LaVerne Burden (b. Bay Village, Ohio, 27/09/1926) was an actress and singer.
Born in a small community west of Cleveland, Ohio, LaVerne Burden started her professional career as a child. She studied the piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music and in 1933, at the age of seven, was offered a scholarship. Throughout her teenage years she gave concerts and performed on the radio until, at the age of sixteen, she took up singing. She attended the Mar-Ken School, which had a focus on show business children, and it is not surprising that the 1944 yearbook predicted that her destination lay in a singing career.
In 1948, when African Consolidated Theatres brought out an American company to perform the exciting new musical Oklahoma! at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg, 22-year-old LaVerne had the leading female role of Laurey opposite Bob Lyon as Curly. During this time she met and married South African actor Ivan Berold and afterwards they left for London, where LaVerne took over the role of Julie Jordan from Iva Withers in Carousel at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Her co-star as Billy Bigelow was the Canadian baritone Edmund Hockridge. In October 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Berold travelled on board the Ile de France to New York. In the United States they had two children, though in 1956 she was back in South Africa and appeared in Salad Days at the Brooke Theatre and in One Bright Day for the Repertory Players. The couple divorced in 1957.
While he remained in South Africa, her musical career was sporadic, though in 1959 she was one of the supporting singers in a special Judy Garland concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and in 1966 she was in an off-Broadway musical entitled Hooray!! It’s a Glorious Day… and All That co-written and directed by actor Charles Grodin. If not for the internet her name would be unknown today, but in April 1951 the BBC Home Service presented LaVerne Burden in a programme in which she sang the songs of Richard Rodgers and fortuitously this has been preserved - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSSt-akaj6A. (FO)
San Bernardino Sun, 8 January 1934
The Stage, 27 July 1950
Percy Tucker - Just the ticket!: my 50 years in show business (1997)
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