Actress created role of Laurey in original 1943 production
Stage and film actress Joan Roberts, who created the role of Laurey in the original 1943 production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” died of congestive heart failure on Monday, Aug. 13, in Stamford, Conn. She was 95.Roberts also appeared on Broadway in the musicals “Sunny River,” “Marinka,” “Are You With It?” and “High Button Shoes,” making her final foray on the Rialto as Heidi Schiller in the 2001 revival of “Follies.” In a statement, Rodgers & Hammerstein president Ted Chapin said: “Joan Roberts was a wonderful character. When I first met her and that feisty spirit came with a decidedly Long Island accent, her uniqueness became apparent. But she was sharp as a tack with a wonderful memory of ‘Oklahoma!’ It is sad to see one more member of the original cast leave us.” Roberts also performed in summer stock as well as on television and film. In the early 1950s she appeared in small roles in the films “The Model and the Marriage Broker” and “Lovely to Look At.” On TV she guested on “The Milton Berle Show” and appeared in an episode of “Kraft Theatre,” in a 1965 musical adaptation of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and on an episode of “Fantasy Island.” Roberts appeared onscreen just last year in the film “Jesse.” Born in New York City, Roberts made her professional debut at age 5 in an episode of the “Our Gang” series of film shorts. In recent years, Roberts conducted workshops on singing and voice projection. She was an interviewee in the 1985 PBS documentary “Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music.” In 2011 she was honored by the U. of North Carolina ‘s School of the Arts while attending their replica production of the original “Oklahoma!,” where she was joined by fellow original “Oklahoma!” star Celeste Holm, who died last month. Roberts’ autobiography, “Stage Right,” was just released this summer. Roberts is survived by a son and two stepsons. Funeral arrangements are as follows: visitation on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Macken Mortuary, 52 Clinton Avenue, Rockville Centre, N.Y. The funeral mass will be held on Friday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes Cathedral, 29 Quealy Place, Rockville Centre.
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