As she starts performances in Irving Berlin’s 1950 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Call Me Madam, Olivier Award nominee Rosemary Ashe took time out of rehearsals to tell us why she wanted another opportunity to step into Ethel Merman’s shoes.
When classic Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam gets a rare London revival at Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse this month, Rosemary Ashe takes the title role written for Broadway legend Ethel Merman, who originated it on both screen and stage.
All of my ShenTens podcasts to date have concerned the living. Today I’m visiting the past, sometimes fairly recent, of my favourite past legends of musical theatre’s great Broadway leading ladies.
This is a difficult one. I really like Annie Get Your Gun but the 1946 original was butchered in 1999 for a US revival with Bernadette Peters and most references to ‘Injuns’ excised to suit PC sensibilities, losing a couple of good songs.
Before launching into a sassy opening routine of Irving Berlin’s Sisters, Ria Jones and Ceri Dupree tease their audience with a hint of Gypsy’s act one Let Me Entertain You – sung of course originally by that show’s child sisters June and Louise. And in that moment these two gifted performers achieve a rare and elusive vanishing point that sees dramatic irony fade into reality. For Dupree and Jones really are siblings, Dupree by a few years being Jones’ elder brother.
Rose Thompson Hovick must have been one of the first practitioners of NLP. By constantly drumming in to her tapdancing infant that she was ‘gonna be a star’ Rose made it happen even if stripper Gypsy Rose Lee accidentally became a somewhat bigger name than the favoured sibling, actress June Havoc