Born January 16, 1908 in Astoria, Queens. Died February 15, 1984 in New York City.
Ethel is best known for originating the role of Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes in 1934. She went on to play Annie Oakley in 1946, in the first Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun. Her work in Call Me Madame in 1950 won her the first Tony of her monumental career. Possibly her best remembered performance is her portrayal of Momma Rose in Gypsy in 1959. Her unique style, powerful mezzo-soprano belt, and incredible stage presence makes her one of our most beloved Broadway legends.
Some of her other theatre credits include her Broadway debut in Girl Crazy in 1930, Something for the Boys (1943), Happy Hunting (1956), and Hello, Dolly (1977). She was in a total of sixteen Broadway productions, winning a total three Tony Awards in a career spanning over four decades.
We love Ethel because she was truly a one of the first women to command the Broadway stage in the way of musical comedy. Her presence is unprecedented and there has yet to be another performer like her. Her career lasted over forty years and surpassed the boundaries of theatre, to both television and film. Merman is the definition of a legend and one of Broadway’s most valued treasures who will be a part of Broadway history and theatre lovers’ hearts forever.
Here are some of our favorite performances:
One of her final performances, Everything’s Coming up Roses from Gypsy.
With legends Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland on Judy’s self titled television show. They sing There’s No Business Like Show Business and Ethel crowns a twenty-one year old Streisand “The New Belter.”
And finally, a stunning Merman sings You’re the Top from Anything Goes, with a young Bing Crosby in 1936.