Gradually, I began to absorb what had happened. That was completely due to being thrown into the company of professionals landing me on a learning curve that trumped school. Trumped life, if the truth be known.
The singers and dancers cowed me with what they knew and what I didn’t. Then there were the supporting roles; Sammy Smith and Paul Reed both veterans of vaudeville and burlesque now having moved into shows and television. They were shamelessly bawdy and never met a one liner they wouldn’t repeat. They asked me to be their “talking woman” in a tribute to George Abbott at the Lamb’s Club. (A “talking woman” was the one girl who didn’t strip but was the straight man for the comics.)
Bobby Morse as “Finch” was all over the stage winningly crazy like a golden retriever. He and Charlie Reilly (Bud Frump) were perversely inventive in their scenes together, particularly as the run got longer. They brought new meaning to the verb “elaborate.” Rudy Valee was, well, Rudy Valee. Because he had trouble projecting “Succeed” was one of the first musicals to use a wireless mike. Virginia Martin, (Hedy La Rue) a sweetheart of a southern sex pistol, the venerable Ruth Kobart (Miss Jones) and her even as venerable operatic voice was my dressing roommate. Bonnie Scott (Rosemary) and I could not have been more different even though we were both twenty one. She was a product of band singing in Los Angeles and I was just a lucky duck who managed to sing loud.
Once the show opened we became the hottest ticket in town. And nightly in the wings we named who we could see in the audience: every film star that was in town, Broadway stars, Brits, politicians. Nixon and then Kennedy and then, the astronauts. The astronauts!
Still, I was largely sanguine, though grateful. That changed one day when driving on the FDR Drive and on the car radio the announcer said, “And now, Claudette Sutherland singing “Been a Long Day” from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” I barely made it to the emergency lane to bang on the steering wheel and shout, “I’m on the radio. The radio!”
It was a good ride.