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Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-07 06:41:14


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-07 08:00:37


Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by PalJoey 2013-07-07 09:58:40





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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2013-07-07 10:28:08


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by mamaleh 2013-07-07 11:01:01


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by The Other One 2013-07-07 11:22:56


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by justoldbill 2013-07-07 11:25:12


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."

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2013-07-07 11:44:27


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by DottieD'Luscia 2013-07-07 11:57:30


I consider myself lucky having seen her in the Broadway production of Sugar Babies.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by CarlosAlberto 2013-07-07 12:28:22


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-07 13:28:46


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.)

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by nmartin 2013-07-07 14:11:56


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!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-07 22:25:51


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.)

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by beaemma 2013-07-07 23:02:15


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by lovebwy 2013-07-07 23:15:07


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by ggersten 2013-07-08 00:00:12


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by allofmylife 2013-07-08 02:21:11


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-08 07:30:48


Love all these Ann Miller stories, thanks!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by DottieD'Luscia 2013-07-08 09:07:22


Best12Bars, I was thinking the same thing!

How I was the cast recording of Sugar Babies was on iTunes. I only have the album.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by The Other One 2013-07-08 13:57:53


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by Ed_Mottershead 2013-07-08 14:18:10


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by carolineorchange21 2013-07-08 16:49:20


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by lovebwy 2013-07-08 16:53:55


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.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-08 20:32:47


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.)


Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by PalJoey 2013-07-08 20:54:54


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

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by NoName3 2013-07-09 00:49:23


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."


Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-09 06:58:29


I don't know how common it was/is, but Ann Miller was the first person I ever saw put cold cream on her teeth before a performance. She claimed it made them gleam (and, for all I know, it did).

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by Patash 2013-07-09 08:49:36


Not on Broadway, but Ann Miller did Mame with the Kenley Players in Ohio -- and yes "That's How Young I Feel" was a big tap number. But more interesting was Ann Miller doing Can Can, with a tap dance number ON the judge's bench at the end -- I kid you not! I'll never forget it! I swear if she did Sweeney Todd, Lovett would be tapping on top of the ovens!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-09 09:18:09


If LuPone's Lovett can play the tuba, then Miller's Lovett can tap all the hell she wants.

And I would love to see her selling meat pies in London, telling her patrons what she's got "on tap."

"Hit it fellas!"

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by ABitOnTheSide 2013-07-09 09:49:33


Ann Miller IS Dot in Sunday in the Park with George! Put paint on her tap shoes and watch her tap out the whole painting.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-09 10:02:41


Brilliant!

Red red red red
Red red orange
Red red orange
Orange pick up blue
Pick up red
Pick up orange ...

Hit it, Dot!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l60fw3m3eB0

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by PalJoey 2013-07-09 12:29:15


Okay. The idea of Ann Miller as Mrs. Lovett doing a "Pointillist Tap Ballet" in a John Doyle Sweeney Todd is FUNNY.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by justoldbill 2013-07-09 22:22:51


Years ago, during our flighty youths, a friend of mine and I saw Ann Miller in HELLO, DOLLY! in summer stock. And, yes, she tapped her way through "So Long, Dearie" to a fare-thee-well. And when the two of us showed up back-stage with cans of Great American Soup for her to autograph, not only did she do so with humor and grace, she sang the whole commercial for us. (After over 40 years, my friend still has his can of soup; mine got lost in a move, along with Chita Rivera's autographed banana, which is another story entirely.)

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-09 23:35:44


^^^^^ If Ann Miller was ever unkind to a fan, I would be very surprised.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by hushpuppy 2013-07-10 21:25:31


According to her autobiography, the oxygen story is true.

Also, Miller writes that it was Louis B Mayer who told her she must always look like a star. She went on to say she never left the house without full make-up and looking like a movie star. It's what her public expected of her, and she always delivered. One can only wonder what she'd think of today's 'stars', who are photographed in public in various stages of dishevelment.

Jerry Herman writes in his autobiography, 'Showtune', about intimate dinners at his townhouse with just himself, Ethel Merman, and Ann Miller. I'll bet that once the wine flowed (Herman is a non-drinker), those two gals could get quite salty.

And in his wonderful book 'Diary of a Mad Playwright', James Kirkwood chronicles the out-of-town tribulations of his play LEGENDS!, starring Mary Martin and Carol Channing. As the end of Martin's contract drew near, word got out that the show was looking for an actress to replace her (Channing was willing to re-sign). One day Kirkwood's phone rang and it was Ann Miller on the other end, suggesting herself as a replacement for Mary Martin. As she told Kirkwood 'What you need up there are a couple of real C**TS!'

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-10 22:47:48


For the record, I saw her a few times without THE WIG (never in public and not even in rehearsal). She actually had beautiful, black (probably died at that point) and straight-as-an-arrow hair that she wore tied at the back of her neck.

It may not have read "S T A R!", but she was actually better looking without THE WIG.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by raker 2013-07-10 23:10:50


Ann Miller tapping up a storm in the Great American Soup commercial is one of my all-time favorite things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jU2pl7bqKg

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by nmartin 2013-07-11 14:15:53


To see Ann without her wig, watch Mulholland Drive directed by David Lynch. Miller is great as Coco!

"Wilkins! Wilkins! If that damn dog craps in the courtyard one more time, I'm just gonna bake his little butt for breakfast!"

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by D2 2013-07-11 15:37:55


Here she is in an interview in 1996, without the wig:

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by GavestonPS 2013-07-11 15:52:02


^^^^ Shocking! Obviously, she went to pieces after I worked with her. (kidding)

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-11 16:33:56


She went without the wig a lot in later years (1990s). I really like her in this interview. Thanks so much for posting it, D2!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by morosco 2013-07-11 16:45:53





Daggone it! I missed the auction for Ann Miller's MAME wigs!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by carolineorchange21 2013-07-11 16:52:23


The oldest and most troubling problem known to man - what to do when you find the perfect sassy wig and it's already been sold?

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by best12bars 2013-07-11 17:41:54


Answer:

Open a new window, open a new door!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2013-07-11 17:45:22


"The oldest and most troubling problem known to man - what to do when you find the perfect sassy wig and it's already been sold?"

You find the bitch who bought it and rip it off her damn head.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by carolineorchange21 2013-07-11 18:04:36


I do love a good wig snatching.

Edit - damn girl. no one likes a sour bitch, well, except for maybe Jim Colyer.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by OperaBwayLover 2013-07-11 18:10:29


I love this thread.

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by carolineorchange21 2013-07-11 18:55:14


Back to Ann - here she is dancing up a storm on The Hollywood Palace - 3.11.67. How can I describe this number?

Early luscious Ann Miller, dancer boys, costume changes, and a Grizabella lift to close it. Kate Smith steps out to show her approval.

PS - I think she's wearing a Mame wig!

Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway
Posted by Idiot 2013-07-11 19:33:18


When I was a kid, the family went to see SUGAR BABIES. Mickey Rooney came out before curtain and announced that Ann would be out that night and if anyone wanted their money back they were welcome to it. Everyone stayed, but I do regret having missed seeing her live.