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Allyson, June  

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Geisman, Ella]

(b Bronx, NY, Oct 7, 1917; d Ojai, CA, July 8, 2006). American singer and actress. Trained as a dancer and with a career which began on Broadway, she became known as the perennial ‘girl next door’ in MGM motion pictures. Her early career in film was as a dancer in shorts such as Dime a Dance (1937), but she gained attention with her first major Broadway role in Best Foot Forward (1941) and reprised her role in the 1943 film version. Other musical films in which she appeared include Thousands Cheer (1943), Girl Crazy (1943), Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Music for Millions (1944), Two Sisters from Boston (1946) and Good News (1947). In 1948, she began to appear in non-musical films, including dramas and comedies. She received a Golden Globe Award in ...

Article

Andrews, Dame Julie  

Howard Goldstein

[Wells, Julia Elizabeth]

(b Walton-on-Thames, Oct 1, 1935). English singer and actress. Her prodigious talents as singer and dancer were recognized early on by her mother (Barbara Morris Wells, a pianist), and stepfather (Ted Andrews, a Canadian vaudeville performer). After vocal lessons with Lilian Stiles-Allen and sporadic appearances in her parents' act, she made her solo début at the age of 12 in the Starlight Roof revue (1947), singing ‘Je suis Titania’ from Ambroise Thomas' Mignon. She repeated this feat at the Royal Command Performance of 1948.

Following engagements on BBC radio (‘Educating Archie’, 1950–52) and in Christmas pantomimes, she was asked to play the female lead in the Broadway production of Sandy Wilson's West End musical The Boy Friend (1954). This led to her portrayal on Broadway of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1956), a role she repeated in London in 1958...

Article

Ball, Michael  

(b Stratford-upon-Avon, June 27, 1963). English popular singer. He studied at the Guildford School of Acting before touring in Godspell, later gaining a leading role in the Manchester production of The New Pirates of Penzance. He created the role of Marius in the long-running Les misérables (1985) in London, introducing the song ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, and took over Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera. He played Alex in Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love in London (1989) and on Broadway (1990), and so introduced ‘Love changes everything’, which was arranged to demonstrate Ball’s full-bodied top range. The popular success of the number enabled his expansion into the popular field and into concert tours. In 1991 he released his first solo album and the following year represented the UK in the Eurovision song contest with One Step Out of Time. His concert repertory has become increasingly wide, and he performed on his ...

Article

Benson, Ivy  

Alyn Shipton

(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....

Article

Borge, Victor  

Karen Monson

[Rosenbaum, Borge]

(b Copenhagen, Jan 3, 1909; d Greenwich, CT, Dec 23, 2000). American pianist, musical humorist and conductor of Danish birth. After early training with his father, he gave a piano recital at the age of eight in Copenhagen, which won for him a scholarship to the conservatory; he later studied with Frederic Lamond and Egon Petri in Berlin. He performed in amateur musical revues in Copenhagen, but his satires of Hitler placed him in danger and he fled, first to Sweden and then to the USA, where he later became a citizen. In New York in 1940 he began regularly to appear on Bing Crosby’s ‘Kraft Music Hall’ radio series, which led to a radio show of his own. Starting in the autumn of 1953 he gave nearly 850 daily recitals under the title ‘Comedy in Music’ at the Golden Theater on Broadway. He toured in many parts of the world and appeared widely on radio and television and in films. His routines (which were partly improvised) were a mixture of verbal and musical humour, delivered at the piano; though his comic reputation was based on his continually forestalling and interrupting his own playing, he was an accomplished performer, as his elaborate musical jokes (such as the composite piano concerto consisting of well-known passages from the repertory skilfully run together) demonstrated....

Article

Bowlly, Al(bert Alick)  

Ray Pallett

(b Laurenço Marques [now Maputo], Jan 7, 1899; d London, April 17, 1941). British popular singer. His father was Greek, his mother was Lebanese. Bowlly was brought up in South Africa and joined Edgar Adeler’s leading dance band in 1922, touring South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, East Africa and the Far East. He left Adeler in 1924 and took up a residency at Raffles Hotel, Singapore. In 1927 he went to Germany and made his first recording, Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies. A prestigious engagement lasting one year followed at the Savoy Hotel, London, with the bandleader Fred Elizalde. He had a major break in 1930 when he joined a recording studio band led by Ray Noble, with whom he made the original versions of songs which have become standards. These, all by Noble, included The Very Thought of You, Love is the Sweetest Thing, The Touch of your Lips...

