Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kitty Carlisle On Tour at the High School Auditorium

This program for “The Man Who Came to Dinner” is undated, but could have been about 1949, the year Kitty Carlisle toured in summer stock with this now theatre classic written by her husband, Moss Hart, and his partner George S. Kaufman.

Intriguing in this production is the cast of theatre veterans, and the theater: the auditorium of the Springfield (Massachusetts) Trade High School.

This small brick inner city trade school has long been defunct, but evidently had appropriate facilities for what was billed as the Springfield Drama Festival. The Albert Steiger Company, whose flagship department store was in Springfield, also now defunct, (see this article on Steiger’s in my New England Travels blog), took out a full-page ad. The fox furs worn by Miss Carlisle and Miss Libaire came from another local business, Scott Furriers, and the radio equipment for the broadcast scene was provided by the local downtown radio station, WMAS. In between acts we are encouraged to drink Coca Cola, “On sale ice cold in the lobby.”

The program might have the look of a senior class play, but the cast carried a few veterans who’d probably played in more humble venues, and certainly in theaters more grand.

Kitty Carlisle’s career on stage spanned decades, though beyond her few films is probably most remembered for her stint as a game show panelist. She played Maggie Cutler, who is the secretary of the impossible Sheridan Whiteside, played by Forrest Orr. No longer a household name, Mr. Orr made his Broadway debut back in 1907 in the old chestnut, “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines.” His Broadway career continued through the middle 1940s, and he appeared in the original “Philadelphia Story.”

Kevin McCarthy, Joseph Pevney also had long stage careers, and Dorothy Libaire, who played the gold-digger Lorraine Sheldon had a number of films under her belt by the time this gig at the Springfield Trade School came along.

Harold J. Kennedy, who played the prankster Beverly Carleton, also directed the show and co-produced with Harald M. Bromley.

Summer stock requires one to wear a lot of hats sometimes, and demands a lot of versatility, in cast, and in venue, including a high school stage. Now that it’s September and school is back in session, we conclude our posts on summer stock.


  1. I've greatly enjoyed discovering and traveling through your wonderful blogs. I'm especially fond of the theatre scene in historical context. Keep up the fine work.

  2. Thank you so much, Caftan woman. I agree theatre as part of the study of popular history can be fascinating.

    I especially liked your post this week on character actor Donald Meek. I hope readers of this blog will hop over to have a look.

  3. Jean Kennedy GillJune 25, 2014 at 12:28 AM

    Hi, I was delighted to see Harold J. Kennedy mentioned in connection to Kitty Carlisle Hart in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Harold was a Holyoke native and wrote a book entitled No Pickle No Performance in which he mentions Kitty and many others with whom he worked in TV, movies, and theater. He spent many summers on the summer stock circuit and appeared also at Mount Tom in several productions, one with Cesar Romero and one with Katherine Houghton that I remember seeing. He also appeared with Gloria Swanson at Storrowton Theater in West Springfield.

  4. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing more on Harold J. Kennedy. I'll certainly look for his book as I prepare my own book on summer theatre on Mt. Tom.

  5. Jean Kennedy GillJune 26, 2014 at 12:59 AM

    Good luck with your book. In Harold's book, there is an amusing story he tells about everyone in the theater calling everyone else "Darling." That story came from the time that He and Cesar Romero were in town for the play at Mt. Tom. I think it may have been "Strictly Dishonorable."

  6. Thank you, Jean. I'm really looking forward to Mr. Kennedy's book. It sounds terrific.