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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....

Article

Geoffrey Self

(Eastman)

(b Derby, Dec 12, 1879; d Windsor, Sept 10, 1932). English composer, orchestrator and director of music. He trained as a violinist, pianist and organist, was in charge of the music successively at the Prince of Wales, Savoy, Daly's and Drury Lane theatres, and, for the last 17 years of his life, at His Majesty's Theatre. He conducted the record-breaking run of Norton's Chu Chin Chow (which he also mainly orchestrated). He also orchestrated the Hiawatha and Minnehaha suites from Coleridge-Taylor's posthumous music (1919 and 1925 respectively), as he did Woodforde-Finden's Indian Love Lyrics, A Lover in Damascus and The Pagoda of Flowers. His choral selections from Wagner's Die Meistersinger and Parsifal were once popular with choirs.

Fletcher's own musical output was vast. To succeed Chu Chin Chow in 1921 he wrote Cairo; its intermezzo is still played. Among his partsongs, Ring Out, Wild Bells shows his mastery of late Edwardian vocal styles, to which he added some unusual modulations of his own. ...

Article

Leon Berger

(b London, May 11, 1874; d London, June 6, 1935). English performer, lyricist, librettist and producer, son of George Grossmith. He is sometimes called George Grossmith III to distinguish him from his father and grandfather, both also called George Grossmith. He made his début in Haste to the Wedding (1892), written by his father and W.S. Gilbert. Small parts followed until Morocco Bound (1893) which typecast him for life as an aristocratic ‘silly ass’. Starting with The Shop Girl (L. Monckton; 1894) he appeared regularly at the Gaiety Theatre, Daly’s and the Prince of Wales in nearly 20 musical comedies in as many years. As leading comedian, he often interpolated songs into shows, sometimes supplying his own lyrics, as with the American hit ‘Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay’ in Our Miss Gibbs (I. Caryll and Monckton; 1909). During World War I Tonight’s the Night opened in the USA and he made famous the Kern standard ‘They didn’t believe me’....

Article

(b New York, July 12, 1895; d Doylestown, PA, Aug 23, 1960). American lyricist, librettist, producer and publisher. Born into a notable theatrical family, his grandfather and namesake was the flamboyant opera impresario Oscar Hammerstein (1847–1919), who created and lost a handful of opera houses and companies around the turn of the century. Oscar studied law at Columbia where he became involved in the Varsity shows and, after graduation, continued to write songs. By ...

Article

Kate Daubney

(George )

(b New York, Feb 13, 1908; d Los Angeles, April 24, 1971). American musical director, conductor and arranger. He began his career as a pianist, playing and arranging for jazz artists, in particular for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in the late 1920s. His arrangements of classic songs for Whiteman, such as Nobody's Sweetheart, are considered among the finest of their era, blending jazz instruments with those of the traditional orchestra. His later arrangement of Star Dust provided a hit in the early 1940s for clarinettist Artie Shaw. In 1940 he became musical director for Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios before moving to Twentieth Century-Fox in 1953. He was involved in arranging scores for a number of films and musicals including The Harvey Girls (1945) and The Pirate (1948); the arrangements reflect the complexity achieved in his work for Whiteman, although film music had only recently incorporated jazz into its idioms. He was nominated for Academy Awards for his work on several notable musicals, including ...

Article

Kate Daubney

(b Haverstraw, NY, Aug 25, 1908; d Los Angeles, Feb 3, 1980). American musical director, orchestrator and conductor. His association with cinema music began as a young man with employment as a pianist and organist for a silent movie theatre in Mechanicsville, New York. He became a protégé of Leo Forbstein, the first musical director at Warner Brothers' studios, after helping with the scoring of the first sound film, The Jazz Singer (1927). He effectively served his apprenticeship with Warner Brothers, rising through the music department as a performer and orchestrator-arranger. During this period he orchestrated for Steiner on Daughters Courageous (1939). When Forbstein retired in 1947, Heindorf succeeded him, remaining as head of the department until 1959, although he continued to conduct and arrange scores. He was nominated for 18 Academy Awards between 1942 and 1968, and received three: for the musical direction on ...

Article

Digby Fairweather

revised by Alyn Shipton

(b Great Lever, nr Bolton, July 2, 1892; d London, Jan 29, 1965). English bandleader, pianist and impresario. He worked as the director of a touring pantomime company (1909), as a cinema organist in London (1913) and as a freelance musician in various clubs. After military service he was appointed relief pianist for the dance band of the Queen’s Hall Roof; later he became this group’s arranger and director. Hylton made a number of recordings for HMV (from 1921), of which the early example Wang-Wang Blues (1921) is representative. He performed at various venues, including the Grafton Galleries, Piccadilly Hotel (1922–3), before enlarging his band to full orchestra size for a highly successful residency at the Alhambra Theatre (1924). In 1925 he set up a booking agency. During the late 1920s his orchestra became the English equivalent of Paul Whiteman’s show band and achieved huge commercial success. Between ...

Article

Andrew Lamb

(b Cologne, 1855; d Eastergate, Sussex, Nov 26, 1937). German orchestrator, musical director and composer, active in England. Educated in Cologne and Meiningen, he came to London in 1880 as a cellist in the Saxe-Meiningen court orchestra, performing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Having settled in London, he worked as a theatre conductor and arranger, becoming the principal orchestrator for musical comedies of composers such as Lionel Monckton and Leslie Stuart, and also turning out the standard dance arrangements. Works for which he acted as musical director and orchestrator included Stuart’s Florodora (1899), The School Girl (1903) and Havana (1908) and Monckton’s The Quaker Girl (1910) and The Dancing Mistress (1912). His effective, if unadventurous, and inevitably somewhat Germanic style of orchestral sound came to typify the Edwardian musical comedy. He himself composed scores for two touring musicals, ...

Article

Daniele Buccio

(Henry )

(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...

Article

Robert Howie

(Robert )

(b Ipswich, Jan 14, 1940). English director . After studying at Cambridge and gaining a director’s scholarship to the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1965, becoming its youngest artistic director in 1968, a post he held until 1986. His early success at the company made generous use of original music and choreographed movement. For The Comedy of Errors (1976) Nunn and composer Guy Woolfenden used the text as the book for a musical comedy. In 1981 he directed Lloyd Webber’s Cats, employing many of his stylistic solutions to its staging from his Dickens production, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1980): a troupe of performers playing many parts, the use of shared narration, ingenious use of ‘fringe’ techniques, and designs by John Napier, which literally thrust the performance into the heart of the audience.

Subsequent collaborations with Lloyd Webber on ...

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...