Original Broadway Cast / Cornelia Otis Skinner

Paris '90 (Original Broadway Cast)

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Cornelia Otis Skinner (1901-1979), the daughter of famed American stage actor Otis Skinner, specialized in character monologues she wrote herself, and her most elaborate effort was the play Paris '90, which toured the U.S. before landing on Broadway on March 4, 1952, and running 87 performances, then attracting Columbia Records, which recorded it for an album. Skinner's father had known the French painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and she herself had been educated in Paris, so the idea of combining a series of character portraits of women living there in the late 19th century, some of them associated with the Moulin Rouge and the subjects of Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings, was a natural one to her. Skinner's portraits are outsized and showy, especially with only the aural part of her performance to appreciate. Some of them, such as a Boston school teacher who happens to be vacationing in Paris, seem to have been interpolated, since they don't really have much to do with the main topic. But the characters are well-realized, and every one of them has a story that plays out. Kay Swift wrote songs or set words to tunes by Paul Delmet and Yvette Guilbert for the five musical interludes that punctuate the spoken-word sections. Paris '90, part of the small body of plays-on-record, captures a unique performer doing what made her renowned in her day.

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