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Neil

Gwen Verdon

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Don't know that Lucy and Gwen ever crossed paths, but a couple years before "Wildcat", Gwen did a show called "Redhead".  I don't know much about it but by the title alone it would have seemed a natural choice for the Broadway musical vehicle Lucy was seeking. .  "Redhead" won the tony as Best Musical in a very off year with little competition.  "Gypsy" missed qualifying for this season's Tony Awards by a hair and it's too bad because it would have cleaned up  (instead of losing to "Sound of Music" which tied with "Fiorello"-Merman lost to Mary Martin).  No memorable songs came from the "Redhead" score. And though "Wildcat" was, by most accounts, not a great show, I'm glad she did that instead of "Redhead" or the other show she considered "Unsinkable Molly Brown".

 

Gwen was Broadway's darling of the 1950s, winning 4 Tonys, then triumphed again in the 60s ("Sweet Charity") and once again in the 70s (the original "Chicago".), getting Tony nominations for both.  She never made much of a mark outside of Broadway, but at least got to recreate her stage role in the movie version of "Damn Yankees".

 

I'm only posting this because of a quote I read that was so simple and accurate (the best kind) I wanted to pass it along:

 

"Gwen Verdon's singing has the sound of a little girl who smoked too many cigarettes."

 

Some of you might remember her from a couple of MASH appearances as Harry Morgan's love interest.  Or as one of the "old timers" in "Cocoon" though much younger than the other oldsters: Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and jack Gilford.

 

And just one more note about the original "Chicago" from 1975.  Although a hit with a healthy run, the critical reaction wasn't uniformly positive.  Nor was the peer-less score appreciated.   It was over-shadowed by the ground-breaking "A Chorus Line" the same year.  Both Gwen and Chita Rivera lost the Best LEAD Musical Actress award to Donna McKecknie, who's on-stage time as the main focus was minimal---which takes nothing away from her talent the the effectiveness of her scenes. 

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Great post! Lucy was indeed offered Redhead, however it was three years before the show actually opened. Lucy was approached in 1956 just as season five of I Love Lucy was wrapped up. At that time the show was titled The Works (as in "wax works" since the show was set in a wax museum). Bea Lillie was first choice, but she had demands that couldn't be met. Then Lucy was approached. Gwen came after that and I think there were some major rewrites to tailor the material to Gwen.

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