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Gordon Connell, BIG RIVER's Original Mark Twain, Dies at 93

Gordon Connell as Horace Vandergelder
(Photo by Charlie Karel)

The New York Times reports that character actor Gordon Connell, best known for creating the role of Mark Twain in the original 1985 Broadway production of Roger Miller and William Hauptman's BIG RIVER, passed away on June 12th at age 93. He was married to the popular character actress Jane Connell, who died in 2013 and is survived by daughters Melissa Connell and Maggie Connell.

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After making his 1961 Broadway debut in SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING, Connell landed an ensemble role in the original Broadway company of HELLO, DOLLY! and understudied leading man David Burns as Horace Vandergelder.

Two years later, Jane Connell, created her best-known role, Agnes Gooch, in the 1966 Jerry Herman musical MAME, a role she repeated in the 1974 screen version. The pair appeared on Broadway together in a 1972 production of LYSISTRATA.

The Connell's met in Berkeley, California and married in 1948. In addition to acting, Gordon Connell was known for writing cabaret songs and before moving to New York the two began their careers performing in popular San Francisco nightclubs like The Purple Onion and The Hungry I.

Gordon Connell's other prominent Broadway role was Mr. Grogan in THE HUMAN COMEDY. He made his last New York stage appearance in The New Group's 2003 Off-Broadway revival of Trevor Griffiths' COMEDIANS, with Jim Dale and Raul Esparza.

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