The next “Musical Theatre Melodies” broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 22nd August will feature a 60th Anniversary tribute to David Martin and Langston Hughes’ Simply Heavenly, (based on the novel “Simple Takes a Wife” and other stories by Langston Hughes), from the 1957 original Broadway cast recording starring Melvin Stewart, Marilyn Berry, Claudia Mcneil, John Bouie, Anna English, Brownie McGhee and Duke Willlams; plus additional songs from the 2005 London cast recording starring Rhashan Stone, Allyson Brown, Ruby Turner, Clive Rowe and Nicola Hughes. This will be introduced (via Skype) from New York-based theatre critic and Internet columnist Peter Filichia.
From 1950, Laye appeared in numerous West End revues, including And So to Bed, Intimacy at 8.30, For Amusement Only and High Spirits. In 1954, she played the first Dulcie in The Boy Friend on Broadway alongside Julie Andrews, with whom she shared a Manhattan flat during the run. At this time she was dating a young actor called James Garner.
In 1957, she began appearing in films and for almost 30 years was a stalwart in British productions. In 1985 in a major return to the stage she played Nurse in Romeo and Juliet with the Royal Shakespeare Company and her other credits with the RSC in the mid to late-1980s included Maria in Twelfth Night, First Witch in Macbeth, Glinda/Aunt Em in The Wizard of Oz and Parthy Ann in an Opera North version of Show Boat. In 2001 she returned to the RSC to play Mrs Medlock in its musical of The Secret Garden, directed by Adrian Noble. She toured the UK in The Phantom of the Opera and 42nd Street, among others. Her later West End credits included the musicals Nine in 1997 and Into the Woods in 1998 at the Donmar Warehouse and Mrs Pearce in Trevor Nunn’s revival of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2002. She also starred in a revival of Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Playhouse Theatre in 2003. The production was not admired but Laye’s performance (as Madame de Rosemond) was and she received the Clarence Derwent Award for Best Female in a Supporting Role. In 2005, she toured Britain as the Grandmother in Roald Dahl’s The Witches.