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Celebrating Women's History Month: Women in Theatre Through the Decades: 1960s-1970s

Today we're learning all about the accomplishments of women like Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno, Diahann Carroll, Julie Andrews and more!

It is officially Women's History Month, and BroadwayWorld is celebrating and honoring the impact and accomplishments of women in theatre.

With Women in Theatre Through the Decades, we will be highlighting the vital role that women have played in theatre history, showcasing those who paved the way and who continue to make history today.

This week, we are highlighting the accomplishments of women in theatre throughout the 1960s and the 1970s!

1960s

Julie Andrews

Though Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut at the age of 17 in 1954 as Polly, the lead, in The Boy Friend and originated the role of Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady in 1956, her career as a musical theatre legend truly hit the heights throughout the 1960s beginning with a turn as Queen Guinevere in Camelot in 1960. After being famously overlooked for the film adaptation of My Fair Lady in favor of box office darling Audrey Hepburn, Andrews made her feature film debut in 1964 playing the title role in Mary Poppins. For her performance, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, besting Hepburn (who had been nominated for portraying Eliza Doolitte), in the process. She continued to cement her place in the hearts of musical theatre fans in 1965, as the star of the film adaptation of The Sound of Music winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

 

Barbra Streisand

In 1962, the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale opened on Broadway featuring a show-stopping debut from an astounding newcomer named Barbra Streisand. After picking up Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her breakout performance as "Miss Marmelstein," Barbra began her quest for world domination. Following her fabulous debut, Barbra went on to release three best-selling albums: The Barbra Streisand Album, The Second Barbra Streisand Album, and The Third Album and starred in four television specials. In 1964, Streisand returned to Broadway in her history-making turn as Fanny Brice in the musical Funny Girl, earning wide acclaim and a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. In 1966, she went on to reprise the role on the West End. Between 1964 and 1967, Streisand released an astounding seven albums, before moving on to her monumental film debut in Funny Girl in 1968. The role earned Streisand an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress (for which she famously tied with Katharine Hepburn). In 1969, Barbra hit the big screen in two more musical adaptations: Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (directed by Gene Kelly) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (directed by Vincente Minnelli). Barbra closed out the decade in 1969 with another album, What About Today? and a special Tony Award for "Star of the Decade" in 1970.

 

Diahann Carroll

Throughout the 1960s, Diahann Carroll began cementing her name onstage and onscreen as one of the great actors of her generation. After earning a 1954 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for House of Flowers, Diahann went on to star as Clara in the film adaptation of the opera Porgy and Bess. In 1962, Diahann returned to the boards in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical No Strings and made Tony Awards history as the first Black woman to win the award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. From there, Carroll hit the small screen, starring as Julia Baker, a widowed nurse raising a young son, on the comedy Julia. This role earned Diahann the distinction of becoming the first African-American female to star in a non-stereotypical role in her own primetime network series. Carroll received an Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe for her role on the series.

Jean Rosenthal

In the early part of the 20th century, lighting designer was not a formalized position, with the lighting duties for a production normally falling to the electrician or set designer. Luckily, that all changed in the wake of lighting design pioneers like Jean Rosenthal. Thanks to her innovative contributions to the art of lighting, she not only expanded the role due to her deeply held belief that lighting is a "career in and of itself" but introduced certain innovations we still use today. Her ability to create an atmosphere specific to a given production made her one of the most sought after lighting designers of her time, and earned her credits on countless productions, including 36 dance pieces with Martha Graham and numerous Broadway shows including West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Take Me Along, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Fiddler on the Roof, Hello, Dolly!, Cabaret, and The Happy Time.

Onna White

Celebrating Women's History Month: Women in Theatre Through the Decades: 1960s-1970s In an era where female choreographers were the exception and not the rule, Onna White rose straight to the top. After making her Broadway debut in Finian's Rainbow in 1947, Onna went on to assist choreographer Michael Kidd on classic shows like Guys and Dolls. Before long she became a choreographer in her own right, beginning in 1956 with Carmen Jones. Throughout the 60s, she was one of the most in-demand choreographers on Broadway and beyond, supplying the choreography and staging for Irma La Douce, Let It Ride, I Had a Ball, Half a Sixpence, Mame, Illya Darling and 1776, as well as the film adaptations of Oliver!, Bye, Bye Birdie, and The Music Man. Throughout the decade, she earned five Tony nominations for her work. In 1968, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored White with an Academy Honorary Award for Oliver!, making her the only female to earn such a distinction and placing her in the company of a small handful dance luminaries (including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd, and Stanley Donen) who had been recognized for their contributions to choreography on film.

