Who's Who in Musicals: P
by John Kenrick
(b. Elaine Bickerstaff)
b. March 5, 1951 (Barnet, UK)
The most renowned British musical stage star of her time, Paige earned
attention in several minor parts before creating the title role in the London
production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and
Tim Rice's Evita (1978). She also created
the role of Grizzabella in Cats (1981), singing the haunting
"Memory" in her trademark heartfelt style. American union rules prevented
her from bringing either performance to Broadway, but she continued to dazzle
West End audiences in Chess (1986) and a hit revival of
Anything Goes (1989).
Paige won raves in Piaf (1993), and again when she stepped into the
London production of Sunset Boulevard (1995) playing Norma Desmond. The
American union finally acknowledged her star status, and she took over
the same role on Broadway to rave reviews in 1996. She has appeared in
television and film, made numerous concert tours, and was honored with the OBE
in 1995. Paige won fresh raves as Anna in a long-running London revival of
The King and I, and is returning to Broadway as Carlotta Campion
in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies (2011).
(b. Hermes Panagiotopulos)
b. 1905 (Nashville, TN) - d. Sept. 19, 1990 (Beverly Hills, CA)
Pan danced in nightclubs and Broadway choruses before working as
an assistant dance director on Flying Down to Rio (1933). It was the
first of 17 film projects with Fred Astaire,
who used Pan as his coach and choreographer for the next 38 years. Aside from
Astaire's films with Ginger Rogers
(Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time, etc.), Pan's mastery of classical
ballet, jazz stylings and tap made him a solid
choice for most any project. He choreographed 10 musicals
for Betty Grable, and such MGM classics as
Hit the Deck (1955), and Silk Stockings (1956). He made cameo dance
appearances in several of his films, including Kiss Me Kate (1953) and
Pal Joey (1957).
After the decline of the studio system, Pan worked
on such big-budget screen projects as Can-Can (1960), Flower Drum
Song (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), Finian's Rainbow (1968)
and Darling Lili (1969). He worked with Astaire on
several acclaimed TV specials in the 1960s, and staged the intricate
Roman parade sequence in Cleopatra. After the disastrous screen
musical version of Lost Horizon (1973), Pan retired with more than 50
feature films to his credit.
b. Sept. 19, 1901 (Szilagy-Somylo, Hungary) - d. Sept. 13, 1991 (Hollywood,
This prolific producer built his early reputation in Austria, Hungary
and Germany. Brought to Hollywood by Universal Pictures in 1936, Pasternak
soon produced a series of hits starring teenage soprano
Deanna Durbin, who's
films saved that studio from bankruptcy at the height of the Great
Depression. Pasternack eventually produced nine Durbin musicals,
including Three Smart Girls (1936),
Mad About Girls (1938) and Nice Girl (1941). His non-musicals
at Universal included the Jimmy Stewart-Marlene Dietrich classic Destry Rides Again
(1939), which featured Dietrich singing "See What the Boys in the
Backroom Will Have."
Pasternak moved on to MGM, where he headed a unit that produced more than 40
musicals between 1942 and 1966. Although less well remembered than fellow producer
Arthur Freed, Pasternack's dedication to providing clean, lighthearted
entertainment resulted in a number of top-grossing films. He continued
to showcase operatic talents -- soprano Kathryn Grayson
starred in Anchors Aweigh (1945) with
Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, and
teen soprano Jane Powell starred in Pasternak's Three Daring
Daughters (1948) and A Date With Judy (1948). Pasternack
produced a series of films that made tenor Mario Lanza a top rank star,
including The Toast of New Orleans (1950) and The Great Caruso
(1951). Pasternak's other
hits included In the Good Old Summertime with
Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and the
Doris Day vehicles
Love Me or Leave Me (1955) and Jumbo (1962). As one of
Hollywood's elder statesmen, Pasternak
produced the Academy Awards broadcast from 1965 to 1967, and completed
his final feature film the following year. He suffered
from Parkinson's disease before his death at age 89.
b. Nov. 30, 1952 (Chicago, Ill.)
