Lea DeLaria as Princess Winnifred in SF this month

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ElisaC
Swing
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Comedienne, chanteuse and Broadway star Lea DeLaria is starring as Princess Winnifred in 42nd St. Moon's production of "Once Upon a Mattress." Previews start Wednesday, and the show runs through 1/2/05.

You can read more abut the show and Lea's local appearances at 42nd St. Moon's blog:
http://42stmoon.blogspot.com
42nd St. Moon's Blog
gherbert
Leading Actor
joined:11/1/03
Leading Actor
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The tidbit about Jane White was true, however the author completely misconstrued the situation. When auditions happened for Once Upon a Mattress it was clear that Jane White was best suited and deserved the role, however, George Abbott thought that audiences would not accept an African-American queen in a show set in the medieval times. He was not racially prejudiced at all.

Mr. Abbott asked Jane if she could re-audition in white face and she agreed and got the part. Her father, founder of the NAACP never spoke out against this action.

While I completely do not condone African-American actors having to wear white face, we should be glad that Jane got to create the role and that Mr. Abbott picked the best suited for the part, even if she did play it in white face. And I am guessing her father never had any objection because he realized that this was a huge break for his daughter. So while I do think that the "white face" aspect is not acceptable, the author made this seem like Ms. White was forced against her will and was made to do this because of racial prejudices, when it was not so.

Also interesting:

The show, as we all know, originated at Taminent, an adult summer camp. There are numerous stories involving the camp that explain parts of the shows creation (for instance, the bet comedic at the camp had a horrible singing voice, so the authors made King Sextimus mute), but one that I found interesting was that Winnifred was created with the humor of Nancy Walker in mind. Ms. Walker saw the show at Taminent and was excited to play Winnifred when the show was to open at the Phoenix Theater. However, Mr. Abbott told her that she was an "old face" and that the role needed a "new face." His daughter went to the Blue Angel one night and say Carol Burnett's act and the rest, as they say, is history.
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cturtle
Broadway Legend
joined:11/28/04
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delaria will be a HOOT in this role!

i've been listening to this OCR for YEARS and never even thought about jane white being black. that's a VERY interesting story!
RIP glebby <3
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ElisaC
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"The tidbit about Jane White was true, however the author completely misconstrued the situation. [snip] ...the author made this seem like Ms. White was forced against her will and was made to do this because of racial prejudices, when it was not so."

I think you're reading a little more into my blog post than I intended. I never implied Ms. White was "forced", but that she did know that was the only way she would be given the role.

And, whether Abbot went for white-face because of his own feelings or anticipating an audience's feeling, the choice was made because of *somebody's* racial prejudices. I didn't assign racial prejudice to Abbot particularly in my post.

I was mostly expressing my own personal shock at learning that trivia, not really ascribing any particular emotions/thoughts to the real players involved, who obviously I don't know.

As an added note that I didn't put in the story online, the 42nd St. Moon founder also told me that he had read that getting her first big break in white-face did end up messing with Ms. White a bit...not just emotionally, but practically...as it confused casting people. He couldn't remember where he had read it, so I didn't put that part.

If you go look at her IBDB posting, it is strange that she didn't have very much career action after "Mattress":
http://ibdb.com/person.asp?id=64748

I'm going to post a bit about this conversation in the blog, along with some other links I've found about Jane White, doing a little research just now.

And yes, I had heard the anecdote about Nancy Walker. I'm sure she might have been entirely serviceable in the role, but Abbot created a new star instead!
42nd St. Moon's Blog
gherbert
Leading Actor
joined:11/1/03
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ElisaC,

Yes, I do agree that the white face aspect is wrong as I said before, but at least Ms. White got her big break instead of being cast aside.

Mr. Abbott did not think that people would not accept an African-American performer or and African-American performer as a queen, but rather as a medieval queen. So while you are correct in stating that there was perhaps some racial prejudice involved, some of it might be that they wanted it to be historically accurate.

Again, I am a fan of non-traditonal casting, however in 1959 I guess people would have been upset at the notion that the show was historically inaccurate.
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ElisaC
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The first thing my boyfriend brought up was the possibility that back then people wouldn't have bought a black woman as a medieval queen, and I know *he's* not a racist, so perhaps that was part of it as you suggest.

Anyway, they just released a one-day discount promo for blog readers only. All day Wednesday you can order $20 tickets for any weekday performance.

Apparently the show is selling REALLY well because of Lea's presence in the cast.

The Eureka is a really small space, so it's not too surprising.

Check out the details in the blog if you're a local (SF.)
42nd St. Moon Blog
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ElisaC
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Hi again.

So I saw the show Saturday night, and it was really cute. And the rendition of "Happily Ever After" that Lea does in the second act will just blow your socks off. it's like a mini tutorial in how to build and deliver a song.

I also got to chat with her for an "exclusive" blog interview.

So if you go to the blog you'll find:

1. The interview with Lea
2. A link to the Chronicle review (little man sitting up clapping)
3. A link to my very own blog review.

Cheers.
E
42nd St. Moon Blog