Isabel Bigley, Original Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Dies at 80

Obituaries   Isabel Bigley, Original Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Dies at 80
Isabel Bigley, who achieved lasting fame in the annuls of Broadway history by playing missionary Sarah Brown in the original production of the musical Guys and Dolls, died Sept. 30 in Los Angeles. She was 80.
Robert Alda and Isabel Bigley in Guys and Dolls.
Robert Alda and Isabel Bigley in Guys and Dolls.

Her death was reported by The Desert Sun newspaper and confirmed by her son Larry Barnett, who survives her. Ms. Bigley was the last surviving lead from the 1950 show, which is widely regarded as one of the best musicals of all time.

As Sarah Brown, the Salvation Army worker whom gambler Sky Masterson tried to seduce on a bet, Ms. Bigley introduced the Frank Loesser standards "If I Were a Bell" and "I've Never Been in Love Before" (with co-star Robert Alda). She also sang "I'll Know" and "Marry the Man Today." She won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress for her work.

She came to Frank Loesser's attention by way of a rave review in Time of Bagatelle, a London nightclub act she was appearing in. Producers Cy Feuer and Eliot Martin flew her back to the U.S. and interviewed her for the part of Brown. She got the role.

The actress had traveled to London to appear in the West End production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!. She eventually starred as Laurey in the staging. The composers would use her again for their 1953 musical Me and Juliet. In that show, she introduced the song "No Other Love."

While starring in Juliet, the petite, dark-haired beauty with the heart-shaped face met and married Lawrence Barnett, the president of Music Corporation of America (MCA). She retired from the stage in 1958 to raise her family.

Isabel Bigley was born and raised in the Bronx in 1926. Her mother, a concert singer, saw to it she had an artistic education, attending the Juilliard School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

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