Saturday, January 7, 2017

Remembering George S. Irving

 George S. Irving was born Irving Shelasky, in Springfield, Mass., 
back in 1922, where he sang in synagogues and churches.
While performing in the ensemble of Show Boat in St. Louis,
he had to go on for a sick cast member and sing
"Old Man River" (incongruous as that may sound)
...Well, doncha know that Oscar Hammerstein was in the audience?
A part in the chorus of the original Oklahoma followed...
and THAT led to the role of the conductor
in the ill-fated R&H flop, Me & Juliet (above).
Me & My Girl, The Pirates of Penzance, The Happy Time, On Your Toes...
George started knocking them down like dominoes.

 With Debbie Reynolds in the 1973 revival of 
George won a Tony for his performance as
Madame Lucy, the dress designer...
replacing an ill Billy De Wolfe at the last minute.
The director, John Gielgud (!), asked if it would be alright
if he gave George a few sample line readings.
George jumped at the idea, later saying,
"It was like God asking if he could help you with your bar mitzvah!" 
Below, another pic of Madame Lucy.

 Below, the full cast:
Monte Markham, George, 
Debbie, Patsy Kelly (another great character actor)
and Ruth Warwick 
(remember Ruth from Citizen Kane and All My Children?).

 Above, George posed to do his tour de force
in So Long, 174th Street
(later revived as Enter Laughter):
"The Butler Song".
Also in the show were Robert Morse and Kaye Ballard.
 Here (center, with the 'stache) in Irma La Douce
with Fred Gwynne,
and below in I Remember Mama.

 George was also a champ at voice overs...
above, his most famous: The Heat Miser from
The Year Without Santa Claus (1974).

 They revived "174th Street" in Enter Laughing.
George got his "Butler" role back!
Below the cast,
which included Josh Grisetti (white scarf)
Jill Eikenberry (center) and Michael Tucker (to her right).

 ...and below, in rehearsal for that part!

George was married to Tony winner Maria Karnilova,
of Fiddler and Zorba fame,
for 53 years.
Of course, they met in a Broadway show.
He was awarded the Oscar Hammerstein Award in 2008,
and performed a one-man show in 2015, at age 92.
Almost 75 years in the theatre!
Unfortunately, George was another victim of 2016,
passing away on December 26th, at the age of 94.

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