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July 22 - John Leguizamo

Happy Broadway Birthday to John Leguizamo!

John Alberto Leguizamo was born in Bogata, Columbia, in 1964. In 1968 his family immigrated to the US settling in New York City. He began writing comedy in high school and went to NYU to study theatre, dropping out to pursue a stand-up career. He took additional theatre courses at C.W. Post. He began his acting career with a small role in “Miami Vice” and was seen in a Madonna music video in 1984. He completed a half dozen feature films before his first stage success as writer and performer in off-Broadway’s “Mambo Mouth.” Two years later he created the show “Spic-O-Rama” based on his Latino roots which also won awards off-Broadway. Both shows were filmed for HBO. As was his Broadway debut, “Freak” in 1998. “Freak” earned him a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination. He followed that with “Sexaholix” in 2002, about his love life and settling down as a family man. The show was revived for a limited engagement in 2003. In 2008 he acted in David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” with Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment. It played just a week at the Belasco. In 2011 he returned to his original solo work with “Ghetto Klown,” again earning a Drama Desk Award. Late in 2013 it was taped for HBO. He has continued his TV and film work with such notable hits as “To Wong Foo” and “Romeo + Juliet” and as voice talent in the popular “Ice Age” films. He is currently seen in the movie “Chef” and has five films upcoming for 2014-15. Leguizamo has been married twice and has two children.

I see the new Latin artist as a pioneer, opening up doors for others to follow. And when they don’t open, we crowbar our way in.” ~ John Leguizamo

July 21 - Anne Meacham

Happy Broadway Birthday to Anne Meacham!

Mary Anne Meacham was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925. She graduated from Yale School of Drama in 1947. She made her Broadway debut in “The Long Watch” which played a short run at the Lyceum in 1952. Two years later she was in “Ondine” alongside Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn and Marion Seldes, who became her life-long friend. That year she also began doing television on “The Brighter Day.” Orson Welles headlined a 1956 City Center production of “King Lear” with Meacham understudying the few female roles. Back at City Center to understudy in 1956, she began her long association with the plays of Tennessee Williams standing by for Tallulah Bankhead in a revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She understudied yet again barely a month later in “Mister Johnson” at the Martin Beck. She finally got to create a role – again cast with Bankhead – in “Eugenia” at the Ambassador. It ran a mere 12 performances. Off-Broadway she created the role of Catherine Holly in Williams’ “The Garden District” (later re-titled “Suddenly Last Summer”). Meacham won an Obie for the performance. Back on Broadway, she played Lizzie Borden in “The Legend of Lizzie” but the show was axed after just two performances. That freed her up to do “Moonbirds” at the Cort a few months later. Sadly, their wings were clipped after just three performances. Back off-Broadway she earned a second Obie playing “Hedda Gabler” at the Fourth Street Theatre. The E.M. Forster novel “A Passage to India” was brought to the Broadway stage in 1962 with Meacham as Miss Adela Quested. Two years later The American National Theatre and Academy presented a repertory of “The Crucible” and “The Seagull” that featured Meacham. Her final appearance on the Great White Way was in Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Ironically, the play was the first Broadway outing for Elizabeth Franz, who went on to co-star with Meacham on the NBC daytime drama “Another World.” Both Franz and Meacham played staff in the Cory household. Meacham played eccentric Cory housekeeper Louise Goddard Brooks from 1971 to 1982. She died in 2006 at the age of 80.

"There’s nothing she won’t say or do on stage without any sign of embarrassment".~ Tennessee Williams about Anne Meacham

July 20 - Sally Ann Howes

Happy Broadway Birthday to Sally Ann Howes!

Sally Ann Howes was born in London, England, in 1930, to performers Bobby Howes and Patricia Malone. Her uncle Pat Malone was also an actor, so performing runs in her family. Her first acting job was in the British film “Thursday’s Child” at the age of 13. She made ten films during the 1940’s. While still a teenager she made her West End debut and in 1950 she starred in a BBC TV version of “Cinderella.” She was married for three years to Maxwell Coker. In 1958 she came to the US to replace Julie Andrews in “My Fair Lady” so that Andrews might play the role in London. She married Broadway composer Richard Adler (“The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees”) in 1958. She returned to Broadway in 1961 to create the role of Eve in the Adler musical “Kwamina” which lasted only 32 performances. The show’s interracial romance proved too controversial for audiences. The following year she played the lead in a City Center revival of “Brigadoon” which earned her a Tony nomination. The following season she was in a hit called “What Makes Sammy Run?” starring Steve Lawrence. After that, the lure of screen work took over and she reprised her Tony nominated role of Fiona in a TV version of “Brigadoon” (1966) starring Peter Falk. That same year she divorced Adler and began filming “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968) as Truly Scrumptious. During the 1970’s she starred in national tours of major musicals in both the US and the UK. In 1990 she played Desiree in the New York City Opera production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” The musical was broadcast on PBS. Her most recent appearance on the Great White Way was in2000’s “James Joyce’s The Dead.” It earned her a Drama Desk nomination. She has been married to Douglas Rae since 1972.

"I don’t think those early years in the business really shape whatever talents a person may possess. It is only when you are old enough to appreciate what you are doing that you begin to learn from each part you play.” ~ Sally Ann Howes

as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”

July 19 - Helen Gallagher

Happy Broadway Birthday to Helen Gallagher!

