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Jo Sullivan Loesser

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Elizabeth Josephine Sullivan Loesser (née Sullivan; August 28, 1927 – April 28, 2019) was an American actress[1] and high lyric soprano singer.[2] She became a musical theatre star with her performance in the original production of The Most Happy Fella, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957.[3]

Jo Sullivan
Elizabeth Josephine Sullivan

(1927-08-28)August 28, 1927
DiedApril 28, 2019(2019-04-28) (aged 91)
Other namesJo Sullivan Loesser
OccupationActress, singer
Frank Loesser
(m. 1959; died 1969)

Jack Osborn
(m. 1973–??)
Parent(s)Hessie Boone Sullivan
Eileen Celeste Woods Sullivan

Early yearsEdit

She was the daughter of Hessie Boone Sullivan and Eileen Celeste Woods Sullivan,[4] who worked for a lumber-distributing company and sold cosmetics, respectively.[5] She was born in Mounds, Illinois,[6] and attended Cleveland High School.[7] After studying singing in St. Louis,[5] in the late 1940s,[8] she studied music at Columbia University after failing to be accepted at Juilliard School and working at Lord & Taylor department store[4] in New York to support herself.[9] She competed on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts radio program but lost to a pair of harmonica players.[4]


Sullivan played Polly Peachum in Marc Blitzstein's English-language adaptation of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht[9] off-Broadway in 1954.

She married Frank Loesser on April 29, 1959, just ahead of the May 1, 1959, deadline that Sullivan had given Loesser to marry her "or she would carry on with her career and forget about him."[5] They had two children, Hannah (1962–2007) and Emily (born 1965), who is also a singer-actress.[10] She also appeared as herself in an "original special" on Broadway, called Let's Make An Opera (1950), which boasted music by Benjamin Britten, a libretto by Eric Crozier, musical direction by Norman Del Mar, and was directed by Marc Blitzstein.

In the summer of 1951 she played Dorothy Gale in The Muny's production of The Wizard of Oz, opposite Margaret Hamilton, who reprised her film role of the Wicked Witch of the West.[4] In 1992, Loesser's daughter, Emily, played the same role at The Muny, marking the first time in The Muny's history that a role has been played by both mother and daughter. Loesser later reprised her role in the 1953 production at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre.

She also appeared on numerous recordings, such as Loesser by Loesser (alongside her daughter, Emily) as well as several albums for Ben Bagley's "Revisited" series on Painted Smiles Records (most notably Kurt Weill Revisited, Leonard Bernstein Revisited, and Frank Loesser Revisited).

In the early 1980s, she resumed her performing career officials of The Ballroom, a nightclub in New York City, asked her to sing some of her late husband's songs. After that, she performed at other night clubs and in several theatrical musicals. In 1984 she developed a revue, Jo Sullivan Sings Frank Loesser and Friends, that was presented in several cities.[11]

From the time of her husband's death in 1969 until her own death in 2019, she managed his estate, particularly Frank Music Company, which included guiding production of all of his musicals, including Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and The Most Happy Fella. The publishing portion of the company was sold to CBS Records in 1976.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1973, she married Jack Osborn, who headed an industrial design firm.[12]


Loesser died of heart failure[4] on April 28, 2019 at her home in New York City.[13] She was 91.

Theatre creditsEdit


  1. ^ "Jo Sullivan Loesser". Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Jo Sullivan: A real singer of real songs". The Boston Globe. Massachusetts, Boston. September 27, 1986. p. 10. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  3. ^ "("Jo Sullivan" search results)". Tony Awards. Tony Award Productions. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Sam (April 30, 2019). "Jo Sullivan Loesser, singer and guardian of a legacy, at 91". The Boston Globe. Massachusetts, Boston. The New York Times. p. C 8. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  5. ^ a b c Mijola, Camille (May 12, 2019). "Jo Sullivan Loesser: Broadway star who left a musical legacy". Independent. Archived from the original on 13 July 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "("Jo Sullivan" search results)". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 13 July 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  7. ^ "25 Children to Dance in 'The Wizrd of Oz'". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 9, 1951. p. 3 E. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  8. ^ a b Butkiewicz, Joe (October 19, 1990). "Loesser's legacy". The Times Leader. Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre. p. 1 B. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  9. ^ a b "'Three Penny Opera' gave Sullivan her break". Poughkeepsie Journal. New York, Poughkeepsie. August 17, 1984. p. 46. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  10. ^ Thomas L. Riis, Frank Loesser (Yale University Press, 2008: ISBN 0300110510), p. 12.
  11. ^ Borak, Jeffrey (August 17, 1984). "Jo Sullivan leaves Mrs. Loesser at home". Poughkeepsie Journal. New York, Poughkeepsie. p. 35. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  12. ^ Gaver, Jack (December 4, 1974). "Dream Coming True". News Journal. Ohio, Mansfield. United Press International. p. 16. Retrieved 13 July 2019 – via
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Jo Sullivan Loesser, Tony-Nominated The Most Happy Fella Star, Dies at 91" Playbill, April 29, 2019

External linksEdit