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August 22 - Diana Sands

Happy Broadway Birthday to Diana Sands!

Diana Patricia Sands was born in 1934 in New York City, New York. Her father was a carpenter and her mother a milliner. She graduated from the Manhattan High School of the Performing Arts. She started her acting career doing uncredited film appearances throughout the 1950s and made her Broadway debut in the role of Beneatha Younger in the premiere of “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959. The cast included Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett. The show played the Ethel Barrymore and the Belasco for 530 performances. She reprised her role in the film version in 1961 again opposite Poitier. At the end of 1962 she appeared on Broadway in “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” staged by Joshua Logan and starring Alvin Ailey, Roscoe Lee Brown, Cicely Tyson, Al Freeman Jr., and Billy Dee Williams. Despite the powerhouse cast it lasted only a month at the Booth Theatre. Sands received a 1963 Theatre World Award, however. Freeman joined her the following year in the ANTA production of “Blues for Mister Charlie” by James Baldwin and staged by Burgess Meredith. The cast also included Ralph Waite, Joe Don Baker, Pat Hingle, Rosetta LeNoire, Ann Wedgeworth and Rip Torn. She stayed with ANTA in 1964 for “The Owl and the Pussycat” opposite Alan Alda. Her casting was controversial as she was a woman of color playing opposite a white man in a romantic comedy. It earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress. Turning to TV, she next was a regular on “The Doctors and the Nurses” and “Doctor Kildare.” Back on Broadway in 1968 she was seen in the leading role of “Saint Joan” at Lincoln Center. Three weeks after it closed she went into “The Tiger at the Gates” at the same venue with much the same cast. Finally that year she stepped back onto the Rialto with “We Bombed in New Haven,” a satire starring Jason Robards and Ron Leibman at the Ambassador. It did not bomb, but still played just ten weeks. Her final show on the Great White Way was indeed a bomb: “The Gingham Dog” by Lanford Wilson. It barked its last after just five performances. On that note, Sands returned to television where she starred as Diahann Carroll’s cousin on “Julia.” She was cast in the 1974 feature film “Claudine” but was diagnosed with cancer and had to withdraw. At her suggestion, Carroll took over the role. Sands died in September 1973.

I refuse to be stereotyped. Look at me. Never mind my color. Please look at me!” ~ Diana Sands 

August 21 - Don Crabtree

Happy Broadway Birthday to Don Crabtree!

Donald Crabtree was born in 1928 in Borger, Texas. He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of the 1960 musical “Destry Rides Again” starring Dolores Gray and Andy Griffith. It ran for 472 performances at the Imperial. He followed that with “The Happiest Girl in the World” in 1962, based on “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. It starred Cyril Ritchard in eight different roles but only managed 96 performances at the Martin Beck. Hal Prince featured him alongside Eileen Heckart and Shelley Berman in “A Family Affair” at the Billy Rose Theatre. The “Affair” ended after just 65 dates. In 1963 he was in the ensemble of “Sophie,” a musical bout Sophie Tucker. Steve Allen provided the music and Donald Saddler choreographed the bio-tuner at the Winter Garden. It only played there for a week before posting a closing notice. Crabtree’s runs were getting shorter and shorter. “110 in the Shade” reversed that trend in 1963. Based on the play “The Rainmaker,” it had music by Schmidt and Jones (“The Fantasticks”) and ran 330 performances at the Broadhurst. Three months later he opened “Golden Boy,” a musical based on the play of the same name by Clifford Odets. Sammy Davis, Jr., starred at the Majestic. The show ran 568 performances and earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical. His final show of the 1960’s was the disastrous “Pousse-Cafe” which closed its doors after just three shows at the 46th Street Theatre. After that he had a few TV roles on soap operas like “Edge of Night,” “Dark Shadows,” and “Texas.” He returned to the Great White Way in 1978 in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” It was remarkably successful running more than 1500 performances at the 46th Street Theatre. His final role was that of Abner Dillon in the original production of “42nd Street” in 1980.  

