Isabel Bigley

b. 23 February 1926, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, d. 30 September 2006, Los Angeles, California, USA. After school, Bigley studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and made her Broadway debut in 1946 in the chorus of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! It was with this show that she travelled to London in 1947 and before the show closed she was playing the leading role of Laurey Williams. This led directly to the role of Sarah Brown in Guys And Dolls on Broadway. Bigley and the show were huge successes and she won a Tony Award in 1951 for Best Performance By A Featured Or Supporting Actress In A Musical. She also appeared on the original cast recording, including singing ‘If I Were A Bell’. She followed this show with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Me And Juliet (1953), playing the role of Jeanie, which had been especially created for her, and was again very popular although the show failed to find the success that its composers had enjoyed with their earlier works. Despite playing leading roles in these important shows, Bigley’s Broadway career faltered, perhaps a result of changing times and the different kind of show that were now becoming popular.

In 1951 Bigly had appeared in Premiere, an all-star television production that was a very early use of colour in the industry, and from the mid-50s, her career moved in this direction. On television, she appeared in numerous specials and as a guest on many top shows but by the end of the decade she opted for retirement. She did, though, remain active in theatrical matters. She had married theatrical agent Lawrence Barnett in 1953, and in later years the couple established scholarships at Ohio State University.

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