Thursday, December 1, 2016

RIP Fritz Weaver and Florence Henderson, Great Actors We Saw Onstage in "Baker Street" (1965) and "South Pacific" (1967)

In the past week, we were saddened to learn of the deaths of the terrific actors Fritz Weaver and Florence Henderson, both of whom we were lucky enough to onstage in the mid-1960s.
In 1965, our parents took us to see the musical Baker Street, which starred Fritz Weaver as Sherlock Holmes. His co-stars were Inga Swenson (later on the TV show Benson), Martin Gabel as Professor Moriarity, and Peter Sallis, who as Dr. Watson sang the only song from the show we remember, "A Married Man." Whenever a matinee crowd would see our family coming -- in this case, at the Broadway Theatre, they would cringe at the thought of sitting near three boys, ages 13, 10, and 3, but we were really well-behaved and knew never to say a word during the show. We were too entranced anyway, and we have great memories of this show, which wasn't even given a mention in Fritz Weaver's obituary in The New York Times.
A couple of years later, we went to a July 4, 1967 matinee of South Pacific at the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center, where we saw Florence Henderson give an amazing performance as Nellie Forbush; we can see her now as she sang "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair." The opera star Giorgio Tozzi sang a memorable "Some Enchanted Evening," and we also recall the very funny David Doyle (later known for the TV show Charlie's Angels) leading the American sailors in "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" and Irene Byatt, as Bloody Mary, singing the haunting "Bali Ha'i." But the pre-Brady Bunch (we didn't watch it) Florence Henderson, from our seat, was clearly the star. (This is probably ungracious and in poor taste, but at 16, we noticed that when she had short-shorts on, there was clearly cellulite -- "cottage cheese" -- on the backs of her thighs. To us, it just made her more human and more lovable.)
We are very grateful to have been a kid in New York City in the 1960s with parents who took us to see live theater, so we can have terrific memories of stars like Fritz Weaver and Florence Henderson. And we're glad we saved the Playbills!

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