August 20 - Julia Sanderson

Happy Broadway Birthday to Julia Sanderson!

Julia Sanderson (nee Julia Ellen Sackett) was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1887. Her father Albert Sackett was also a Broadway performer so she used her mother’s maiden name as her stage name. As a child, she appeared in the circus but was managed by her father with an eye toward Broadway. Her debut came at the age of 16 in the musical comedy “Winsome Winnie” at the Casino Theatre in 1903. She was then featured in a revival of “A Chinese Honeymoon” at the Academy of Music in 1904. She stayed in the far East that year for “Wang,” a musical comedy at the Lyric and then again in 1095 with “Fantana” which ran nearly 300 performances and featured Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. in the cast. Her theatrical travelogue continued with “The Tourists” at the Majestic, which was set in Hindustan. She arrived back on American soil (theatrically speaking) with “The Dairymaids” in which she played one of the title characters. She again played the title role in “Kitty Grey” with songs by Jerome Kern at the New Amsterdam in 1909. She continued her employment for producer Charles Frohman in 1910’s “The Arcadians,” a large cast musical that played three venues in its 201 performance run. Frohman also featured her in “The Siren,” a three act musical at the Knickerbocker that was set in Vienna. Staying at the Knickerbocker, she joined Irene and Vernon Castle in 1913’s “The Sunshine Girl.” She continued to pair with Frohman and the venue in 1914’s “The Girl from Utah” which was popular enough to return in 1915. She again assayed the title role for Frohman in “Sybil” at the Liberty in 1916. True to form, it was set in Russia. She continued the streak in “Ramblin’ Rose” playing Rosamund Lee in the European-set musical. She broke with Frohman to be in “The Canary” at the Globe in 1918. It featured musical contributions from Irving Berlin, P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome Kern. Producer Raymond Hitchcock included Sanderson in his 1920 revue “Hitchy-Koo” also with tunes by Kern. It was the fourth and final of Hitchcock’s self-named revues. Next up was “Tangerine,” a musical partly set on the fictional island of Tangerine as well as in an alimony jail. By now, Kern was writing what would be known as the Princess musicals, small shows mainly staged at the Princess Theatre. Her final musical on Broadway was the epitome of the Princess musicals, “Oh, Kay!” It was created by Bolton, Wodehouse and the Gershwin brothers. As usual, Sanderson played the title role. She was married three times but had no children. She is rumored to have been in D.W. Griffith’s 1912 short film “The Daughters of Eve” but her participation remains unconfirmed. The only other film to her credit was 1917’s “The Runaway.” Sanderson died in 1943 in her hometown of Springfield, where a theatre was named in her honor.  

August 19 - Peter Gallagher

Happy Broadway Birthday to Peter Gallagher!

Peter Killian Gallagher was born in New York City in 1955. He was raised in Armonk, New York, and attended Tufts University where he was active in theatre. He made his Broadway debut in the short-lived 1977 revival of “Hair” as a member of the tribe and understudy for Claude. He served was a replacement for Danny Zuko in the original long-running production of “Grease” in 1978. The following year an appearance on “The Guiding Light” and the musical drama “The Idolmaker” helped launch his TV and film career. In 1982 he appeared in the short-lived musical “A Doll’s Life” based on the Ibsen play “A Doll’s House.” Directed by Harold Prince, it closed after just five performances but Gallagher received a Theatre World Award for it. He starred opposite Cicely Tyson in the 1983 revival of “The Corn is Green.” It managed a month at the Lunt-Fontanne. He was part of the original Broadway company of “The Real Thing” by Tom Stoppard that played the Plymouth for 566 performances. Jonathan Miller directed Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at the Broadhurst in 1986. Gallagher starred with Jack Lemon, Bethel Leslie and Kevin Spacey, and earned himself a Tony nomination. He next played the coveted role of Sky Masterson in the award-winning 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls” that also featured Nathan Lane as Nathan Detroit. His gamble paid off with a Drama Desk nomination. He was seen as the frenzied director of “Nothing On” Lloyd Dallas in “Noises Off” in 2001. He was part of a one-night-only concert of “Funny Girl” to benefit the Actors Fund on September 23, 2002, playing producer Nick Arnstein opposite 16 different Fanny Brices. In 2008 he was in the cast of a limited time revival of “The Country Girl” that also featured Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand. In March 2015 he will return to the Broadway musical stage with a rare revival of “On the 20th Century” starring Kristen Chenoweth. He is currently appearing on the TV series “Covert Affairs” and the upcoming feature film “Hello, My Name is Doris” starring Sally Field. Gallagher has been married to Paula Harwood since 1983 and they have two children.

