General Articles

GIRL FROM GRAND’MERE

Jitterbug, barn dance or ballet, the gal from Quebec adds a touch to them all that has Broadway cheering

JAMES DUGAN February 1 1948
General Articles

GIRL FROM GRAND’MERE

Jitterbug, barn dance or ballet, the gal from Quebec adds a touch to them all that has Broadway cheering

JAMES DUGAN February 1 1948

GIRL FROM GRAND’MERE

Jitterbug, barn dance or ballet, the gal from Quebec adds a touch to them all that has Broadway cheering

JAMES DUGAN

I AM IN LOVE with Miss Allyn McLerie, a Canadian girl with big blue eyes, chestnut bangs and a dancing and singing talent which is carrying her to stardom in Broadway show business. This passion constantly rouses in me a great jealousy, for between me and Miss McLerie stand a few obstacles . . . such as her husband, my wife, some thousands of show goers and even a few drama critics.

Miss McLerie has just opened as the dancing star of the new musical “Bonanza Bound,” written by her husband, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden,

aut hors of the Broadway hits, “On The Town” and “Billion-Dollar Baby.” She is only 20 years old. She took only four years to accomplish what costs most theatre people their youth.

A critic of the Chicago Tribune noted that in “On the Town” Miss McLerie “dances like a short ruffled skirt caught in a high wind.” The somewhat less poetic trade paper Variety called her a “tiptop terp turn.”

Allyn Ann McLerie is an unaffected young lady, five feet six inches tall. She has á white skin and large eyes and mouth, which slight variations from the norm give her a graphic stage appearance. Flawless beauty is no good on the stage; it doesn’t carry beyond the 10th row.

Born in Grand’Mère, Que., in 1927, Allyn has relatives all over the Dominion, but her father died when she was an infant and Mrs. McLerie took her baby to Brooklyn to join her parents.

Allyn started dancing lessons at the age of seven. In high school she took advanced ballet with Agnes de Mille, chorégraphie director of “Oklahoma” and “Allegro.” Miss de Mille asked Allyn to join the chorus of “One Touch Of Venus.”

“I got into the theatre too easily,” says Allyn in her honest manner. “It was so easy I was frightened —and I was only 16.”

Her next show was another chorus job in “On The Town,” a fantasy of sailors and subways roaring through Manhattan. It was there she met and married author Adolph Green and it was there she got her first star billing when she replaced Sono Osato as “On The Town’s” dancing principal, in December 1945.

“The show went on tour and after a month on the road, I began to get so good,” Allyn reflects wistfully “—then the show had to close! I was out of work for the first time.”

The Girl from Grand’Mère teamed up with John Butler, who had danced with her in “On the Town,” to do night-club work and last fall their “Dance Versions” moved into the much-soughtafter Cotillion Room of New York’s Hotel Pierre.

Probably the thing chiefly responsible for Allyn McLerie’s success is that she has been soundly trained in all sorts of dancing—classical ballet, modern concert dancing and theatrical hoofing.

In her Cotillion Room debut Allyn danced with John Butler a variety of numbers—a satire on a barn dance, a Latin ballroom-type item, a jitterbug parody, and a sentimental comment on the lost art of Irene and Vernon Castle, the national favorite team of 30 years ago. There is a great deal of acting and mimicry in her performances. As jitterbugs, McLerie & Butler did everything the hepcats can do, but it was caricatured to boot. A Spanish dance act can get the customers dreaming, but the kids got them laughing with their subtle buffoonery of this hoary idiom.

Allyn left night-club work recently to begin rehearsals in “Bonanza Bound,” Green and Comden’s third musical comedy, which takes place during the Gold Rush of ’98. During rehearsals the Greens were lucky enough to find their first apartment and begin something resembling housekeeping.

Allyn says she hasn’t changed a great deal since she was 16. Certainly her four-year jump from $45 a week in the chorus to $500 a week as a headliner in “Bonanza Bound” hasn’t affected her ego.

“I have a lazy intellect, but I don’t care a bit,” she says cheerfully. “That’s why I can’t play checkers. I just make one move at a time, can’t think ahead. Grandpa beats me so easily, it makes him mad.”

This one-move-at-a-time method seems to serve her well in her profession, if not in checkers. Her move of the moment is to become a singer (she sings for the first time in “Bonanza Bound”). She suspects that the next move, when she gets around to it, will be to concentrate on straight dramatic work. Someday, if the moves string together correctly, Miss Allyn Ann McLerie will be the complete dancer, singer and actress, and when she does, husband Adolph will have the biggest writing job of his career to give her the right play. ★