After making his Broadway debut in the shattering drama The Shadow Box,
Patinkin shot to musical theatre stardom as Che in the original New York cast
of Evita (1979). His intense performance brought him a Tony as Best
Featured Actor in a Musical. He originated the dual title role in
Stephen Sondheim's Sunday In The Park With
George (1984), co-starring with Bernadette Peters. He
appeared as Buddy in the all-star 1985 concert version of Sondheim's Follies,
performed in a one man concert called Dress Casual (1990) and originated the
role of Uncle Archie in Broadway's The Secret Garden (1991).
Patinkin portrayed the sexually confused Marvin in the national tour of
Falsettoes, and made a series of acclaimed solo concert tours. A
powerful dramatic actor, his one musical film (in which he did not sing) was
Yentl (1983). Many know him as a doctor on TV's Chicago Hope
(1994-2000). He returned to Broadway in the Public Theater's short-lived musical
Wild Party (2000), and had a starring role in the cable-TV
series Dead Like Me (2003).
(b. Bernadette Lazzara)
b. Feb. 28, 1948 (Ozone Park, NY)
One of Broadway's last bona-fide musical stars, Peters got
her professional start as a child in the 1959 City Center revival of Most
Happy Fella, followed by a stint as Baby June in a tour of Gypsy.
After appearing Off-Broadway in The Penny Friend (1966) and Curley
McDimple (1967), she made her Broadway debut as Josie Cohan
in George M! (1968). Peters won critical acclaim as Ruby in the
Off-Broadway spoof Dames at Sea (1968) before appearing in a streak of ill
fated shows including La Strada, a revival of On The Town,
and Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel (1974).
Peters enjoyed success in television and film, winning a Golden Globe for
her performance in the musical spoof Pennies From Heaven (1981). She returned
to Broadway, winning raves as Dot in Stephen Sondheim's
Sunday in the Park With George (1984) before her Tony-winning performance in
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance
(1985). After her scene-stealing Witch in Sondheim's Into the Woods
(1987) and her affecting Paula in The Goodbye Girl (1993),
Peters won a second Tony starring in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun
(1999). Along with many concerts and TV appearances on such series as Ally McBeal
and Frasier, she returned to Broadway as Mama Rose in a revival
of Gypsy (2003), and will star in a revival of Follies
Porter, Cole Albert
b. June 9, 1891 (Peru, Indiana) - d. Oct. 15, 1964 (Santa Monica, Cal.)
Born into wealth, Porter published his first song at age 11. He graduated from
Yale and studied law at Harvard and music in Paris. He and his wife Linda were so
involved in international high society that he felt little pressure to pursue
composing seriously. His first Broadway hit was Paris (1928),
which included the playful hit "Let's Do It." Porter composed more than
twenty Broadway and Hollywood scores, featuring some of the most sophisticated
and passionate songs in all of popular music including "Night and
Day," "It's De-Lovely" and "Begin the Beguine."
Porter's Anything Goes (1934) was the definitive 1930s musical
comedy. He dominated the art form for the next decade with such hits as
Red, Hot and Blue (1936), DuBarry Was a Lady (1939) and
Something for the Boys (1943). Each of these starred
Ethel Merman, whose powerhouse voice Porter reveled in.
He was not sure that he could handle the integrated post-Oklahoma! sort of
musical play until Kiss Me Kate (1948) became the longest-running hit of his
career. It became the first show to win the Tony for Best Musical, in large part due
to Porter's brilliant score.