Helen Gallagher was born in New York City in 1926. She made her Broadway debut as an ensemble member and understudy in 1944 with “Seven Lively Arts,” a Cole Porter revue starring Bert Lahr, Bea Lillie, and Benny Goodman. From there she appeared in a succession of musicals in the 1940’s: George Balanchine’s “Mr. Strauss Goes To Boston” (1945), “Billion Dollar Baby” (1945), “Brigadoon” (1947), “High Button Shoes” (1947), and “Touch and Go” (1949). She began doing television in 1949 as well. The 1950’s were also a busy time for Gallagher. She began with “Make a Wish” (1950) and a 1952 revival of “Pal Joey” which won her a Tony Award for playing Gladys Bumps. Next she starred in the flop “Hazel Flagg” in the title role. She took over for Carol Haney in “The Pajama Game” when understudy Shirley MacLaine went to Hollywood to make movies. She played in 1955 City Center revivals of “Guys and Dolls” as Adelaide and “Finian’s Rainbow” as Sharon. She returned to “Brigadoon” in the role of Meg Brockie at the Adelphi. In 1958 she appeared in “Portofino,” one of Broadway’s biggest flop musicals. She the stepped away from the stage for a while, and divorced her husband Frank Wise. She finally came back to the Great White Way in 1966 as Nickie in “Sweet Charity” later playing the leading role. She was nominated for a Tony for playing Nickie. She served as replacement in the original production of “Mame.” Yet another flop musical was 1970’s “Cry for Us All.” The following year she returned to success with a revival of “No, No, Nanette” earning a Tony Award for Best Actress. In 1972 she appeared in her first non-musical play, “Much Ado About Nothing” which transferred from the Delacorte in Central Park to the Winter Garden. This was her last appearance on Broadway. In 1975 she began playing Maeve Ryan on TV’s “Ryan’s Hope,” winning three daytime Emmy Awards for her work.  

I find acting quite painful. I don’t really want to strip away my innermost feelings. I don’t want to be pained on stage — I want to have a good time.” ~ Helen Gallagher

with Gwen Verdon (left) and Thelma Oliver (right) in “Sweet Charity” (1966)

July 18 - Dolph Sweet

Happy Broadway Birthday to Dolph Sweet!

Adolphus Jean Sweet was born in New York City in 1920. He attended University of Alabama but was called up to active duty during World War II. He was shot down in Romania and spent two years in a POW camp. Upon his return to the states he enrolled in Columbia University. He made his Broadway debut in 1961 in the ensemble of “Rhinoceros” starring Zero Mostel. Eventually, he took over the role originated by Morris Carnovsky. That was the same year he began his screen career in the film “The Young Doctors.” The following year he was in “Romulus” with Cyril Ritchard. He did nearly a play a year on Broadway after that: “The Advocate” in 1963, “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” (1964), “The Great Indoors” (1966), and “The Natural Look” (1967) which played a single performance. In 1969 Sweet was in the notorious flop musical “Billy” based on “Billy Budd” which also closed on opening night. This gave him time to finish up the decade with “The Penny Wars” which ran five times as long at the Royale. He took a quick break from three stage failures to concentrate on his TV work. On the small screen he was seen on many soap operas including “Another World,” “Somerset,” “The Edge of Night,” and “Dark Shadows.” In 1972 he returned to the Great White Way with a revival of “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.” Like his previous Broadway outing, it ran just five performances. He again took a break for screen projects, appearing in many TV movies and as a guest on many episodic TV programs. He left Broadway on a high, however, with the Lincoln Center Theatre production of “Streamers” which had transferred from downtown’s Public Theatre. The David Rabe Vietnam drama ran 478 performances. From 1981 to his death he was a regular on the sitcom “Gimme a Break!” starring Nell Campbell. He died of cancer during the show’s final season.

July 17 - Jimmy Cagney

Happy Broadway Birthday to Jimmy Cagney!

James Francis Cagney, Jr., was born in New York City in 1899. As a boy he was keen on sports and tap dancing. He briefly attended Columbia University intending to study art, but dropped out due to the death of his father. He worked in a variety of jobs before he settled on an acting career: intern architect, newspaper copy boy, night doorman, and librarian. He hung around Brooklyn’s early sound stages and got involved with amateur dramatics, at first backstage. During World War I he got involved in a play in which servicemen appeared dancing in drag. His Broadway debut came in 1919 with “Pitter Patter” a song and dance comedy that played over 100 performances and allowed him to send money home to his mother. This led to him going out on the vaudeville circuit for five years, returning to Broadway in the Maxwell Anderson drama “Outside Looking In.” This was his first role as a ‘tough guy’ in a non-musical play. Critics were encouraging to young Cagney: 

"Mr. Cagney … makes a few minutes silence during his mock-trial scene something that many a more established actor might watch with profit." ~ Life Magazine

Parts came more frequently now, with “Women Go On Forever” in 1927, and two editions of “The Grand Street Follies” in 1928 and 1929, where he returned to his song and dance roots. In 1929 he held the Cort with Joan Blondell in the comedy “Maggie the Magnificent.” In 1930 he made his last stage appearance in “Penny Arcade” before heading to Hollywood to fulfill his destiny of becoming a film star. His first film was “Sinners’ Holiday” in 1930. He made nearly 70 motion pictures in his time, including classics like “Angels With Dirty Faces” (1938; Oscar nomination), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942; Oscar), “White Heat” (1949), “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955; Oscar nomination), and his final screen appearance, “Ragtime” (1981). He was married to Frances Willard Vernon from 1922 until his death from a heart attack in 1986. They had two children.

Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man. Those few words tell as much about me professionally as there is to tell.” ~ Jimmy Cagney

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