Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Mary Martin Quiz: The Answers

(To first read the original multiple choice quiz questions, click here.)

1. Which of the following shows were NOT offered to Mary Martin to originate a role?

Mary Martin was NEVER offered a role in Guys and Dolls; however, she did turn down offers to do Oklahoma!; Kiss Me, Kate; My Fair Lady; and Mame.

She doesn’t address all of them in her book, but she opted to take on an out-of-town closer called Dancing in the Streets instead of Oklahoma!, for which Rodgers and Hammerstein were extremely grateful, realizing that turning Green Grow the Lilacs into a traditional star vehicle would have ruined the show and would have ruined what they did that ended up revolutionizing the Broadway musical. For months after their show opened, they sent Martin flowers in thanks for turning the role down.

She originally thought Cole Porter wanted her for Lois Lane in Kiss Me, Kate, but he wanted her for Lilli Vanessi. The problem for Martin was, however, that all of her touring with Annie Get Your Gun had taken a toll on her soprano. She literally couldn’t sing the part and knew it. Porter, she later learned, was devastated by her turning him down.

She doesn’t say much about My Fair Lady or Mame, though I’ve read in Richard Tyler Jordan’s But Darling, I’m Your Auntie Mame that the reason she gave for turning down Mame was the music. She signed a preliminary agreement to do the show with the exit clause being approval of the score. When Jerry Herman flew to Brazil to share his fabulous score, she reportedly claimed not to like it, which has been said was her way of backing out. She had spent so much time touring and living in dressing rooms that she simply wanted to enjoy life on her farm.

2. Of all her roles, which does Mary Martin proclaim to be her favorite?

Her strongest statement of such is related to Peter Pan. This is not surprising considering the effect that show had on children around the country. She details the fanatic response the show earned from kids in the audience, as well as how people responded to her after each of the three televised airings of the show. In one touching story, Martin and friends travel through the jungles of Brazil to an acquaintance’s house, barely making it before nightfall, when it would have been dangerous to drive through the jungle. Upon arrival, the house appears to be closed, but then one of the shutters opens, and it is an elderly, senile woman who recognizes Peter Pan, saying Wendy’s line, “Peter! You’ve come to my window.”

It doesn’t get much more magical than that.

3. Which of the following statements are true of I Do! I Do!, the two-person musical which she starred in with Robert Preston.

Figuring that people were coming to I Do! I Do! for Martin and Preston, it was agreed that it would be better to cancel shows rather than to send on an understudy, so none were used. The run began with matinee performances but, as it continued to run, those were scaled back to give the stars a rest in a strenuous show where one of them always had to be on stage while the other was furiously changing.

When the Broadway run was followed by a tour, the show began to wear on Preston and Martin, and it eventually had to end because of Martin’s health.

4. According to Mary Martin, what melody cut from South Pacific was she responsible for getting used in The King and I?

The melody of “Getting to Know You” was originally written as a soft-shoe piece for Martin, and when it was cut, Rodgers and Hammerstein promised it to her. Upon seeing the dress rehearsal of The King and I in New Haven, she recommended that it would be a great melody to use as a song to help develop Anna’s character. In all the talk of “character-specific” music used to criticize shows like Hairspray, it’s interesting to see how the masters responded to character-specific music—by handing one song to another character! Cross reference this with “Losing My Mind” from Follies, which jumped characters within the show.

5. According to Mary Martin, how did she and Richard Halliday save William Talbert’s job out of town as the original Lieutenant Cable?

According to Martin, Talbert was great in the role of Lieutenant Cable, but he simply wasn’t “sexy enough.” Martin and her husband Richard Halliday had become experts on home hair coloring and permanents after all of her different roles, so they took Talbert and shook up his look a bit, giving him soft blond curls that made him look “taller, handsomer, [and] a perfect foil for dark-skinned Liat.” To complete the transformation, director Josh Logan gave Talbert tight-fitting pants, and when he next appeared in New Haven, half the cast thought he was a replacement.

6. With which of the following men did Mary Martin not star?

Mary Martin never starred with Alfred Drake. She did star with John Raitt in a later two-stop tour of Annie Get Your Gun (and he was her Frank Butler on a television production as well).

She starred with Yul Brynner in Lute Song, and even claims to have discovered him (with husband Halliday) when they invited him over to see about using him in Lute Song.

Charles Boyer was with her in the mess Kind Sir. She had always wanted to perform with Boyer, so being able to do so helped her overcome the frustrating experience of being in the show. It was directed by Josh Logan, whom she had last worked with on South Pacific. The problem was, however, that Logan was “in the throes of a breakdown.” His mis-guided psychologist said it would be okay for him to take on the project, but the cast was warned not to challenge him on anything. There are several hilarious stories related to this, but in short, you can quickly imagine what comes of a show where everyone “Yes, sir”s the director who isn’t in a right frame of mind.

7. How did Mary Martin get most of her formal dance training?

As a teenager, Mary Martin often got compliments on her dancing, so when she needed a venue to exert herself after being married at sixteen, she opened a dance school. In the summers, she traveled to California to learn new steps to teach her growing student population.

8. To which controversial location did Mary Martin take Hello, Dolly!, going so far as to persuade the cast to do it.

She took the Hello, Dolly! to Vietnam, even though most of the cast originally voted against the idea. She told them that, while she too didn’t support the war, performing for the troops would be a show of support for the men. It was a tough time for her to be in a war zone, but once all is said and done, the cast agreed that it was an amazing experience.

9. During a busy Easter shopping season, Mary Martin stopped by Saks to buy a pair of gloves. It was so busy that there were no salespeople to help her. Who ended up playing salesperson for her, even going so far as to make up a sales slip and accept her payment?

This was Beatrice Lillie. She pops up throughout the book, and what a marvelous, zany woman she appears to have been. I had always known her as Mrs. Meers in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, but how I wish I could have seen her on stage.

10. Mary Martin and her husband Richard Halliday found peace and relaxation in what foreign country?

Martin and Halliday had a farm in Brazil for many years, which they loved dearly. Once her husband died, however, she says in the book (copyrighted in 1976) that she could never return to it.

the Broadway Mouth
March 25, 2008

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