Joan Roberts, 95, who created the role of the winsome heroine, Laurey, in the original Broadway production of "Oklahoma!," died Monday in Stamford, Conn.
Her death was announced by the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. She was one of the last living members of the musical's original cast.
"Oklahoma!," which opened in 1943, was only Roberts' second Broadway show. She had previously appeared in the short-lived musical "Sunny River" (1941), with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Asked by Hammerstein to audition for "Oklahoma!," Roberts first tried out for the part of Ado Annie, the feisty young woman incapable of demurral. But Hammerstein soon realized that her lyric soprano was better suited for the demure Laurey, a role for which Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin were reported to have been considered. Celeste Holm, who died last month at 95, was cast as Ado Annie. "Oklahoma!" ran for 2,212 performances and became a benchmark by which later musicals would be judged.
"Oklahoma!," the first collaboration between Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, was an adaptation of Lynn Riggs' 1931 Broadway play, "Green Grow the Lilacs."
Mel Stuart, 83, who won three Emmy Awards as a producer or director of documentaries -- two of them histories of presidential campaigns -- but who also took a fantastical turn by directing the beloved children's movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," died Aug. 9 at his home in Los Angeles.
Over nearly half a century, Stuart played a leading role in the production of more than 50 films, most of them documentaries that reflected his fascination with history and politics. Among them are "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (1968), based on William L. Shirer's best-selling book; and "Four Days in November" (1964), about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was nominated for an Oscar.
It was "The Making of the President, 1960," based on Theodore H. White's best-selling book tracing Kennedy's rise to the White House, that earned Stuart his first Emmy, in 1964.
While documentaries brought him most of his acclaim, it was to please one person that he decided to direct "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." His daughter, Madeline, had read Roald Dahl's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" over and over by the time she was 10, and asked him to make a movie based on it.
NEW YORK TIMES