Martha Wright, a Broadway musical theatre actress who often followed star Mary Martin into roles, died March 1 in Newburyport, MA. She was 92.
When Martin left the cast of the Broadway premiere of South Pacific, Ms. Wright was the show’s next Nellie Forbush. Several years later, she turned the same trick when Martin exited another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music.
Though most theatregoers associated both his musicals with the talents of Mary Martin, it was actually more likely that patrons of the productions saw Ms. Wright perform. She put in more than 1,047 performances in South Pacific, easily besting Martin’s tenure. She also played Maria von Trapp in a musical sequence on television’s The Bell Telephone Hour in 1961.
Her other two Broadway credits were far less noteworthy. She was in the short-lived 1947 musical Music in My Heart and in the even shorter-lived Great to Be Alive! in 1950. In 1954, she starred in the 15-minute musical show, The Martha Wright Show, on ABC.
Martha Lucile Wiederrecht was born March 23, 1923, in Seattle. She later adopted her mother’s maiden name, Wright, for the stage. She studied voice and piano while growing up and attended the University of Washington. Rodgers and Hammerstein discovered her while she was singing in clubs. They offered her the role of Forbush when Martin left the show.
She was married twice. The first union, to T.W. Baumfelf, ended in divorce. Her second husband, restaurateur and former football star George J. Manuche Jr. (known as Mike), predeceased her in 2013. She is survived by three daughters, Maria Manuche, Jayvie Anderson and Jenny Vellante, and a son, Michael Manuche.