The Tony-award winning Broadway dancer and choreographer shares his memoirs of his entertainment career, from his childhood in Texas to his rise to stardom in such hits as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and My One And Only. Tommy played Ambrose Kemper in the film version of Hello, Dolly! Order HERE
Clad in white tie and tails, dancing and scatting his way through the "Hi-de-ho" chorus of "Minnie the Moocher," Cab Calloway exuded a sly charm and sophistication that endeared him to legions of fans.
In Hi-de-ho, author Alyn Shipton offers the first full-length biography of Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the highest-earning African American bandleaders. Shipton sheds new light on Calloway's life and career, explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country's most beloved entertainers. Drawing on first-hand accounts from Calloway's family, friends, and fellow musicians, the book traces the roots of this music icon, from his childhood in Rochester, New York, to his life of hustling on the streets of Baltimore. Shipton highlights how Calloway's desire to earn money to support his infant daughter prompted his first break into show business when he joined his sister Blanche in a traveling revue. Beginning in obscure Baltimore nightclubs and culminating in his replacement of Duke Ellington at New York's famed Cotton Club, Calloway honed his gifts of scat singing and call-and-response routines. His career as a bandleader was matched by his genius as a talent-spotter, evidenced by his hiring of such jazz luminaries as Ben Webster, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jonah Jones. As the swing era waned, Calloway reinvented himself as a musical theatre star, appearing as Horace Vandergeleder in "Hello, Dolly!" opposite Pearl Bailey. Order HERE
Mary Martin was one of the greatest stars of her day. Growing up in Texas, she was married early to Benjamin Hagman and gave birth to her first child, Larry Hagman. She was divorced even more quickly. Martin left little Larry with her parents and took off for Hollywood. She didn’t make a dent in the movie industry and was lured to New York where she found herself auditioning for Cole Porter and his new show “Leave It to Me!”
Best known for her Oscar-nominated roles in the smash hits Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles, Madeline Kahn (1942–1999) was one of the most popular comedians of her time―and one of the least understood. In private, she was as reserved and refined as her characters were bold and bawdy. Almost a Method actor in her approach, she took her work seriously. When crew members and audiences laughed, she asked why―as if they were laughing at her―and all her life she remained unsure of her gifts. William V. Madison examines Kahn’s film career, including not only her triumphs with Mel Brooks and Peter Bogdanovich, but also her overlooked performances in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and Judy Berlin, her final film. Her work in television―notably her sitcoms―also comes into focus. New York theater showered her with accolades, but also with remarkably bad luck, culminating in a disastrous outing in On the Twentieth Century that wrecked her reputation on Broadway. Only with her Tony-winning performance in The Sisters Rosensweig, fifteen years later, did Kahn regain her standing.
The role of Dolly Levi in the musical was originally written for Ethel Merman, but Merman turned it down, as did Mary Martin (although each eventually played it).Merrick then auditioned Nancy Walker. Eventually, he hired Carol Channing, who then created in Dolly her signature role. Director Gower Champion was not the producer’s first choice, as Hal Prince and others (among them Jerome Robbins and Joe Layton) all turned down the job of directing the musical. Read more about it in Brian Kellow’s biography of Ethel Merman.
George B. Bryan. Ethel Merman: A Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press, 1992.
Carol Channing, one of America’s most beloved and enduring theatrical legends, takes on her most challenging role yet: as the author of this funny, ribald, and moving memoir.Known across the nation for her portrayal of the irresistible Dolly Levi, the title character of the Broadway musical phenomenon, “Hello, Dolly!,” Carol Channing is perhaps the only living theatrical star whose name brings a smile to the face of people in virtually every city and town across America and Canada, to say nothing of London, Melbourne, and Sydney. Her performance as the droll and leggy Lorelei Lee in the Broadway version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” made her a star and launched a career that has spanned over fifty years and has included a number of Broadway plays, many television appearances, and two movies, including “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Capping them all, of course, was her Tony award-winning signature performance as the irrepressible Dolly.
BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY: GOWER CHAMPION AND THE GLORIOUS AMERICAN MUSICAL by John Anthony Gilvey, St. Martins Press, 2005
During the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, few director-choreographers could infuse a new musical with dance and movement in quite the way Gower Champion could. From his earliest Broadway success with Bye Bye Birdie to his triumphant and bittersweet valedictory, 42nd Street, musicals directed by Champion filled the proscenium with life. At their best, they touched the heart and stirred the soul with a skillful blend of elegance and American showmanship.
He began his career as one-half of “America’s Youngest Dance Team” with Jeanne Tyler and later teamed with his wife, dance partner, and longtime collaborator, Marge Champion. This romantic ballroom duo danced across America in the smartest clubs and onto the television screen, performing story dances that captivated the country. They ultimately took their talent to Hollywood, where they starred in the 1951 remake of Show Boat, Lovely to Look At, and other films. But Broadway always called to Champion, and in 1959 he was tapped to direct Bye Bye Birdie. The rest is history.
In shows like Birdie, Carnival, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, Sugar, and 42nd Street, luminaries such as Chita Rivera, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Tony Roberts, Robert Morse, Tammy Grimes, and Jerry Orbach brought Champion’s creative vision to life. Working with composers and writers like Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart, Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, and Bob Merrill, he streamlined the musical making it flow effortlessly with song and dance from start to finish.
John Gilvey has spoken with many of the people who worked with Champion, and in Before the Parade Passes By he tells the life story of this most American of Broadway musical director-choreographers from his early days dancing with Marge to his final days spent meticulously honing the visual magic of 42nd Street. Before the Parade Passes By is the life story of one man who personified the glory of the Broadway musical right up until the moment of his untimely death. When the curtain fell to thunderous applause on the opening night of 42nd Street, August 25, 1980, legendary impresario David Merrick came forward, silenced the audience, and announced that Champion had died that morning. As eminent theatre critic Ethan Mordden has firmly put it, “the Golden Age was over.”
Though the Golden Age of the Broadway musical is over, John Gilvey brings it to life again by telling the story of Gower Champion, one of its most passionate and creative legends.
Sometimes Broadway dreams do come true.
Fresh from the obscurity of living in the small farming community of Grove, Oklahoma, Ronald Young, at 22, is catapulted onto New York City’s “Great White Way”… BROADWAY.
After arriving in Manhattan on a Friday, he auditions for his first Broadway show on Monday. Bingo! After three call back auditions he snags his first dancing role in the soon to be mega hit “HELLO, DOLLY!” directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and starring Carol Channing.
Armed with three music degrees and lots of enthusiasm he embarks on his career on Broadway. His resumé includes working with some of the legends of the theater: Ethel Merman, Shirley Booth, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Engel and many others. He appeared in a host of shows: “MAME,” “GEORGE M!” “THE BOY FRIEND,” “MY ONE AND ONLY,” “A CHORUS LINE” and the films “HAIR” and “ANNIE.”
“THE ONLY BOY WHO DANCED” is a series of compelling, riveting stories about Ronald Young’s personal quest to make it on Broadway. If you or a friend have hidden aspirations to make it on the New York theatrical scene, you will enjoy his tips and suggestions on how to break through this tough barrier.