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Remembering Beth Howland in LI'L ABNER, COMPANY and on The Tony Awards


As reported by BroadwayWorld, Beth Howland, best known to television audiences as the adorably ditzy waitress Vera on the 1976-85 sitcom "Alice," passed away from lung cancer at age 74. The date of her death was December 31st, 2015, but her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough, said she preferred it not to be revealed right away.

While she described her singing voice as "about four notes" and was more interested in being an actor rather than a dancer, her lovable comic eccentricity won her Broadway musical jobs throughout the 1960s in the ensembles of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, BYE, BYE, BIRDIE, DRAT! THE CAT!, HIGH SPIRITS and DARLING OF THE DAY.

It was in BYE, BYE, BIRDIE where she met the man who would be her first husband, Michael J. Pollard, who originated the role of Hugo, the high school boy who pins Kim. They were married in 1961 and divorced in 1969.

Before Broadway she made her film debut in the 1959 version of the hit musical LI'L ABNER, playing one of the wives of Dogpatch U.S.A. who belted out "Put 'Em Back." In the clip below she's wearing a red dress with bows in her hair. You can also spot Valerie Harper in a pink dress and a feathered hat.

Her final Broadway role was a memorable one, playing Amy, the ultimate nervous bride in COMPANY. Kimbrough was also featured and the couple married in 2002. Eight times a week she amazed audiences singing the tongue-twisting patter of Stephen Sondheim's "Getting Married Today." D.A. Pennebaker's documentary, "Company: Original Cast Album" preserved her studio performance.

She did make a brief return to the Broadway stage for the 1982 Tony Awards, held at the Imperial Theatre. The evening highlighted songs from the historic venue's past productions and, in a medley from George and Ira Gershwin's 1926 hit, OH, KAY!, Howland and Gary Sandy sang the frisky "Do Do Do," between Leslie Uggams' performance of "Someone To Watch Over Me" and Michele Lee's "Clap Yo' Hands."

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