of the imperious Julian Marsh in the long running
(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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