Joan Roberts

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Joan Roberts
Born (1917-07-15)July 15, 1917
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died August 13, 2012(2012-08-13) (aged 95)
Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Musical theatre, film and television actress

Joan Roberts (July 15, 1917 – August 13, 2012)[1] was an American actress, most famous for creating the role of Laurey in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! in 1943.

Early years[edit]

Roberts was born Josephine Rose Seagrist[2][3] in Manhattan, New York and first appeared on stage at age 6. She was active in dramatic productions as a student at St. Patrick Cathedral High School and gained additional experience in summer stock productions.[4]



Roberts was a regular on The Texaco Summer Theater on CBS July 4 - December 5, 1943. The program was a summer replacement for Fred Allen's show but was extended when Allen did not return as scheduled.[5]


Sunny River was Roberts' first Broadway production. She played Madeleine Caresse December 4, 1941 - January 3, 1942.[6] Later in 1942 she played in Hit the Deck with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.[4]

Roberts initially auditioned for the role of Ado Annie in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! (which eventually went to Celeste Holm), but the show's librettist Oscar Hammerstein cast her as the female lead, Laurey. At the time of her death she was one of four surviving cast members of the original 1943 opening night production of Oklahoma! and the only one who played a principal role (Celeste Holm died several weeks earlier), along with George S. Irving, Marc Platt, and Bambi Linn. Roberts subsequently starred as Sara Longstreet on Broadway in the musical High Button Shoes.

Recently, Ms. Roberts conducted workshops on singing and voice projection. In 2011 she was honored by the University of North Carolina's School of the Arts while attending their replica production of the original Oklahoma!

She was in retirement for many years on Long Island, New York, when she appeared as Heidi Schiller in the 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. Over the years she was seen in documentaries about Oscar Hammerstein II, George Abbott and in the film Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There.


On December 19, 1966, Roberts appeared in a production of Jack and the Beanstalk on CBS-TV.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Roberts was married to Dr. John J. Donlon,[8] who died in 1965.[3] They had a son, John J. Donlon, Jr.[8]


On August 13, 2012, Roberts died of congestive heart failure, aged 95, according to her son.[9] Celeste Holm, who played Ado Annie in the same original production of Oklahoma!, had recently predeceased Roberts, also at age 95.



Partial discography[edit]

  • Joan Roberts Sings of Faith, Hope and Love - Aardvark Records[7]


  • Never Alone by Joan Roberts (McMullen Books Inc., 1954)[10]


  1. ^ "Joan Roberts, Original Laurey in Oklahoma!, Has Died". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  2. ^ Shepherd, Melinda C. "Joan Roberts". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (August 16, 2012). "Joan Roberts dies at 95; female lead in original 'Oklahoma!'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Joan Roberts of 'Oklahoma!' Violates a Few Traditions". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. August 8, 1943. p. 30. Retrieved August 13, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P. 658.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Joan Roberts". Playbill Vault. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Jack and Beanstalk Monday, Dec. 19 With Joan Roberts". The North Adams Transcript. December 17, 1966. p. 18. Retrieved August 13, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ a b Roe, Dorothy (July 7, 1954). "Fan Clubs Put Singer Over Says Joan Roberts Of "Oklahoma" Fame". The Daily Mail. p. 10. Retrieved August 13, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Joan Roberts, the Soprano Who Gave Voice to Laurey in Oklahoma!, Dead at 95". Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Never Alone". Amazon. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 

External links[edit]