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Biography

Dorothy Loudon (1925-2003) was a singer, comedienne and Tony Award-winning actress, who appeared in supper clubs, television shows, films, summer stock and on Broadway. She was born on September 17, 1925 in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up and attended high school in Claremont, New Hampshire. Her mother was a pianist, and her grandmother taught speech and drama at a private school in New England.

After attending Syracuse University, Loudon worked in summer stock and on the national nightclub circuit for several years. She moved to Manhattan in the early 1950s, and worked as a nightclub singer, eventually headlining at such clubs as Jimmy Ryan's on 52nd Street, The Blue Angel and the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel. She sang with Louis Armstrong and toured in concert with Ray Bolger and George Burns. Loudon honed her skills as a comedienne under the guidance of cabaret entrepreneur Julius Monk.

Dorothy Loudon
Dorothy Loudon

Loudon made her first appearance on the legitimate stage in the 1962 Off-Broadway production of The World of Jules Feiffer, directed by Mike Nichols. Her first Broadway show was the 1962 musical Nowhere to Go but Up, which was directed by Sidney Lumet and only ran for a week, but Loudon won a Theatre World Award for her performance. Later the same year Loudon garnered more attention for her debut on television's The Garry Moore Show, where whe was a regular for two seasons (1962-1964).

Loudon continued to be well-received in unsuccessful shows. She earned her first Tony nomination for her performance in the 1969 musical, The Fig Leaves Are Falling, directed by George Abbott. In 1971, she played the mother of the title character in Lolita, My Love, a musical version of the famous Nabokov novel, written by Alan Jay Lerner and John Barry, which closed out of town. She also appeared on Broadway in short-lived revivals of the plays Three Men on a Horse (1969) and The Women (1973).

Loudon's big break came in 1977 when her campy performance as Miss Hannigan in the 1977 blockbuster Annie, garnered her Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for best performance by an actress in a musical and catapulted her to stardom. This was followed by Michael Bennett's Ballroom, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. In 1980 she was chosen to succeed Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical Sweeney Todd. In 1985 she co-starred with Chita Rivera and Leslie Uggams in Jerry's Girls, a revue of Jerry Herman songs. Loudon also played Parthy in the Chicago engagement of Harold Prince's 1996 revival of Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat.

Throughout her career, she continued to appear in straight plays as well as musicals. In 1981 Loudon co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in The West Side Waltz on Broadway and on tour and had another smash hit in Michael Frayn's farce Noises Off (1983). Loudon starred in the national companies of Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1971). In 1991 she played Dolly Levi in an off-Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker. Her final Broadway appearance would have been as Carlotta Vance in the 2002 Lincoln Center Theater revival of Dinner at Eight, but medical problems forced her to withdraw from the show during previews.

Dorothy Loudon
Dorothy Loudon

Loudon released cabaret albums, such as Broadway Baby (1986), Saloon (1991) and Something to Remember Me By (2003) as well as recording individual tracks for compilation albums, including several editions of Ben Bagley's "Revisited" series. She had roles in such films as Garbo Talks (1984) and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).

Concert appearances of Loudon's include A Salute to Broadway Showstoppers at the White House in 1988; tributes to George Abbott, Jerry Herman, Jule Styne, Irving Berlin, Michael Bennett, Richard Rodgers, Charles Strouse and Gwen Verdon, "Lyrics and Lyricists" at the 92nd Street Y; and the tribute, Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall (1992).

Loudon was the recipient of several service awards, including "Woman of Achievement" from the Anti-Defamation League, "Woman of the Year" from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and participated in benefits for the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Lupus Research, Alzheimer's Disease Association, the Actors' Fund, Hospital Audiences Inc., the New Dramatists Guild, PBS, The New York Public Library and Museum of the City of New York, among others.

Loudon was married to composer-arranger Norman Paris, whose jazz group, The Norman Paris Trio, had frequently accompanied her in her nightclub days. After being in a relationship for several years before their marriage, Paris and Loudon were married from 1971 until his death in 1977. Loudon died in New York City on November 15, 2003.