Martha Wright (actress)
Wright in 1955.
March 23, 1926
Beginning to sing in radio, musical theatre and opera in her native Seattle as a teenager, Wright moved to New York City and debuted on Broadway by age 21, where she soon had a major success as Mary Martin's replacement in both South Pacific and The Sound of Music. She also continued to sing on the radio. In the mid-1950s, she also performed on television, including in her own show.
Wright and her husband, restaurateur George J. Manuche Jr. (1921–2013), had four children, and Wright curtailed her performing by the late 1960s, returning for a few engagements in the 1970s and 1980s.
Early life and career
Wright was born in Duvall, Washington, near Seattle. At the age of seventeen, she began to sing on the radio in and around Seattle. Wright also began to sing opera at the same time, including in Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio. She then joined a touring company in the chorus of Up in Central Park.
Moving to New York City, Wright began to sing on RKO-WOR Radio with its orchestra in 1947. She soon became the understudy for Florence George as Désirée Artôt in the operetta Music in my Heart, with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Wright took over the role from the ailing George in out-of-town tryouts and created the role on Broadway (1947–48). Other early Broadway roles included Carol in Great to Be Alive! (1950) and Nellie Forbush in South Pacific (1951–54), taking over the latter role from Mary Martin and playing it for 1,047 performances. Wright also began to appear on television in The Eyes Have It and other programs.
In May, 1955, Wright married George J. Manuche Jr., a former U.S. Air Force pilot and owner Mike Manuche's Restaurant in Manhattan. In 1960, she again replaced Mary Martin in a Broadway role, Maria in The Sound of Music. She then performed in non-musical productions such as Mary, Mary at The National Theatre in Washington, D.C. She also continued to sing on the radio for CBS and recorded several albums such as Censored and Love, Honor and all that Jazz. She also appears on Firestone Presents Your Christmas Favorites (1964) with Gordon MacRae, Franco Corelli, and Roberta Peters. On television, she appeared on The Bell Telephone Hour several times and in her own 15-minute series, The Martha Wright Show, which aired in 1954 on Sunday evenings on ABC opposite Ronald W. Reagan's General Electric Theater on CBS. She performed a solo act around the U.S. at venues such as The Cocoanut Grove nightclub at The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. She was a World's Fair Ambassadress in Seattle in 1962.
By the late 1960s, Wright had four children and had retired to raise her family. In 1964, however, she appeared on the NBC live broadcast of Cole Porter – An All-Star Tribute. She also appeared in Bell Telephone Hour telecasts with Duke Ellington and Maureen O'Hara.
In 1978, Wright returned to concert singing in A Tribute to Rodgers and Hart at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and A Tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein that same year. In 1980, she performed The Sounds of Rodgers and Hammerstein at The King Cole Room in The St. Regis-Sheraton Hotel in New York City, followed, in 1983, by A Salute to Burton Lane and E. Y. Harburg at the 92nd Street Y.
Wright and her husband later retired to Massachusetts. He died in 2013, and Wright lives with her son Michael and his family in San Diego, California.
- Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Co. 1956. p. 664.
- Martha Wright, Broadway at its Best! Harlan Conti (2007)
- TIME magazine, June 6, 1955
- "World's Fair Ambassadress Martha Wright", Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; University of Washington Libraries
- The Bell Telephone Hour, January 28, 1964, available on CD and DVD
- Martha Wright at the IBDB database
- Martha Wright at the IMDB database
- Broadway At Its Best!: Martha Wright