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Article

Ronald M. Radano

[Harold George]

(b New York, March 1, 1927). American popular singer and actor. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica, for five years (1935–40), returning to New York in 1940. In 1945 he began a career as an actor, having studied in Erwin Piscator’s drama workshop at the New School of Social Research. He experienced greater commercial success, however, as a popular singer, making his début at the Royal Roost, New York, in 1949. The following year he rejected his popular song repertory and began to sing traditional melodies from Africa, Asia, America and the Caribbean, which he collected in folk music archives. Having secured an RCA recording contract in 1952, Belafonte went on to become the most popular ‘folk’ singer in the USA. His interpretations of Trinidadian calypso music between 1957 and 1959 won him his greatest success and marked the pinnacle of his career. His mass appeal through the 1950s, moreover, enabled him to resume his work as an actor, and he appeared in several films. During the 1960s and 70s his popularity waned, but he continued to record, and to perform in nightclubs and theatres for a predominantly white, middle-class audience. In ...

Article

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

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Leonard]

(b Winnipeg, MB, Sept 30, 1939). Canadian actor and singer. An accomplished actor on stage, film and television, Cariou’s Broadway credits include Bill Sampson in Applause (1970), Frederik in A Little Night Music (1973), and the title character in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979). He reprised the role of Frederik in the 1977 film version of A Little Night Music; other film credits include The Four Seasons (1981). He has appeared in numerous television movies and has made guest appearances in various television shows, including the recurring role of Michael Hagarty in Murder, She Wrote, the series which featured his co-star from Sweeney Todd, Angela Lansbury. He possesses a wide range, excellent diction and a dramatic masculine sound, and his voice works effectively in both solo and ensemble settings. His true strength is as a character actor, and his voice quality enhances the theatrical effect of the wide variety of roles which he portrays....

Article

Mark Brill

(Auguste)

(b Ménilmontant, Sep 12, 1888; d Paris, Jan 1, 1972). French singer and actor. He left school at 11 to become an electrician and soon thereafter became an acrobat, until an injury forced him to pursue singing and dancing instead. In 1900 he made his début at the Café des Trois Lions as a singer and comedian. His song-and-dance routines made him popular at local cafés and music halls where he was known as ‘Le Petit Chevalier’. Through a three-year contract at the Folies Bergères, where he began a ten-year partnership both on and off stage with the star Mistinguett, he developed the sophisticated and charismatic persona that was to make him popular on stage and in film. He learned English from a fellow POW during WWI, after which he successfully resumed his music-hall career and appeared in silent films and theatrical productions. His trademark straw hat, bow tie and cane complemented the elegant grace and joie de vivre that would come to personify French charm and sophistication. The advent of sound film allowed his charisma and talent to come through, and 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

Robert Stevenson

(b Palmyra, NY, Nov 6, 1827; d New York, May 12, 1868). American minstrel performer. He changed his family name of Harrington after joining (as a jig dancer) the troupe of his stepfather, Edwin Pearce Christy, at Buffalo in 1842. He appeared with Christy’s Minstrels in New York from 1847 to 1853, creating such roles as Lucy Long and Cachuca, and distinguishing himself in every part from endman and bone player to wench. In 1853 he joined Henry Wood at 444 Broadway to form Wood and Christy’s Minstrels. After a fire destroyed their premises in December 1854, the company went on tour; they later returned to New York and re-established themselves on Broadway. Christy formed his own company, George Christy’s Minstrels, in 1858, and played at Tom Maguire’s Opera House in San Francisco. In May 1859 he attempted to resume occupancy of the rebuilt 444 Broadway in New York, but was prevented from doing so by his erstwhile partner Wood. His last appearance was in Brooklyn with Hooley’s Minstrels ten days before his death. Christy published collections of his songs, dialogues and jokes, including ...

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

Robert B. Winans

(b 1808; d New Orleans, 1861). American minstrel performer. He was most famous for his entr’acte performances of Coal Black Rose, the first blackface comic lovesong, and Long Tailed Blue, the first song of the black dandy; both of these song types later became standard in the minstrel show, and both songs are in a simple musical style that was thought (mistakenly) to represent African American music. Dixon claimed authorship of these songs (and, less credibly, of Zip Coon), and is credited as the first to perform them; he presented Coal Black Rose as early as 1827 in Albany and in 1828 brought it to New York, where he became highly popular. Capitalizing on this success, in 1829 he expanded the song into two comic skits (an interlude and an afterpiece), The Lottery Ticket and Love in a Cloud; the latter has been cited as the first ‘negro play’. Dixon performed throughout the 1830s, but by the 1840s he had been eclipsed by other minstrel performers; he went on to gain notoriety as a filibuster in Yucatán and as the editor of a New York scandal sheet. ...

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

Robert Skinner

(b Providence, RI, June 29, 1901; d Miami Beach, FL, March 6, 1967). American baritone and actor. He moved with his family in 1915 to Philadelphia, where he studied singing with David Bispham. He made his début in a musical play (The Marriage Tax) at the Philadelphia Academy of Music in 1922, and also sang roles with the Philadelphia Civic Opera and the Philadelphia Operatic Society before appearing at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1924. He spent the years 1928 to 1933 giving concert tours throughout the USA. He made his first film in 1933 and achieved fame two years later when he starred with Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta, the success of which led to their appearing together in seven further film musicals, including Rose Marie (1936), Maytime (1937), New Moon (1940) and Bitter Sweet (1940). Eddy made several recordings and continued to perform on radio, television and in concerts up to the time of his death....