Last February the theatrical world lost one of its brightest stars, Betty Garrett. Betty had been a fixture around LA and Theatre West in particular. She was a so-called triple threat in that she could act, sing, and dance. Broadway starred her in 13 shows.
She went on to become one of the great MGM movie musical stars but returned to New York to do more Broadway shows. Broadway was her natural home; she was ”discovered“ when she understudied the great Ethel Merman in the little-remembered musical Something for the Boys. Cole Porter had written her a song (“I’m in Love With a Soldier Boy”) but when Merman got sick for a week (an unheard of occurrence) Betty went on and made a big impression. She eventually went on to make many guest appearances on TV, most notably in All in The Family.
Betty eventually ended up back in LA where she helped to found Theatre West and appeared in the legendary Spoon River Anthology. She acted, directed, and most notably moderated its Musical Comedy workshop, which she did for decades, teaching many an actor how to perform in a musical.
In honor of Betty and as a benefit for the Musical Theatre workshop she led for so many years, some of her companions and a few relatives decided that the best way to honor her was to put on a show, in this case her first Broadway show, Something for the Boys. I was pleasantly surprised at how tuneful this little gem was, full of lively Cole Porter songs and brimming with humor.
The only known recording of the show was a record put together by Merman in which she sang all the songs, natch. Since then there has been a local production in San Francisco and a radio cast.
Performing in the piece were her actor son Andrew Parks and her granddaughter Madison Claire Parks, who played Betty’s part and looked very much like Betty must have looked all those many years ago. Also included were Beau Bridges (whose family had connections with Betty), his daughter Emily, Caitlin Gallogly, and Edward Z. Gallogly. Barbara Mallory and her son Elliot Schwartz, Lee Meriwether, Barbara Minkus, Devra Korwin, Anthony Gruppuso, David P. Johnson, Daniel Keough, Andre Landzaat, Robert Laur, and Meg Wolfe also performed. Something for the Boys was performed at Theatre West on June 10th, a fitting memorial to a great star.