Thursday, March 1, 2012

Madame Rose Brown, singer, Broadway actress



Madame Rose Brown was an little known legend in Columbus music until historian Doug Tracy sent me this column that appeared in 2008.

The Bright Rose of Bronzeville

By Eddie J. Colston,
The Ohio Sentinel, March 29, 1958 edition

Name any great Columbus entertainer in the past decade and the name Madam Rose Brown will ring a bell. Years ago, Madam was the town’s top performer. Today she still has firm hold on her star studded crown by singing and swinging in the area’s night clubs and plush cocktail lounges.

The young clique will remember Madam more vividly from her weekly TV show a few years ago over WTVN-TV for a segment of “The Rose Brown Show” was devoted to introducing fresh talent.

Born in Savanah, Georgia, Rose Brown came to Columbus to visit relatives. Out on the town one night she did several guest numbers at a couple of popular night haunts. With soulful blues, sexy torch songs and energetic swing style, she had the town’s nightlifers in the palm of her hand. Since then, this has been Rose Brown’s town.

Wasn’t so long ago that Rose rose (and I’m not tongue tied) to the pinnacle of Broadway success, when she costarred with the late Bill Robinson as Katisha in Mike Todd’s The Hot Mikado.” Her Broadway appearance was in a featured role in “My Dear Public,” starring Willie Howard and a long list of today’s top stars.

Rose has added other musical triumphs and flattering press notices to her scrapbook with top billings with The Page Cavanaugh Trio. Louis Jordan’s Band, the Page One Ball, sponsored annually by the Columbus Chapter of the American Newspaper Guild and many others.

Norman Nadel, Columbus Citizen’s celebrated theatrical editor and big voice in show business recently penned a lengthy feature on Rose Brown. Nadel said, “I thought of shows I’d seen, singers I heard in Manhattan nightspots where the cover charge would buy food for a family of six. Once in a blue moon you might hear a singer like Rose. People from Columbus go to those New York clubs when they travel east. They could do as well or better, listening to this handsome dark-skinned woman singing in a little club on High Street.”

Another thrill for Rose was her invitation to audition for the role of Bloody Mary in the original “South Pacific” cast. “Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein brought me to New York,” she recalled happily, “and I sang the part for them. But when I saw Juanita Hall do it, I told them to go ahead and pick her, because she was perfect for the part. But I would have loved it.”

Currently, Rose is slated to make a series of films or live appearances on WTVN-TV doing Negro spirituals.

The final note on the Madame Rose saga comes from pianist and drummer Bobby Shaw. “In 1960 I was with a duo at the New Frontier on Trabue Road called Chickadee and Chickadoo and our guest vocalist was Madam Rose. She was great, as usual, but one night she left early because she was ill. She died at home that night.”

Arnett Howard

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