Jo Sullivan Loesser Wiki
Elizabeth Josephine “Jo” Sullivan August 28, 1927 – April 28, 2019, was an American actress and singer. She became a musical theatre star with her performance in the original production of The Most Happy Fella, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957.
Jo Sullivan Quick Facts
Elizabeth Josephine Sullivan
August 28, 1927
Mounds, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||April 28, 2019 (aged 91)
New York City, New York U.S.
|Other names||Jo Sullivan Loesser|
(m. 1959; his death 1969)
Life and career
Born in Mounds, Illinois, Sullivan played Polly Peachum in Marc Blitzstein’s legendary English-language adaptation of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht off-Broadway in 1954.
Family Life, Career
She married Loesser on April 29, 1959. They had two children, Hannah (1962–2007) and Emily (born 1965), who is also a singer-actress. She also appeared as herself in an “original special” on Broadway, called Let’s Make An Opera (1950), which boasted music by Benjamin Britten, a libretto by Eric Crozier, musical direction by Norman Del Mar, and was directed by Marc Blitzstein.
In the summer of 1951 she played Dorothy Gale in The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis production of The Wizard of Oz, opposite Margaret Hamilton, who reprised her film role of the Wicked Witch of the West. In 1992, Jo Loesser’s daughter, Emily, played the same role at The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis, the first time in Muny history a role has been played by both mother and daughter. Sullivan later reprised her role in the 1953 production at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre.
She also appeared on numerous recordings, such as Loesser by Loesser (alongside her daughter, Emily) as well as several albums for Ben Bagley’s celebrated “Revisited” series on Painted Smiles Records (most notably Kurt Weill Revisited, Leonard Bernstein Revisited, and Frank Loesser Revisited.)
Since her husband’s death in 1969, she managed the Frank Loesser estate, which included guiding the production of all of his musicals, including Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and The Most Happy Fella.
Very sorry to learn of the passing of Jo Sullivan Loesser, an original star of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA and the legendary 1950s Off-Broadway THREEPENNY OPERA, and keeper of the Frank Loesser flame. pic.twitter.com/cPu7zT8Frk
— Howard Sherman (@HESherman) April 29, 2019
- Sleepy Hollow (June 3, 1948 – June 12, 1948)
- As the Girls Go (November 13, 1948 – January 14, 1950)
- Let’s Make an Opera (December 13, 1950 – December 16, 1950)
- Wizard of Oz (Summer of 1951 at The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis)
- Wizard of Oz (Summer of 1953 at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre) Carousel(New York light opera) in 1954 with Chris Robinson(Billy), Barbara Cook(Carrie) and Don Backley(Mr Snow) 78 performances.
- The Threepenny Opera (March 10, 1954 – May 30, 1954)
- The Threepenny Opera (September 30, 1955 – December 17, 1961)
- The Most Happy Fella (May 3, 1956 – December 14, 1957)
- Guys & Dolls (E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall ~ summer stock 1974)
- Perfectly Frank (November 30, 1980 – December 13, 1980)
Broadway lost a beautiful soul today, Jo Sullivan Loesser. Always remembering her beautiful voice in ‘The Most Happy Fella,’ which we are playing in her honor today ?https://t.co/o57mj26lwR pic.twitter.com/DC1exRhWYc
— Masterworks Broadway (@SonyBroadway) April 29, 2019
— Playbill (@playbill) April 29, 2019
Jo Sullivan Loesser, who received a 1957 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for creating the role of Rosabella in the original Broadway production of The Most Happy Fella, passed away April 28 at her New York City home from heart failure.
Sorry to hear of the death of Jo Sullivan Loesser, the original Rosabella of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, and widow of songwriter Frank Loesser. She was his torchbearer. pic.twitter.com/vLWpTFfIHB
— Kenneth Jones (@ByKennethJones) April 29, 2019
Rest in peace to our dear friend and trustee Jo Sullivan Loesser, who we will miss terribly. https://t.co/HhXF7LB9CF
— AmericanTheatreWing (@TheWing) April 29, 2019
I had the pleasure of working on a revue of Frank Loesser’s work which Jo participated in. I still carry the Tiffany key ring she gave me on opening night. RIP. #JoSullivanLoesser https://t.co/Mf4H6TP1h8
— James Beaman (@JamieBeaman) April 29, 2019
What a loss to the theater community! Julie Zatko and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting her a few years ago when she was being interviewed by Seth Rudetsky. She was a… https://t.co/GI2X1pwYWX
— Ryan Mahaffey (@ryran75) April 29, 2019
Ms. Loesser was a lovely Desiree in a dual piano version of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC @Merrimack_Rep which also starred the wonderful Benay Venuta as Madame Armfeldt.
Jo Sullivan Loesser, Tony-Nominated The Most Happy Fella Star, Dies at 91 | Playbill https://t.co/nJbGg5uZq0
— Jay C (@AhLiaisons) April 29, 2019
— The Grim Reaper (@deadpeoplecom) April 29, 2019
10 Facts You Need to Know
- Her death was announced by her family through publicist David Gersten.
- She also performed in the famed The Threepenny Opera revival opposite Lotte Lenya.
- Her first big break came when she was chosen to create the role of Polly Peachum in a concert version of The Threepenny Opera
- She studied at The Actor’s Studio and, following numerous auditions, landed the leading role of Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella
- Ms. Loesser was instrumental in preserving and furthering her husband’s musical legacy
- Sullivan Loesser was a longtime member of Board of Directors of the American Theatre Wing and the Actors Fund
- In 1992, Ms. Loesser was also involved in getting Guys and Dolls revived on Broadway, a production that starred Tony winners Nathan Lane and Faith Prince and won the Tony Award for Best Revival.
- She served as artistic associate for that revival as well as the fully orchestrated New York City Opera presentation earlier that same year.
- She was predeceased by her daughter Hannah Loesser, who passed away in 2007.
- Ms. Loesser is survived by her daughter, Emily Loesser Stephenson, son-in-law Don Stephenson, long-time companion Jaquin Fink, stepchildren John and Susan Loesser, and four grandchildren: Hallie, Fiona, Frank, and Beau.