If I have a choice between a nice, bland hero or a really interesting, detestable character, I’d rather do the detestable one. Good guys can be pretty boring. I love playing characters who celebrate the power and joy and beauty of greed. As the bad guy, you have less moral and behavioral restrictions. There’s no burden of being liked. It’s real freedom for the actor.” ~ Peter Gallagher

with Nathan Lane in “Guys and Dolls” (1992)

August 18 - Shelley Winters

Happy Broadway Birthday to Shelley Winters!

Shelley Winters (nee Shirley Schrift) was born in 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York, and she studied at the New School in Manhattan. She made her Broadway debut in “The Night Before Christmas” by S.J. Perleman. Despite its title it opened at the Morosco Theatre in April 1941 and closed 17 days later. At the end of 1942 she appeared in “Rosalinda,” an operetta adaptation of “Die Fledermaus.” The show bounced between four different venues before closing in January 1944 with more than 600 performances. Still in a musical mode, she was a replacement for Ado Annie in the original production of “Oklahoma!” It was then that she started doing films, in many of which she was uncredited. She eventually overcame her image as a ‘blonde bombshell’ to win two Oscars and be nominated for two more. She returned to Broadway as an Oscar nominee with “A Hatful of Rain” in 1955. It was there that she met her third husband, Anthony Franciosa, who was nominated for a Tony for the play. The two were wed for just three years. A month after “A Hatful of Rain” closed, she was in the cast of “Girls of Summer” by N. Richard Nash. The show featured a title song by a young Stephen Sondheim. It closed after 56 performances allowing her to film “The Diary of Anne Frank” for which she won her first Oscar. One Oscar winner replaced another when she returned to Broadway to step into Bette Davis’s role in “Night of the Iguana” by Tennessee Williams. Once again she went to Hollywood and then returned to Broadway an Oscar winner for the film “A Patch of Blue” in 1965. The following year she starred in the ill-fated comedy “Under the Weather” by Saul Bellow. Despite the fact that Winters played three roles, it went under after just a dozen airings. She was also quite active on TV, with guest roles on “Batman” and “Here’s Lucy.” In 1970 she returned to musical theatre as the mother of the famous Marx Brothers in “Minnie’s Boys.” Despite a book by Groucho’s son Arthur (and cooperation from Groucho himself) the troubled show barely made 80 performances. Once again she went off to Hollywood to get nominated for yet another Academy Award, this time for “The Poseidon Adventure.” And once again she returned to Broadway for one final production – Paul Zindel’s “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.” It ran just two weeks at the Biltmore. Winters continued appearing in movies and TV, even playing Roseann Barr’s Grandmother on her sitcom “Roseann.” On her deathbed in 2006 she married for a fourth time.

I have bursts of being a lady, but it doesn’t last long.” ~ Shelley Winters 

August 17 - Monty Woolley

Happy Broadway Birthday to Monty Woolley!

