Taught vocal performance at American U. in later years

Susan Hight Denny, who starred on Broadway in the original production of “Guys & Dolls” and later taught musical theater vocal performance at American U., died Sunday in Silver Spring, Md., after a long illness. She was 84.

In addition to playing the lead role of Sarah Brown in “Guys & Dolls” both on Broadway and in the subsequent national tour, she had a featured role in the Broadway musical “Two’s Company,” starring Bette Davis, and appeared in the original productions of “South Pacific” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Soon after arriving in New York in the early 1950s, she received three job offers: to be a singer with the Paul Whiteman band, to play a nurse in the Broadway musical “South Pacific” and — the one she initially accepted — to play a flapper in the Broadway musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” choreographed by Agnes de Mille. After stints in both musicals and some TV work (a season as singer on “The Don Ameche Show” plus a turn as a soloist on “The Colgate Comedy Hour”), she went on to play lead roles in musicals “Kiss Me Kate” and “Showboat” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. She was then cast to sing her first featured duet in the Bette Davis revue “Two’s Company,” choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Then she landed the romantic lead in Frank Loesser’s Broadway production of “Guys & Dolls,” replacing Isabel Bigley.

After years away from musical theater following her marriage, she directed community theater productions in the 1970s in Washington, D.C. She then taught voice and musical theater performance for many years both at American U. and privately.

A native of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Hight graduated from Colby College in 1948 and from the New England Conservatory two years later, after which she sang with many bands in the Boston area.

She met future husband Robert Denny, a reporter for the Washington Times-Herald (which later became the Washington Post), at a “Guys & Dolls” cast party. (He was also a novelist and filmmaker.) They were married for more than 40 years until his death in 2000 the next year.

She is survived by two sons, two grandchildren, a sister and a niece.

Donations may be made to the Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10019 or at Actorsfund.org.

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