Article

Brice, Fanny  

Gerald Bordman

[Fannie; Borach, Fannie]

(b New York, Oct 29, 1891; Hollywood, CA, May 29, 1951). American actress and singer. She began singing in her parents’ saloon, then worked on the burlesque circuit playing comic roles, where she came to the attention of Ziegfeld. He gave her a part in his Follies of 1910, in which her performance of Berlin’s ‘Good-bye Becky Cohen’ and Joe Jordan’s ‘Lovie Joe’ stopped the show. She appeared in eight more editions of the Follies as well as numerous other Broadway musicals. She was known particularly for her performance of comic songs with a Yiddish accent, for example ‘I’m an Indian’ from the Follies of 1920, and ‘Old Wicked Willage of Wenice’ in Fioretta (1929; libretto by Earl Carroll, music by George Bagby and G. Romilli). She was also a superb torch-singer, and became associated with such ballads as James F. Hanley’s Rose of Washington Square and Maurice Yvain’s ...

Article

Bronhill, June  

Paul Webb

[Gough, June Mary]

(b Broken Hill, Feb 26, 1929; d Sydney, Jan 25, 2005). Australian soprano. She won a singing competition in Australia and in 1952 moved to England to further her career, first studying with Dino Borgioli, then joining the Sadler’s Wells Opera company in 1954. She worked with the company through the early 1960s, singing roles that included Norina, the Queen of Night, Papagena, Leïla and Gilda. In 1960 she appeared at Covent Garden in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. She is, however, best known as Hannah Glawari in Die lustige Witwe, and called her autobiography The Merry Bronhill (London, 1987); her voice can be heard in its prime on recordings of this role, in The King and I and Lilac Time, and especially as Sombra in The Arcadians.

She created the major role of Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett in Ronald Millar and Ron Grainer’s Robert and Elizabeth...

Article

Buarque (de Hollanda), Chico  

Gerard Béhague

revised by Charles Perrone

(Francisco)

(b Rio de Janeiro, June 19, 1944). Brazilian composer, lyricist, singer-songwriter, dramatist, and prose-fiction writer. Son of a prominent historian, he began a university course in architecture but soon decided to pursue his musical vocation full time. He admired the bossa nova stylings of vocalist-guitarist João Gilberto, but also absorbed much from the voices of the golden age of samba, particularly Noel Rosa. The Modernist poet-diplomat Vinícius de Morais, family friend and foundational figure in bossa nova, influenced his music-making and exceptional lyric writing. Like so many other young musical talents, Buarque staked his claim to fame during televised song festivals in the late 1960s, when the acronym MPB (música popular brasileira, Brazilian popular music) came into use to designate the work of the current generation. He had already composed the refined samba-bossa “Pedro Pedreiro” (1965), when his march “A Banda” (...

Article

Cahill, Marie  

Gerald Bordman

(b Brooklyn, NY, Feb 7, 1870; d New York, Aug 23, 1933). American actress and singer. She made her début in 1888 and appeared in small roles in several Broadway plays before spending some time performing in Paris and London. She returned to the USA in 1895 to accept a small part in the musical Excelsior, Jr., then assumed the title role in the show’s national tour. She subsequently appeared in such musicals as Victor Herbert’s The Gold Bug (1896), in which she stopped the show with ‘When I First Began to Marry, Years Ago’, and The Wild Rose (1902), in which she introduced ‘Nancy Brown’; she achieved stardom in Sally in our Alley (1902) with her most famous song, ‘Under the bamboo tree’. Cahill continued to play leading roles in Nancy Brown (1903), It Happened in Nordland (1904...

Article

Cariou, Len  

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

Channing, Carol  

William A. Everett

revised by Lee Snook

(Elaine)

(b Seattle, Jan 31, 1921; d Rancho Mirage, CA, Jan 15, 2019). American actress and singer. She made her stage début in 1941 with No for an Answer, created the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), and succeeded Rosalind Russell in the role of Ruth Sherwood in Wonderful Town (1953). It is for the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! (1964), however, that she is best known, and for which she won both a Tony Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award. She received a special Tony Award in 1968. In 1973, she returned to Broadway as Lorelei Lee in Lorelei, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. Her success on stage made her a popular guest on various television game and talk shows, including ‘Password’, ‘To Tell the Truth’, the ‘Merv Griffin Show’, and the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’. In ...

