Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway

best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 06:41am
I'm wondering if any of our "seasoned" posters here recall seeing Ann Miller play Mame during the Broadway run (around 1969).

Apparently, they added a tap number, created just for her.
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 08:00am
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 09:58am




I saw her. I was 13, a year before I would start attending Saturday-morning acting classes in Manhattan, followed each week by a matinee, so I hadn't developed the "sophistication" I had as a 14-year-old seeing Company over and over again. I wouldn't know that I had missed something special by not seeing Lansbury until three years later, after Follies and A Little Night Music were also my obsessions and the recording of the Sondheim tribute with the Scrabble cover came out. The minute I heard Lansbury sing the words "Everyone hates me. Yes. Yes" at the beginning of "Me and My Town," I knew I had missed possibly the performance of a lifetime.

Nevertheless, at the time, Ann Miller was 100 percent star. She came out on stage, the audience burst into applause, and she proceeded to be everything an Auntie Mame should be.

And then, in the second act, after singing "That's How Young I Feel," she started to tap. And tap. And TAP. And the audience enjoyed it, it seemed to my 13-year-old unsophisticated self, more than any of the other musical numbers in the show.

I later worked with Onna White, the legendary choreographer of Mame and The Music Man and the movie of Oliver. She said that, of course, there HAD to be a tap number for Ann Miller, or the audience would go home disappointed. Everyone, including Jerry Herman and Gene Saks and Lawrence and Lee agreed on that. "Young I Feel" provided the perfect excuse for a character who was not a dancer to suddenly become a virtuoso dancer--a tap dance could show us exactly how young Mame felt--and Onna and Ann worked together on a typical Ann Miller tap routine that would build to a huge hand from audience. Onna didn't seem to mind at all that the tap was my strongest memory of the show. As a matter of fact, she loved it. (But that was Onna.)

The other thing I remember about that day is that my uncle Sidney bought tickets for us, I think, for my cousin Linda's birthday. He took us to lunch at the Automat and told us to enjoy it, because they'd all be gone soon. And they were.

yr pal,
joey




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Updated On: 7/7/13 at 09:58 AM
CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 10:28am
Funny this topic should come up as I was browsing the Village Voice archives from 1969 and came across and ad for Ann Miller in MAME and wondered how she was in the role.
mamaleh
Broadway Star
joined:5/11/04
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:01am
I saw Ann Miller as MAME, too. I thought she did a great job, even in the dramatic scenes. Her singing was fine but her dancing was out of this world. I had barely heard of her at the time (no TCM then for adolescents to learn about the legendary stalwarts) but was mightily impressed.

Years later I saw her in the Paper Mill FOLLIES, and she was just as captivating.

Updated On: 7/7/13 at 11:01 AM
The Other One
Featured Actor
joined:4/1/08
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:22am
I never saw the show with any of its stars, my theater going would begin in earnest in the early 70s, but my impression at the time was that the show had faded a bit after Lansbury left and Miller's engagement gave it a much-needed shot in the arm. I think she was well received by one and all.

With or without a tap number, I think she would have been a fine Mama Rose. She had an obvious obsession with stardom and show business that could have been used to great effect. She also had a terrific belt, which often got overlooked because of her one-of-a-kind tapping. You could say she resembled Russell, sang like Merman and still was her own distinctive self.

I wish I had seen her in MAME.
justoldbill
Broadway Star
joined:10/17/07
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:25am
The story goes that at one time during the run of MAME, one of the chorus boys asked Ann Miller if she was working on Passover, and she replied, "Oh, honey, I don't do game shows."
Well-well-well-what-do-you-think-of-that-I-have-nothing-here-to-pay-my-train-fare-with-only-large-bills-fives-and-sevens....
CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:44am
I love Ann Miller on my Paper Mill Playhouse recording of FOLLIES. I was pleasantly surprised that vocally she still had the chops to sing I'M STILL HERE. I also love her in KISS ME KATE...her "Too Darn Hot" number is so sexy and electric...easily one of my favorite movie musical moments.
DottieD'Luscia
Broadway Legend
joined:7/23/03
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:57am
I consider myself lucky having seen her in the Broadway production of Sugar Babies.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 12:28pm
I remember passing the Hellinger during the SUGAR BABIES run and browsing the production photos outside the theater. Never got to see the show though.

I love the show's poster designed by Hilary Knight.

Updated On: 7/7/13 at 12:28 PM
best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 01:28pm
Great stories! Thanks so much for weighing in. PJ, I love how accommodating and enthusiastic Onna White was, and I love how she (and others from her era) adapted to stars' talents back then.

It wasn't a one-size-fits-all role or show. They changed songs, keys, choreography, even scenes to fit a headliner.

I'll bet Ann was great in the part.

For some reason, and I don't at all consider them alike, I can see Sutton Foster as Mame in about 10 years ... with an added tap number, just as you described. I can even see her wearing that gold sequined costume in the photos.