Edgar Montillion (‘Monty’) Woolley was born in 1888 in New York City. He attended Yale and later taught English and Drama there. He served in the Army during World War I. He began his theatrical career as a director, staging former Yale alum Cole Porter’s “Fifty Million Frenchmen” in 1929. It played a solid 254 performances at the Lyric Theatre. “Second Little Show” was just that - his second (much smaller) musical on Broadway. It had a shorter run, too, due to the depression. Just 63 performances at the Royale in 1930. He again collaborated with Porter on the satiric “The New Yorkers,” which ran 163 performances. Before it closed he was already busy staging the new Rodgers and Hart musical “America’s Sweetheart” at the Broadhurst. In 1931 he directed Bea Lillie and a large cast in “Walk a Little Faster,” which split its run between the St. James and the Selwyn. “Champagne, Sec,” an operetta version of “Die Fledermaus” followed. In its 133 performances it moved from the Morosco to the Shubert to the 44th Street Theatres. His last show on Broadway as a director was in collaboration with Hart and Porter - “Jubilee” at the Imperial. He made his Broadway acting debut as a Russian in Rodgers and Hart’s “On Your Toes” in 1936. It was then he also started acting in movies. Back on Broadway he played Prince Albert in a musical look at the lives of Gilbert and Sullivan titled “Knights of Song.” It was staged by Oscar Hammerstein II. His final work on the Great White Way would turn out to be his legacy, playing Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart’s 1939 satire, “The Man Who Came To Dinner.” It ran a remarkable 783 performances and Woolley also starred in the 1942 film adaptation alongside Bette Davis. He recreated the role on TV in 1954. He was featured in the film version of the stage hit “Kismet” in 1955 and did one more TV project in 1959 before passing away of kidney disease at the age of 74. He was twice nominated for an Oscar.

Be temperate in your work, but don’t carry the patience over into your leisure hours.” ~ Monty Woolley

August 16 - Carole Shelley

Happy Broadway Birthday to Carole Shelley!

Carole Shelley was born in London, England, in 1939. Her mother was a singer and her father a composer. She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and made her London debut in 1955, although she has spent the majority of her career in the United States. Before coming to America she started doing film and TV, something that she has done throughout her acting career. She made her Broadway debut ten years later in the original production of “The Odd Couple” playing one of the Pigeon Sisters. She next joined the curiously titled “The Astrakahn Coat” at the Helen Hayes. It only managed twenty performances, despite being produced by legendary David Merrick. Roddy McDowall and James Coco were also in the “Coat.” Joe Orton’s “Loot” lasted just two performances more then “Coat” at the Biltmore in 1968. She was joined by Dorothy Loudon, George Grizzard, and Robert LuPone in “Noel Coward’s Sweet Potato” which split it’s 44 performances between the Barrymore and the Booth, also in 1968. More Coward followed with a 1970 revival of “Hay Fever” also starring Shirley Booth. Four years later she began a four-play streak of performing in Alan Ayckbourn plays with “Absurd Person Singular” and “The Norman Conquests” trilogy. She earned Drama Desk and Tony nominations for the former. She originated the role of Mrs. Kendall in “The Elephant Man” in 1979, earning the Tony that had eluded her in 1975. She appeared in the Circle-in-the-Square production of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” starring Brian Bedford in 1983. She succeeded Loudon as Dotty Otley / Mrs. Clackett in “Noises Off” later that year. On Christmas Eve 1986 she was the only genuine Brit in the London comedy “Stepping Out” and earned another Tony nomination for the work. She returned to Circle-in-the-Square and the plays of Moliere in 1987 with Philip Bosco as “The Miser.” Her first experience in a Broadway musical was assuming the role of Parthy from Elaine Stritch in Hal Prince’s 1994 revival of “Show Boat.” She affected a Southern accent when she took over for Dana Ivey [see August 12 blog] in Alfred Uhry’s “The Last Night of Ballyhoo.” She was a replacement for Fraulein Schneider (not once, but twice) in the original production of the revival of “Cabaret” at Studio 54. For the first time she originated a role in a musical playing Madame Morrible in “Wicked.” She returned to the role in 2007. Her most recent stint on the Great White Way was playing Grandma to “Billy Elliot” and getting a Tony nomination for it. She was married to Albert Woods from 1967 until his death in 1971.  

as Madame Morrible in “Wicked” (2003)

August 15 - Michael Berresse

Happy Broadway Birthday to Michael Berresse!