After the disappointment of the mythical Out of This World (1950),
Porter had more success with Can-Can (1953) and Silk Stockings
(1955). He composed several new songs for MGM's High Society (1956)
and Les Girls (1957), as well as an all-star television version of
Aladdin (1958). But the death of his wife and the loss of a long
battle to save his injured legs from amputation broke Porter's
spirit, and he spent his remaining years in seclusion. Long after his death,
his songs were featured in the unsuccessful stage
musicals Happy New Year (1980) and High Society (1998), and
both New York and London saw hit revivals of Anything Goes and
Kiss Me Kate. For more, see William McBrien's dellightful Cole
Porter: A Biography (Knopf: New York, 1998).
(b. Richard Ewing Powell)
b. Nov. 14, 1904 (Mountain View, Ark.) - d. Jan. 3, 1963 (West Los
With his "boy next door" looks and warm tenor voice, Powell was a big
band singer before Hollywood featured him in several minor films. Then
cast him as Billy Lawlor in the landmark Warner Brothers hit 42nd Street
(1933). Powell sang the popular "I'm Young and Healthy," and his easy
chemistry with Ruby Keeler led to them co-starring in six
more films, most with scores by composer Harry Warren
and lyricist Al Dubin.
Powell's introduced "By a Waterfall" in Footlight Parade
(1933), "I Only Have Eyes for You" and the title tune in Dames
(1934), "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" in On the Avenue
(1937) and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" in Hard to Get
(1938). In the 1940s, Powell began an equally successful career in detective films,
and eventually went on to produce and direct in the early years of television.
After a nine year marriage to actress Joan Blondell (1936-1944), he was married
to MGM musical star June Allyson from 1945 on.
Powell died at age 59 due to cancer of the lymph glands.
(b. Eleanor Torrey Powell)
Dancer, singer, actress
b. Nov. 21, 1912 (Springfield, Mass.) - d. Feb. 11, 1982 (Beverly Hills, CA)
With her rapid-fire taps (up to five per second), Eleanor Powell rose to
Broadway celebrity in her teens, appearing in The Optimists (1928),
Follow Thru (1920), Fine and Dandy (1930), George White's
Varieties (1932) and At Home Abroad (1935).
In Hollywood, Powell proved an immediate sensation in the screen version of
George White's Scandals (1935). She tapped to "Broadway
Rhythm" wearing top hat and glittering tails in MGM's
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935).
A non-singer, Powell was serenaded by Jimmy Stewart ("Easy to Love")
in Born to Dance (1937) and by Nelson Eddy
("In the Still of the Night") in Rosalie (1937). In
Broadway Melody of 1940, she danced "Begin the Beguine" with
Fred Astaire, arguably the greatest tap duet ever
filmed. After marrying actor Glenn Ford in 1944, Powell retired from films, making
her final appearances in Thousands Cheer (1944) and Sensations (1944).
She made a cameo appearance in Duchess of Idaho (1950), and after her divorce from Ford in
1959 made appearances in nightclubs and on television. The tremendous success of
That's Entertainment (1974) re-affirmed Powell's position as Hollywood's
all-time greatest female dancer. She died of cancer at age 69.
(b. Suzanne Lorraine Burce)
b. April 1, 1929 (Portland, Oregon)
Powell's dazzling soprano won attention on radio in the early 1940s. Her petite
figure and wholesome good looks made her an MGM starlet at age 15.
Her most memorable moments include singing "It's a Most Unusual Day"
in A Date With Judy (1948), trilling "My Hero"
in Two Weeks With Love (1950), and dancing up a storm with
Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding (1951).
She was Millie Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),
introducing "Wonderful, Wonderful Day," "Goin' Courtin'"
and "When You're In Love." By the time the collapsing studio system
drove original musicals from the screen, Powell had appeared in 17 films.
Powell's television appearances included Ruggles of Red Gap (1957),
singing "Ride on a Rainbow." She played the lead in a stellar
small-screen adaptation of Meet Me in St. Louis (1959). She remained active
on TV and in nightclubs, making a critically acclaimed Broadway debut in 1974 when
she took over the title role in Irene from fellow MGM alumni
Debbie Reynolds. After touring extensively
in that show, Powell hosted a series of musical
movies on PBS. Still an audience favorite, she won fresh raves playing the
bewildered Catholic mother of an openly gay man in the Off-Broadway comedy
Avow (2000), and appeared in a concert version of 70 Girls, 70.