I heard several great Ann Miller stories when I did Sugar Babies with Rudy Tronto (sketch director of the Broadway production, and Mickey Rooney's standby). I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Ann made that "passover" comment. She said stuff like that all the time. Sometimes it was a joke, sometimes not, but I adore her either way. (Rudy adored her, too.)
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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nmartin
Broadway Legend
joined:6/3/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 02:11pm
For Miller's own accounting of being in Mame, read her autobiography Miller's High Life.
I got to see her in Sugar Babies and met her one night at Roseland. Both were very memorable!
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 10:25pm
best12, I worked with Ann more than once in Florida and, trust me, the same tap number was inserted into everything she did. (Onna White no doubt helped her to update it for MAME, but it was based on a routine Miller did in, IIRC, EASTER PARADE: over 100 taps (supposedly) while pirouetting (I'm not sure that's the correct term in tap) in a large circle around the stage. Whenever possible, she ripped off her skirt to reveal her long and shapely legs before she started the circle.)

As I said, the same maneuver went into everything she did in the 60s and 70s, I never saw SUGAR BABIES, but unless Ann was on crutches, I imagine she did it there, too.

Best Ann Miller stories:

She began an interview with the South Florida Latino Press (Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans) by announcing, "Some of my best friends are Mexicans!"

***

On her W2 form at the theater where I worked, under the blank calling for "Occupation", she wrote "S T A R".

***

During a tech rehearsal for PANAMA HATTIE, she complained that she couldn't sing her big Act 2 ballad on top of a set unit (about 10') because she had acrophobia. The director replied, "But, Ann darling, you sing a song from the same place in Act I!" She replied (without irony), "The height doesn't scare me in Act I, only in Act II."

***

The above I witnessed personally, but the best story was passed down throughout the 60s and 70s and Ann herself admitted it was true when the tale was told on a talk show:

In the early to mid-60s, she was at a party honoring Richard Rodgers, when she suddenly blurted out loudly: "But I just don't UNDERSTAND it! Where's Oscar?" The room went silent until somebody near her said quietly, "Ann, Oscar has been dead for years." Ann replied, "Oh, God! I've been on the road so long I don't know ANYthing!"

When a cast mate later told that story on Merv Griffin, Ann responded without rancor, "I don't see why that's funny. I HAD been on the road!" (This part I saw for myself.)

***

But, yes, she belted Ethel Merman songs with aplomb and was a huge audience favorite at the time. And her "Mame" was legendary. Not acted as well as Lansbury's, I'm sure, but apparently Ann did justice to the show as a star vehicle. I'm sure she played the character's eccentricity with ease.

***

ETA Nobody has yet mentioned that her run as "Mame" ended when a sandbag (or light or something depending on who told the story) was accidentally dropped on her head. I think that was in New York, but it could have been on tour. She was badly hurt and eventually returned, but the momentum had passed, according to what I was told. (Years of unfunny jokes ensued about her flakiness and being hit on the head, but I don't think those bear repeating.)

Updated On: 7/7/13 at 10:25 PM
beaemma
Stand-by
joined:11/24/09
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:02pm
Actually, I would believe that Ann Miller had a problem with heights. When I saw her in MAME, I was in the front row of the mezzanine, which put me about at her level when she and Young Patrick sat in the window frame that moved them across the stage during "Open a New Window." She didn't miss a note of the song, but she looked frozen with fear and definitely had a white knuckle grip on that window frame. I had seen Angela Lansbury in the show a week or two after it opened. Miller had verve and star power to spare, but so did Lansbury, who also brought a more deeply acted characterization. I don't mean to put down Ann Miller; they were just very different performers.
lovebwy
Broadway Star
joined:4/22/12
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/7/13 at 11:15pm
Around 20 years ago I worked in a record store and Ann Miller used to come in with her assistant. Her assistant was a timid older lady and Ann would snap at her constantly.

Ann would seek me out to help her in the soundtrack/show tunes section. She told me she had to sue Ben Bagley because he had re-released a recording of her on his "Kurt Weill Revisited" CD. She told me she was appalled because "The cover was a drawing of a woman showing her snatch". That is a direct quote from Ann Miller.

She told me Mickey Rooney was "The devil incarnate" but that he was very smart and "knows more than must of us have forgotten".

It was always lots of fun to help her.
ggersten
Broadway Legend
joined:5/11/06
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 12:00am
I was in St. Louis when Ms. Miller was injured at the Muny. I don't recall what happened exactly but I think it had something to do with the lack of lighting and she tripped. (This link says she hit a steel beam and the show as Anything Goes) In any event, I believe a local young lady got to go on in her place ala 42d Street. There was a lot of press about her stepping into the role, but I don't recall her name.
Miller Profile
allofmylife
Broadway Legend
joined:3/8/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 02:21am
I never saw Miller in Mame (After AL, why would you?) but I did see her in "Sugar Babies" and met her at a party. She was well-preserved and really came alive onstage.

