Lisa Kirk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lisa Kirk
Elsie Kirk

(1925-02-25)February 25, 1925
DiedNovember 11, 1990(1990-11-11) (aged 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress, singer
(m. 1949)

Lisa Kirk (born Elsie Kirk, February 25, 1925 – November 11, 1990) was an American actress and singer noted for her comic talents and rich contralto (her voice was called a husky alto).[1]


Born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, she was raised in Roscoe, Pennsylvania. Her Roscoe home later became the Hotel Roscoe. She enrolled as a law student at the University of Pittsburgh but abandoned her studies when she was offered a spot in the chorus line at the Versailles nightclub in Manhattan.[2]

She studied theatre at HB Studio[3] in New York City and made her Broadway debut in Allegro in 1947.[4] In 1948, she gained critical acclaim for her performance as Lois Lane/Bianca in Kiss Me, Kate.[4][5] for which Kirk recounted learning the songs (from Cole Porter) and performing them for investors before performing them in the theatre.[6] The reviewer for Cast Album wrote: "As Lois/Bianca, Lisa Kirk acts and sings her numbers impeccably; her performance of "Why Can't You Behave?" is unsurpassed as her sultry voice pours over great lines such as, "There I'll care for you forever / Well, at least till you dig my grave."[7]

In Mack and Mabel (1974), she played an older actress who becomes a star tap dancer, and was noted by Clive Barnes to be "particularly fine".[8] Additional Broadway credits include Here's Love (1963),[9] Me Jack, You Jill (closed during previews in 1976),[10][11] and a 1984 revival of Noël Coward's Design for Living.[12]

Kirk's only feature film work was done behind-the-scenes, dubbing all of Rosalind Russell's singing in Gypsy (except for ""Mr. Goldstone" and the first half of "Rose's Turn").[13][14][15] It was rumored that she had also dubbed Lucille Ball's singing voice in Mame,[16] but Ball denied this on The Merv Griffin Show, saying, "She's not dubbing my voice because no one can." [17][18]

Kirk was active in the early days of television, appearing in such anthology series as Studio One, Kraft Television Theatre, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and General Electric Theater. In later years she guested on Bewitched and The Courtship of Eddie's Father, as well as variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, and The Dean Martin Show.[19][better source needed]

Kirk frequently appeared at the Persian Room in the Plaza Hotel.[2] She also appeared at the Rainbow and Stars, New York, nightclub. In a review of her act at Rainbow and Stars in April 1989, The New York Times critic John S. Wilson wrote that Kirk's "long career has given her polish, presence and a solid foundation of songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Jerry Herman with which she is associated. She has maintained such a trim structure that she can do justice to a song called Is That Really Her Figure?" And although her voice may not be as full-bodied as it once was, she has a warm, easy projection that gives sensitivity and color to her songs."[20]

In addition to her appearances on original cast albums and compilations of Broadway performances, she recorded a number of solo recordings, including I Feel A Song Comin' On[21] and Lisa Kirk Sings At The Plaza (1959).[22][23]

Kirk may be best known for her role in the original Broadway production of Cole Porter's musical, Kiss Me, Kate.[6] Bloom and Vlastnik wrote in their compendium titled Broadway Musicals: the 101 Greatest Shows of All Time that Kirk "hit the jackpot again", introducing "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True to You (in My Fashion)".[24] Another popular number was the upbeat "Tom, Dick or Harry", performed with Harold Lang as Lucentio, Edwin Clay as Gremio and Charles Wood as Hortensio (suitors to Kirk's "Bianca"). Lewis Nichols writes: "Having startled the town last season by singing 'The Gentleman is a Dope' as though she meant it, Miss Kirk is captivating ... this year as a fully accredited hoyden with a sense of humor."[25]


She was married to sketch artist and famed songwriter Robert Wells (1922–1998) from 1949 until her death in 1990.[2] They had no children. Wells co-wrote "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" with Mel Torme.[4][26]


Despite having been a non-smoker, Lisa Kirk died of lung cancer in New York City.[2][4]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Musical Comedy Theater Yolanda and the Thief[27]


  1. ^ Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. Broadway Musicals: the 101 Greatest Shows of All Time. Black Dog Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-57912-390-2, p. 173
  2. ^ a b c d Lisa Kirk biography,, retrieved March 18, 2010
  3. ^ "HB Studio - Notable Alumni | One of the Original Acting Studios in NYC".
  4. ^ a b c d Blau, Eleanor.Obituary, The New York Times, November 13, 1990
  5. ^ Kiss Me, Kate Playbill (vault), retrieved November 24, 2017
  6. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 4, side B.
  7. ^ "Review. 'Kiss Me, Kate' ", retrieved November 25, 2017
  8. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Mack & Mabel and Silent Film Era", The New York Times, October 7, 1974, p. 54
  9. ^ Here's Love Playbill (vault), retrieved November 25, 2017
  10. ^ Me Jack, You Jill, retrieved November 25, 2017
  11. ^ Producer Adela Holzer closed "'Me Jack, You Jill' Sunday, after 16 preview performances, in the aftermath of her dismissal of the show's director..Co-stars Silvia Sidney, Lisa Kirk, Barbara Baxley and Rusty Thacker." Johnston, Laurie. "Notes on People", The New York Times, March 12, 1976, p. 37
  12. ^ Broadway, retrieved March 18, 2010
  13. ^ Gypsy, retrieved March 18, 2010
  14. ^ Gypsy, retrieved March 18, 2010
  15. ^ American Film Institute. The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures. University of California Press, 1997, ISBN 0-520-20970-2, p.444
  16. ^ Karol, Michael.[1]Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. iUniverse, 2004, ISBN 0-595-29761-7, p. 295
  17. ^ "Lucille Ball on MAME: "I Can't Sing"". YouTube. 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  18. ^ " Mame Article", retrieved November 26, 2017
  19. ^ Kirk television, retrieved March 18, 2010
  20. ^ Wilson, John S.Review/Cabaret; Lisa Kirk Sings and JokesThe New York Times, April 21, 1989
  21. ^ Lisa Kirk I Feel A Song Comin' On CD, retrieved March 18, 2010
  22. ^ Lisa Kirk Sings At The Plaza, retrieved March 18, 2010
  23. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Liza Kirk Sings at the Plaza", retrieved November 25, 2017
  24. ^ Bloom and Vlastnik, p. 173
  25. ^ White, David M. Popular Culture, "Music in the Air" (chapter), Ayer Publishing, 1975, ISBN 0-405-06649-X, p. 116
  26. ^ Vosburgh, Dick.Obituary: Robert WellsThe Independent, October 27, 1998
  27. ^ Kirby, Walter (November 23, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved June 16, 2015 – via open access

External links[edit]