Powell was featured in the regional premiere of Stephen Sondheim's Bounce
(2003), and has made guest appearances on such TV series as Law and
Order: SVU (2002). The mother of three, she is currently married to
her fifth husband, actor Dickie Moore.
(b. Robert Preston Meservey)
b. June 8, 1918 (Newton Highlands, MA) - d. Mar. 21, 1987 (Montecito, CA)
This dynamic and nimble leading man was raised in Hollywood, eventually joining
the Pasadena Community Playhouse troupe. Discoverd by a scout from Paramount
Studios, he had a long career in B films. Preston achieved lasting fame as con man
Harold Hill in Broadway's The Music Man (1957), where he introduced
Meredith Willson's tongue-twisting
"Trouble" and rousing "Seventy-Six Trombones." He received
a Tony Award, as did the show the composer, and co-star
Preston repeated his performance in the acclaimed 1962 film version --
but Cook was replaced by Shirley Jones.
Preston played Pancho Villa in We Take the Town (1962)
which did not make it to New York before taking on the title role in the
short lived Ben Franklin in Paris (1964). He won a
second Tony for creating the role of Michael in I Do! I Do!
(1966) a two character triumph he shared with
Mary Martin. He co-starred with
Bernadette Peters in the ill fated
Mack and Mabel (1974), and later toured in The Prince of Grand Street
(1978) which closed on the road.
Preston's non-musical Broadway roles included King Henry in
The Lion in Winter (1966) and taking over the lead in the
long-running comedy Sly Fox (1976).
He was a dashing Beauregard in the screen version of Mame (1974), and
received an Academy Award nomination for his performance as the delightful Toddy
in Victor/Victoria (1984). His death was marked by a unique tribute during
that year's Tony broadcast, with former leading ladies Peters, Cook and Martin
joining in song. His wife from 1946 on was Kay Feltus -- who acted in
films under the name "Catherine Craig."
b. Jan. 30, 1928 (New York City)
The pre-eminent producer/director of stage musicals in the late 20th Century,
Prince learned his craft as assistant to George
Abbott. He teamed up with Abbott's
longtime stage manager Robert Griffith to produce Pajama Game (1954), Damn
Yankees (1955), West Side Story (1957), Fiorello (1959), and other
musicals. After Griffith's death in 1961, Prince began to direct as well as produce
on his own.
His landmark productions as director/producer include A Funny Thing
Happened On The Way To The Forum (1962), She Loves Me (1963),
Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Cabaret (1966), the hit revival of
Candide (1974), and On The 20th Century (1978). Prince's
collaboration with composer/lyricist
Stephen Sondheim kept the Broadway
musical alive in the 1970s. Company (1970), Follies (1971),
A Little Night Music (1973), and Sweeney Todd (1979) were
followed by the disastrous Merrily We Roll Along (1981).
After that, Price worked solely as director for Phantom of the
Opera (1988), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1993), a hit revival of
Showboat (1994) and the short-lived Parade (1998). He also directed
several films, including the screen version of A Little Night Music
(1978). As both a director and a producer, Prince has received more than twenty
Tony Awards, and is a Kennedy Center honoree.
b. July 14, 1895 (St. Joseph, MO) - d. Sept. 15, 1983 (Wadsworth, CA)
One of Hollywood's most prolific choreographers, Prinz's dances graced more
than 50 films for Paramount and Warner Brothers. His most notable screen
Show Boat (1936), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), This Is The Army
(1943) and South Pacific (1958). His choreography was also
featured in numerous non-musicals, including The Ten Commandments
(1956) and Sayonara (1957).
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