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Robert Howie

(b Buffalo, NY, April 8, 1943; d Tucson, AZ, July 2, 1987). American director and choreographer. He made his début at the age of 17 as Baby John in a tour of West Side Story, and was influenced by working with Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd and Peter Gennaro in further Broadway shows. His first orginal dances featured in the short-lived A Joyful Noise (1966), and in the following year he staged How Now, Dow Jones whose producer, David Merrick, spotted Bennett’s potential and gave him his first hit, Promises, Promises (1968), with his first show-stopping number, ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’. His staging of Follies in 1971 was so integral to the show’s success that Hal Prince gave him co-director’s credit. By Seesaw (1973), he took over the direction, choreography and writing of an out-of-town disaster and reversed its fortunes: this level of artistic control inspired Bennett to develop ...

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

Robert Howie

(b Paris, July 26, 1882; d Woodland, CA, May 20, 1956). French theatrical producer. He gained early managerial experience at various Parisian theatres and music halls, including the Folies-Bergère. In 1912 he was appointed joint manager of the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, and by 1915 was the managing director, specializing in the presentation of revue. He then produced a series of revues at the Vaudeville Theatre (1916–23) including Some, Cheep, Tabs, Buzz-Buzz, Pot Luck, Snap and Rats. These entertainments defined Charlot’s style as intimate and small-scale, relying on sophisticated material performed by witty personalities with simple, though stylish sets and costumes. He introduced Noël Coward both as a lyricist (Tails Up, 1918) and as a composer (London Calling, 1923). Beatrice Lillie, Gertrude Lawrence and Binnie Hale rose from the ranks of Charlot choruses to stardom. In A to Z at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Jack Buchanan introduced Ivor Novello’s ...

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

(b Lindfield, Sept 25, 1872; d London, Jan 31, 1951). English theatrical producer. He first worked as an actor in America, then became a manager and producer. He brought Houdini to London and was associated with the presentation of boxing, wrestling, rodeo and circus. He twice produced Max Reinhardt’s religious epic, Das Mirakel (1911 and 1932), for which he commissioned a score from Engelbert Humperdinck. Cochran’s true métier was West End revue; whereas Charlot tended to discover talent and make revue stars, Cochran often presented them in a grander style. Noël Coward wrote, composed and starred in Cochran’s This Year of Grace (1928), which Cochran produced at the London Pavilion, where he staged many successful revues. He later moved towards the creation of an English style of musical comedy when the appeal of the revue dwindled.

Cochran frequently interpolated Broadway hits into his shows, and Rodgers and Hart (...

Article

Ronald Byrnside

revised by Andrew Lamb

(b Providence, RI, 3/July 4, 1878; d New York, Nov 5, 1942). American songwriter, performer and producer. From boyhood he toured in New England and the Midwest with his parents and sister in an act called the Four Cohans, which by 1900 had become one of the leading performances on the vaudeville circuit. He played violin in the pit orchestra when he was nine and began writing sketches for the family act when he was 11 and songs when he was 13. During the 1890s he assumed a swaggering walk, brash speech and rapid delivery, forming an image of a song-and-dance man that later became archetypal. In 1901 he extended his vaudeville sketch The Governor’s Son into a full-length musical show, and in 1903 did the same with Running for Office: both were moderately successful items in the family’s repertory.

Cohan’s first original musical comedy was ...

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

Raoul F. Camus

(b Naples, Italy, June 21, 1871; d New York, Aug 15, 1952). American conductor, impresario, and composer of Italian origin. He studied music at the conservatory in Naples, and by the age of 17 was conductor of the city’s municipal band. He left this position after eight years to play trombone in another band during its American tour. Encouraged by the wealth of performing opportunities in the USA, he recruited 40 musicians during a trip to Italy in 1902, and then traveled with them to New York, where the band’s opening concert was well received. In the next few years he toured the USA and Canada. He appeared on the Chautauqua circuit from 1910 to 1916. While pursuing his band activities, he organized an opera company in 1918 that continued for five years. The Depression brought about a decline in professional bands, and in 1936 he became conductor of the New York City Symphonic Orchestra, formed under the auspices of the WPA. A year later he became bandmaster of the New York State Symphonic Band, also a WPA group. In ...

Article

George J. Ferencz

(b Hartford, CT, Aug 3, 1906; d Los Angeles, Sept 26, 1972). American conductor, composer, arranger and film producer. He attended Loyola College, later studying with Joseph Schillinger and Ernst Toch. Beginning in 1927, he conducted Broadway musicals by several of its leading songwriters, including Schwartz (Flying Colors, 1932), Romberg (May Wine, 1935), Arlen (Hooray for What?, 1937), Porter (Leave it to Me, 1938), Kern (Very Warm for May, 1939) and Berlin (Louisiana Purchase, 1940). He also appeared frequently as a network radio conductor during the 1930s. He joined Paramount in 1941 and worked on several dozen films, variously as composer, arranger, conductor or musical director, including Holiday Inn (1942), Lady in the Dark (1944) and Blue Skies (1946). He also served as producer for the lavish Paramount musicals White Christmas...

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....