Article

Chevalier, Maurice  

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

Colón, Willie  

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

Cook, Barbara  

Howard Goldstein

(Nell)

(b Atlanta, GA, Oct 25, 1927; d New York, Aug 8, 2017). American singer, and actress. After arriving in New York in 1948 she began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950. Her Broadway début in the political satire Flahooley (1951) was followed by revivals of Oklahoma! in 1953 and Carousel in 1954, in which she played supporting roles; she would eventually play the leads in important revivals of Carousel (1956), The King and I (1961), and Show Boat (1966). Meanwhile, in 1954 her starring roles in original musicals began with Hilda Miller in Plain and Fancy, Cunegonde in Candide (1956), which featured the coloratura parody ‘Glitter and be Gay’, and Marian in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (1957) in which her portrayal of the stern librarian was her greatest popular success on Broadway and earned her a Tony Award....

Article

Cruz, Celia  

Lise Waxer

(b Santos Suarez, Havana, Oct 21, 1924; d Fort Lee, NJ, July 16, 2003). Cuban popular singer. She was a gifted child singer and, after winning a radio talent competition in 1947, enrolled in the Havana Conservatory. The first groups she performed with included Las Mulatas del Fuego and the Orchestra Gloria Matancera. In 1950 she joined the world-renowned Sonora Matancera, performing with them for nearly 15 years and establishing her international fame. She left Cuba after Castro rose to power in 1959, and settled in the USA, marrying the trumpet player Pedro Knight in 1962. Although she recorded with the percussionist Tito Puente between 1966 and 1972, Cruz settled into semi-retirement during the 1960s. Her career was revitalized in 1973 by her performance of ‘Gracia Divina’ in Larry Harlow’s salsa opera Hommy. She spent the next several years performing with Johnny Pacheco and other members of the Fania entourage, and remained active in the late 1990s....

Article

Dare, Phyllis  

Paul Webb

[Dones, Phyllis Haddie]

(b London, Aug 15, 1890; d Brighton, April 27, 1975). English soprano. After a precocious beginning as a schoolgirl in Bluebell in Fairyland at the Vaudeville Theatre (1901), she went on to make her name in The Belle of Mayfair at the same theatre (1906), replacing its original star, Edna May, who left abruptly after a dispute with the management. Dare subsequently also took over from Gertie Millar in The Quaker Girl, but her biggest success was in The Arcadians (1909), the most popular English musical of the pre-War era. In this she introduced the song ‘The Girl with a Brogue’, demonstrating that she could project her personality as well as do justice to the music. Although she sang in American musicals, most notably in Kern’s Music in the Air (1934), she was happiest in English shows, however Ruritanian the setting, and was brought back from retirement to play the king’s mistress in Ivor Novello’s ...

Article

Dearie, Blossom  

Ed Bemis

(b East Durham, NY, April 28, 1926; d New York, Feb 7, 2009). American popular singer and pianist. She began her career as a member of the Blue Flames, a vocal group within Woody Herman’s orchestra, and the Blue Reys, a similar group in Alvino Rey’s band. In 1952 she went to Paris, where she performed with Annie Ross and also formed her own vocal group, the Blue Stars, whose jazz rendition of Lullaby of Birdland (sung in French) was a big hit in the USA. Two other vocal groups, the Double Six of Paris and the Swingle Singers, developed from the Blue Stars. Dearie returned to the USA in the late 1950s and subsequently appeared in night clubs in New York and Los Angeles, accompanying herself at the head of her own trios. From 1974 she made recordings for her own company, Daffodil Records, and in 1985...

Article

Dietrich, Marlene  

Patrick O’Connor

[Maria Magdalene]

(b Weimar, Dec 27, 1901; d Paris, May 6, 1992). American actress and singer of German birth. She studied the violin and piano first in Weimar then later at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, but abandoned a career as a violinist to go on the stage, partly because of a wrist injury. After work as a chorus dancer and playing small parts, she entered Max Reinhardt’s theatre school. In 1928 the composer Mischa Spoliansky cast her in a major role in his musical Es liegt in der Luft, in which she sang her first recorded song, ‘Wenn die beste Freundin’. The following year Spoliansky’s Zwei Kravatten brought her to the attention of the Austrian-American film director Josef von Sternberg who cast her as the cabaret singer Lola-Lola in Der blaue Engel, for which she sang four songs by Friedrich Hollaender, including ‘Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss aus Liebe eingestellt’ (‘Falling in Love Again’). Sternberg made six films with her in Hollywood (...

Article

Drake, Alfred  

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....