b. 2 July 1924, Reedly, California, USA, d. March 1970, Sayville, Long Island, New York, USA. Besoyan wrote songs from childhood and began writing musical shows while still in school. During military service in World War II, he took part in shows for servicemen and while in London studied piano. After the war, he was with the Breden-Savoy Light Opera Company in California before relocating to New York City. In the late 50s he enjoyed some success with an appearance in a revue, Cole Porter’s Out Of This World and also in the revue In Your Hat, which was staged at The Showplace, Jim Paul Eilers’ club at 146 West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. Following this came the remarkably popular Little Mary Sunshine (1959). Written for and starring Eileen Brennan as Mary Potts, the show is a good-natured spoof of stage and film musical comedies. It received rave reviews and Besoyan won the Drama Desk’s Vernon Rice Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement. The show ran for three years and was subsequently staged throughout the USA and internationally and seems to have been on stage somewhere in the world ever since. Indeed, total performances of the show reportedly run into six figures.
After Little Mary Sunshine Besoyan’s next show, The Student Gypsy, Or The Prince Of Liederkranz (1963) was staged on Broadway, while the one after that, Babes In The Wood (1964), was an off-Broadway production. Neither of these shows did well, the former running for just 16 performances at the 54th Street Theatre. Besoyan also taught musical comedy at the Stella Adler Studio. When he died he was working on a musical version of Paul Gallico’s Mrs. ’Arris Goes To Parris; the show remained uncompleted. In 2002 a new production of Little Mary Sunshine, starring Sarah Rice as Mary Potts, was staged on Broadway.