I saw Ginger Rogers in London in Mame at Drury Lane. My God, the woman was, what, 70? She was still a star as well. She was still Ginger Rogers. Amazing longevity. When you see footage of her at the end in a wheelchair, and think she starred in Girl Crazy in 1930, , it's amazing to think she was still headlining in 1968 or 69.
http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=972787#3631451 http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=963561#3533883 http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=955158#3440952 http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=954269#3427915 http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=955012#3441622 http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=954344#3428699
best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 07:30am
Love all these Ann Miller stories, thanks!
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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DottieD'Luscia
Broadway Legend
joined:7/23/03
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 09:07am
Best12Bars, I was thinking the same thing!

How I was the cast recording of Sugar Babies was on iTunes. I only have the album.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
The Other One
Featured Actor
joined:4/1/08
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 01:57pm
This is probably one of those legends that someone made up, but it's been said that when she heard that a musical called "Ari" was in the works in the late 60's she called her agent to see if she could play Jackie. The show was in fact a musical version of "Exodus" and had nothing to do with the Onassises.
Ed_Mottershead
Broadway Legend
joined:10/20/05
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 02:18pm
RE: Mame needing an injection of star-power when Lansbury left the show. Lansbury's immediate successor in Mame was Celeste Holm, then Janice Paige. I didn't see Paige do it (I'd seen Lansbury) but some friends of mine did and said she was absolutely awful. Unless I'm totally off-base on this, Miller succeeded Paige in the show. By then, the show needed some gas to make the engine run and apparently Miller did exactly that.
BroadwayEd
carolineorchange21
Featured Actor
joined:1/21/12
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 04:49pm
These Ann Miller stories combined with the knowledge of her sometimes tragic personal life make her Carlotta, in retrospect, such inspired casting. For me, that song went to another place - like with Yvonne, when you knew the singer had seen unfathomable bum times. Also, both ladies could belt with the best!

I've seen a few interviews from later in Ann's life and she's every inch the star and speaks frankly about the ups and downs in the life of a performer. Class all the way.
Hetty King
lovebwy
Broadway Star
joined:4/22/12
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 04:53pm
Yeah when I knew her circa 1995 she had that "I'm an old broad but I'm still kickin" vibe. I wish I could have seen her do Carlotta a few years later. I mean, I've seen it, but not live. She does quite a unique job.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 08:32pm
Actually, I would believe that Ann Miller had a problem with heights.

Um, the point of the story was that her "acrophobia" came and went. She was fine with the height for one number, but supposedly paralyzed with fear in another number.

She may well have feared heights, for all I know. But I've never heard of acrophobia that comes and goes by the hour.

***

ggersten, your link says she was hit in the head by the steel beam in the fire curtain, so it was more than a trip. But it does list the show as ANYTHING GOES. (I didn't meet her until a couple of years later, so I only knew the injury story as it was passed down. No internet/google in those days.)

http://emol.org/film/archives/miller/


The profile also mentions that she suffered from lifelong vertigo, which may be what she called "acrophobia".

I think my reaction to her was like a lot of the staff: she seemed to have no malice in her and she was genuinely and rightfully beloved by our audiences. On the other hand, she was so weirdly high-maintenance (though never in a mean way), it was hard to be sympathetic when she claimed to have a problem.

***

My favorite exchange with her was the first time I called her. She lived in California and hadn't yet arrived at our theater. When I called, I got her mother on the phone and explained who I was.

Then in the background, I heard her mother (was she the elderly assistant another poster mentioned?) yell, "Ann! Telephone!" And then the unmistakable sound of tap shoes hitting a hard floor--"Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, etc."-- and "Hello!" It was Ann Miller on the phone. (Apparently she had been rehearsing when I called.)


Updated On: 7/8/13 at 08:32 PM
PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/8/13 at 08:54pm
I didn't see Paige do it (I'd seen Lansbury) but some friends of mine did and said she was absolutely awful

Quiet, please. There was a lady onstage.

This is not Janis Paige. It's Jane Morgan, who played the role after Ann Miller, doing the original staging for "We Need a Little Christmas":

http://youtu.be/4CwJxfUsPnE
yr pal,
joey




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NoName3
Leading Actor
joined:8/12/11
Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted: 7/9/13 at 12:49am
I have a second hand Ann Miller in Mame story. Years ago I was in a community theater production of Dolly and our music director had not too long before performed in Mame with Miller in a regional or summer stock production in Atlanta.

She said Miller had a big tap solo during the title number at the end of which she tapped backwards into the wings, fell backwards into the arms of an assistant while someone else slapped an oxygen mask on her face and the dancers took over onstage. After a short time, the oxygen was removed, her assistant shoved her upright and then physically pushed her back onstage where she lead the conclusion of the number. Every performance.

Janie always told this story admiringly with the comment "Annie was a trouper."


Updated On: 7/9/13 at 12:49 AM

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