The other day here, I wrote about the wonderful British musical, Robert and Elizabeth, about poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, a show that ran for 948 performances on the West End in London, but never played on Broadway. I mentioned that the male lead in the show, Keith Michell, was somewhat known in the U.S, from a PBS Masterpiece Theatre series, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and a semi-recurring role on the show, Murder, She Wrote. But the female lead is pretty much totally unknown here, June Bronhill.
June Bronhill was an Australian opera singer, who trained in London and began her career at the famous Sadler Wells (which is now the English National Opera), most notably in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. She also performed in Die Fliedermaus, Offenbach in the Underworld, and The Merry Widow there, among many productions and sang on opera stages around the world.
Robert and Elizabeth did change a large direction of her career. Though she continued to sing opera, she also had a substantive career in musicals. This is not as easy a trick to pull off as it sounds -- trying to make the transition from opera to more popular music and tripped up many a diva and baritone. In fact, though, she was the original Maria in the Australian production of The Sound of Music. (And a few years later, in 1981, she was in a London revival of the show as the Mother Abbess.) Bronhill also appeared in such productions as My Fair Lady, A Little Night Music and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. As well, as throwing in her share of operetta, with H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance.
Actually, she might be somewhat known to a small portion of Americans, because she played the role of Mrs. Crawford in the British TV series that has been running for years on PBS, Are You Being Served?
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to give June Bronhill center stage. Here she singing the bejeepers out of Climb Every Mountain. It's a song that can easily fall through the cracks into the hyperbolic, but I think she does it spot on, with careful thought and beautifully.
Wonderful as it is, though, the one thought I have as I watch the video is -- I sure hope she doesn't fall off walking up the odd stairway. And there are a few moments when I get the sense she's thinking it, too. Making her performance all the more admirable.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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