Michael Berresse was born in 1964 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, although he was raised in Illinois. As a child he was active in competitive diving and gymnastics. After high school, he accepted performing at Disney theme parks and eventually found his way to Manhattan where he made his Broadway debut as an ensemble dancer in the 1990 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” starring Topol. He served as a replacement dancer in the revival of “Guys and Dolls” starring Nathan Lane and also joined the company of “Damn Yankees” understudying the role of Joe Hardy. He did the same for Lincoln Center Theatre’s production of “Carousel” in 1994. In 1996 he was part of the original company of what is currently the longest running revival, “Chicago” understudying and eventually playing the role of lawyer Billy Flynn. He was one of ten performers in “The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm” which ran just 17 performances at the Longacre in 1999. His breakthrough role was that of Bill Calhoun in the 1999 revival of “Kiss Me Kate.” It earned him a Tony Award nomination. The musical was broadcast on PBS in 2003. He finally originated a role in an original musical with 2005’s “The Light in the Piazza,” a show which was also broadcast on PBS. He played Zach in the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line.” His most recent Broadway endeavor was as director instead of performer, staging the musical “[title of show”] both off-Broadway and at the Lyceum Theatre in 2008. The show was co-written by his partner Jeff Bowen. The same team follow-up with the off-Broadway hit “Now. Hear. This.” It was just announced that he has joined the Broadway-bound revival of “Can-Can” at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.  

with Amy Spanger in “Kiss Me Kate” (1999)

August 14 - Alice Ghostley

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Alice Margaret Ghostley was born in Eve, Missouri, in 1924. She grew up and attended college in Oklahoma, but dropped out to pursue an acting career. She was best known for her work on television and got her start playing a secretary in a 1951 episode of “Lights Out.” She then made her Broadway debut in the memorable Leonard Sillman’s “New Faces of 1952.” Although Sillman produced many editions of “New Faces,” this was by far the most successful, also introducing Robert Clary (“Hogan’s Heroes”), Eartha Kitt, Carol Lawrence, and Paul Lynde (with whom she would later share the small screen with in “Bewitched.”) The show even released a film version in 1954 in which she introduced the song “The Boston Beguine,” the first theatre song written by Sheldon Harnick (“Fiddler on the Roof”). The same year the film was released she starred on Broadway in “Sandhog,” a musical based on a Theodore Dreiser novel. She was in the original cast of Leonard Bernstein’s opera “Trouble in Tahiti” in 1955 which was presented on a bill entitled “All in One.” “Shangi-La” followed (the musical, not the place) which featured Lawrence with Jack Cassidy. Despite staging by Albert Marre and choreography by Donald Saddler, it lasted just 21 performances. She was “Livin’ the Life” in 1957, even if it was just for three weeks. That year she was one of the comic stepsisters in the TV premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”  The comedy “Maybe Tuesday” had even a shorter run in 1958, clocking in with just five shows. But she was back in a hit as the 1960s began with “A Thurber Carnival” directed by Burgess Meredith which ran more than 200 performances at the ANTA Playhouse. On Boxing Day 1962 she opened in “The Beauty Part” with Bert Lahr [see yesterday’s blog] with David Doyle and Charlotte Rae co-starring. It earned Ghostley a Tony nomination. She finally earned the award the following year in “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” by Lorraine Hansberry. She then concentrated on her TV work starring in such memorable shows as Esmerelda in “Bewitched” (1969-1972), Ida Mae in “Small Wonder” (1988), “Designing Women” (1986-1993) and “Evening Shade” (1992 to 1994). She also was seen in the films “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962), “The Graduate” (1967) and “Grease” (1978). She returned back to the Great White Way for one final time in 1978, replacing Dorothy Loudon as Miss Hannigan in “Annie.” For fifty years she was married to Italian actor Felice Orlandi. She died in 2007 after a series of strokes and colon cancer. 

The best job I had was as a theater usher. I saw all the plays for free. What I saw before me was a visualization of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be.” ~ Alice Ghostley 

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as Miss Hannigan in “Annie” (1978)

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