Susan Hight Denny, Musical Theatre Actress, Dies at 84
By Robert Simonson
Susan Hight Denny, who starred on Broadway in the original production of Guys and Dolls and later taught musical theatre vocal performance at American University, died Jan. 13 in Silver Spring, MD., after a long illness. She was 84.
Ms. Denny — then performing under the name of Susan Hight — played Sarah Brown, the Salvation Army solider who falls in love with gambler Sky Masterson, in Guys and Dolls, taking over a role created by Isabel Bigley. She went on to play the part in a national tour. According to her son, the musical director Christopher Denny, her other Broadway credits are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (in the ensemble), South Pacific (as a nurse) and the 1952 musical revue Two's Company, which starred Bette Davis and ran 90 performances.
A native of Cape Elizabeth, ME, she graduated from Colby College in 1948 and from the New England Conservatory two years later, after which she sang with many of the major bands in the Boston area before making the decision to try her luck and talent in New York City, where she was cast in musicals.
According to Ms. Denny's family, when the New York fire marshal discovered code violations at the 46th Street Theater, where Guys and Dolls was playing, and ordered it closed for repairs, the Broadway company relocated to the National Theater in Washington, DC, for six weeks. It was there that her future husband, Robert Denny, saw her onstage for the first time. As a reporter for the Washington Times-Herald (which later became the Washington Post) he managed to secure the assignment to cover the cast costume party. They met and were married the next year, settling in Chevy Chase, MD, for more than 40 years. Robert Denny was a novelist, filmmaker and activist who founded the political action committee, Fairness In Taxation, to spearhead a successful Montgomery County tax revolt. He died in 2000.
Ms. Denny's TV work included a season as singer/soloist on the "Don Ameche Show," plus work as soloist on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" (where she sang with both Paul Whiteman and Sigmund Romberg). She went on to play lead roles in musicals Kiss Me, Kate and Show Boat at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.
Following her marriage, she took a break from the stage. But she returned to work in the 1970s, directing community theatre productions in Washington, DC. She also taught voice and musical theatre performance for many years both at American University and privately.
She is survived by a sister, Ellen Morris, of Simsbury, CT; two sons, Christopher Denny of New York City and Stephen Denny of Watsonville, CA (wife: Christine); two grandchildren, Nicholas and Alexander Denny of Watsonville, CA; and a niece, Julie Ogden, of Newbury, MA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10019 or online at actorsfund.org.
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