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Biography

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Overview (4)

Born in Whitehall, New York, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (Hodgkin's disease)
Birth NameVincent Julian Donehue
Nicknames Vinnie
Vinny

Trivia (5)

Won Broadway's 1958 Tony Award as Best Director for "Sunrise at Campobello.'" He was also Tony-nominated in 1960 as Best Director (Musical) for "The Sound of Music."
Directed two actresses to Oscar nominations: Maureen Stapleton (Best Supporting Actress, Lonelyhearts (1958)), and Greer Garson (Best Actress, Sunrise at Campobello (1960)).
Served in the Army Air Force 1941-45, attaining the rank of major.
Graduate of the Christian Brothers Academy and the State University of New York. He studied for the stage with Tamara Daykarhanova and with Fanny Bradshaw at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He made his radio debut in 1937 and in the years prior to World War II was heard on over 1500 radio shows as well as acting on Broadway.
Die Trapp-Familie (1956), a West German film about about the von Trapp family, and its sequel Die Trapp-Familie in America (1958) became the most successful films in West Germany during the post-war years. The films' popularity extended throughout Europe and South America. In 1956 Paramount Pictures purchased the US film rights, intending to produce an English-language version with Audrey Hepburn (I) as Maria. The studio eventually dropped its option; but Donehue, one of Paramount's directors involved in preliminary development of the film, proposed the story as a stage musical for his friend Mary Martin (I). Broadway producers Leland Hayward and Richard Halliday (I) (Martin's husband) agreed and secured the rights. Originally envisioned as a non-musical play, they hired playwrights Howard Lindsay (I) and Russel Crouse, who had won the Pulitzer Prize for "State of the Union," with the play featuring songs from the repertoire of the Trapp Family Singers. Developing the property, Mary Martin agreed with the production team to ask Richard Rodgers (I) to add an original song or two by he and Oscar Hammerstein II. However, the combination of the two styles of traditional Austrian folk songs and their two song compositions would not work together. Rodgers and Hammerstein offered to write a completely new score for the entire production if the producers were willing to wait while they completed work on "Flower Drum Song." Rodgers and Hammerstein based their fictionalized musical on the memoir of Maria Augusta von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers", published in 1949 by J.B. Lippincott Co. of Philadelphia, PA. The original multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway musical by Rodgers, lyrics by Hammerstein II and a book by Lindsay and Crouse was titled "The Sound of Music", - starring Mary Martin (at age 46) and Theodore Bikel (at age 35), opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959, moved to the Mark Hellinger Theatre on November 6, 1962 and closed on June 15, 1963 after 1,433 performances. Donehue was director and the choreographer was Joe Layton. The original cast included Martin as Maria, Bikel as Capt. Georg von Trapp, (Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song "Edelweiss" specifically for him to perform), Patricia Neway as Mother Abbess, Kurt Kasznar as Max Detweiler, Marion Marlowe as Elsa Schrader, Brian Davies as Rolf and Lauri Peters as Liesl. Sopranos Patricia Brooks and June Card were ensemble members in the original production. The show tied for the Tony Award for Best Musical with "Fiorello!." Other awards included Martin for Best Actress in a Musical, Neway for Best featured Actress, Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith (I)) and Best Musical Direction (Frederick Dvonch). Bikel and Kasznar were nominated for Tony acting awards, and Donehue was nominated for his direction. The entire children's cast was nominated for Best Featured Actress category as a Tony single nominee, even though two children were boys. Mary's understudy Renee Guerin performed the 'Maria' role with Bikel during the Broadway run when Martin vacationed from the show. Martha Wright replaced Martin in the role of Maria on Broadway in October 1961, followed by Karen Gantz in July 1962, Jeannie Carson in August 1962 and Nancy Dussault in September 1962. Jon Voight, who eventually married co-star Lauri Peters, was a replacement for Rolf. The national tour starred Florence Henderson (I) as Maria and Beatrice Krebs as Mother Abbess. It opened at the Grand Riviera Theater, Detroit, on February 27, 1961 and closed November 23, 1963 at the O'Keefe Centre, Toronto. Henderson was succeeded by Barbara Meister in June 1962. Bikel was not satisfied playing the role of the captain because of the role's limited singing; he did not like to play the same role over and over again. In his autobiography he writes, "I promised myself then that if I could afford it, I would never do a run as long as that again." The original Broadway cast album sold three million copies. The musical premiered in London's West End at the Palace Theatre on May 18, 1961, and ran for 2,385 performances. It was directed by Jerome Whyte and used the original New York choreography, supervised by Joe Layton, and the original sets designed by Oliver Smith. The cast included Jean Bayless as Maria, followed by Sonia Rees, Roger Dann as Captain von Trapp, Constance Shacklock as Mother Abbess, Eunice Gayson as Elsa Schrader, Harold Kasket as Max Detweiler, Barbara Brown as Liesl, Nicholas Bennett as Rolf and Olive Gilbert as Sister Margaretta. "The Sound of Music" was the final musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Oscar Hammerstein II died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere (b: July 12, 1895-to-d: August 23, 1960, at age 65).

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