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Robert Howie

(Walter John)

(b Helensburgh, April 2, 1890; d London, Oct 20, 1957). Scottish actor, producer and director. After a disastrous début as a comic in music hall in Glasgow, he danced in West End musicals until he understudied, then replaced, Jack Hulbert in Tonight’s the Night (1915–17), in which he sang Kern’s ‘They didn’t believe me’. He established himself as a leading man, particularly in the revues of André Charlot, then starred with Gertrude Lawrence in A to Z (1921), introducing Ivor Novello’s ‘And her mother came too’. He also scored success in New York in two editions of Charlot’s London Revue (1924 and 1925). An ambitious and astute businessman, he produced Battling Butler (1922) as a vehicle for himself, and in 1926 brought Kern’s Sunny to the London Hippodrome, which became the home to a series of Buchanan productions. With Elsie Randolph he appeared in ...

Article

Robert Stevenson

(b Philadelphia, Nov 28, 1815; d New York, May 21, 1862). American minstrel-troupe organizer and performer. In 1842 while helping the widow Harriet Harrington to run a tavern at Buffalo, he joined her son George (who adopted the name Christy) and Thomas Vaughn to sing blackface songs. The troupe was augmented with Lansing Durand and others, and toured upstate New York in 1843–5. Acting as manager, interlocutor (centre man on the minstrel semicircle), ballad singer and banjo player, Christy took the six-man troupe to Palmo’s Opera House in New York on 27 April 1846. From 15 February 1847 to 15 July 1854 they played at Mechanics Hall, Broadway, perfecting a minstrel show in three sections that appealed to all levels of audience. On 25 August 1847, at the close of their second Cincinnati visit, Christy’s Minstrels gave Stephen Foster a benefit performance that included Oh! Susanna. From that time the troupe specialized in Foster premières, and in ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Capurro, Alfredo]

(b New York, Oct 7, 1914; d New York, July 25, 1992). American actor, singer, director and writer. One of the most versatile dramatic performers, Drake garnered numerous accolades for his performances in opera, musical theatre and legitimate stage roles. He began his Broadway career in 1935 in the chorus of several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His numerous Broadway roles included Marshall Blackstone and the High Priest in Babes in Arms (1937), Curly McLain in Oklahoma! (1943), Larry Foreman in The Cradle Will Rock (1947 revival), Fred Graham and Petruccio in Kiss Me, Kate (1948), and Hajj in Kismet (1953). He received the Variety New York Drama Critics Poll Award for Oklahoma! the Donaldson award for Kiss Me, Kate, and the Variety New York Drama Critics Poll award, the Donaldson award and a Tony award for Kismet. Drake also starred in numerous American Shakespeare Festival productions and directed several plays. He also appeared on television and made numerous recordings of musical theatre works. He was known for the arresting, dramatic quality of his voice. His wide-ranging baritone and powerful, resonant sound necessitated the portrayal of strong and dominant characters....

Article

John Koegel

(b Hamburg, Jan 29, 1864; d New York, July 30, 1936). German composer, librettist, singer, actor and theatre manager, active in the United States. He began a career as a tenor with operetta companies in Germany and Austria. In 1890 Gustav Amberg brought him to New York to sing operetta roles, though he also sang in opera, most notably in the role of Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana (November 1891). In 1893 Philipp opened the Germania Theater (formerly Aberle’s Theatre), where he produced musical comedies modelled after Harrigan’s stage works, until 1902. He composed, wrote the librettos for, and appeared in such portrayals of German-American immigrant life on New York’s East Side as Der Corner Grocer aus der Avenue A (1893), Arme Maedchen (1893), Ein New Yorker Brauer (1894) and New York bei Nacht (1897). Ein New Yorker Brauer...