1970s

Vinnette Carroll

In 1972, history was made for women on color on Broadway thanks to the pioneering efforts of playwright, actress, and theatre director Vinnette Carroll. In 1972, Carroll became the first Black woman to direct a Broadway show, with her production of the musical Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. She earned yet another groundbreaking distinction that year, as she became the first Black woman to earn a Tony nomination for direction. The production as a whole received four Tony nominations. She returned to Broadway in 1977 with the acclaimed production of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, earning two Tony nominations for Best Book and Best Direction. In addition to her Broadway successes, she was the founder and artistic director of the Urban Arts Corps, a nonprofit, interracial community theater where she was able to provide a professional workshop for aspiring young actors in underserved communities. She produced over 100 plays through the Urban Arts Corps from her loft theatre on West 20th Street in Manhattan and is credited with the development of the "gospel song-play" form of theatre.

Theoni V. Aldredge

After making her Broadway debut in 1960 as the costume designer for Gore Vidal's The Best Man, Theoni V. Aldredge quickly became one of the most in demand and honored costume designers of the American theatre. Throughout the 1970s, Aldredge designed costumes for ten Broadway productions, including the iconic original costumes for A Chorus Line and Annie, earning seven Tony nominations, and winning one for Annie, in the process. She also garnered six Drama Desk Award nominations, of which she won four for Annie, Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Peer Gynt. In 1968, Hollywood came calling and Theoni lent her talents to the big screen, designing costumes for hit films pf the 70s including The Great Gatsby, Network, and The Rose. In 1974, she earned an Academy Award and a BAFTA for her costumes for The Great Gatsby. In addition to the awards, the department store Bloomingdales adapted her costumes for a clothing line. Over the course of her illustrious career, she earned eleven Tony nominations (and racked up two more wins for Barnum and La Cage Aux Folles), ten Drama Desk nominations, as well as the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award from the Theatre Development Fund.

Patricia Birch

Celebrating Women's History Month: Women in Theatre Through the Decades: 1960s-1970s After beginning her career as a dancer in Broadway musicals like Brigadoon, Goldilocks, and West Side Story, choreographer Patricia Birch carved out a lasting legacy as a choreographer of Broadway musicals, television, film, and music videos. After making her debut as choreographer of the rock musical The Me Nobody Knows, Patricia went on to provide choreography and staging for iconic Broadway musicals of the 1970s including You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, A Little Night Music, Over Here!, Pacific Overtures, and They're Playing Our Song. Throughout the 70s, she earned four Tony nominations, and won two Drama Desk Awards for her work on Grease and Candide. Her work for the silver screen includes work on Savages, The Wild Party, Roseland, A Little Night Music, and the iconic film adaptation of Grease. In 2009, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Liza Minnelli

The great Liza Minnelli kicked off a fabulous decade with an acclaimed starring turn as Sally Bowles in Bob Fosse's film adaptation of Cabaret and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance, along with a Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, Sant Jordi Award and David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress. Following the success of Cabaret, Bob Fosse and Minnelli teamed up again for the iconic television special Liza with a 'Z'. which earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special. In 1974, she returned to Broadway with another concert special, titled Liza at the Winter Garden (later aired on CBS as a concert special, Liza), and received a special Tony Award for the performance. In 1976, she briefly took over for Gwen Verdon in Kander and Ebb's Chicago on Broadway, earning acclaim for her take on Roxie Hart, a role for which she had only a week to prepare. She returned to Broadway again in 1977 in The Act and earned her second Tony Award. The 70s also saw Liza releasing three albums, New Feelin', The Singer, and Tropical Nights, and starring in numerous films including Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, Lucky Lady, A Matter of Time, and New York, New York, which famously gave Minnelli her best known signature song.

 

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno may have begun making history in the 60s as she became the first Latin woman to win an Oscar, but she put the 'GET' in EGOT all throughout the 70s. From 1971 to 1977, Moreno was a main cast member on the children's series The Electric Company, which earned her a Grammy for Best Recording for Children. After a brief run in a musical called Gantry, Rita returned to Broadway in 1975 in The Ritz, a role which she won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play, making her the first Latina to do so. In 1977, her appearance on The Muppet Show earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, making her the third person in history, along with Richard Rodgers and Helen Hayes, to earn the illustrious EGOT. She followed that historic win with another triumph at the Emmys, taking home the trophy for Outstanding Guest Actress - Drama Series in 1978, for her portrayal of Rita Kapcovic on The Rockford Files. The decade also saw Rita taking on roles in the films Carnal Knowledge and the film adaptation of The Ritz.

 

 


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