Home Biography Portfolio Contact Info Back to Historical Characters List
Van Ann Van Ann as Lillian Russsell - America's first Music Theatre star
Portfolio Contents:
Back to Historical Characters in Concert
Photo by Adolphe Pierre-Louis
Lillian Russell (1861 - 1922) was an "American Beauty" who represented the Golden Era of the American Musical Theatre and charmed theater goers for over forty years. She was, however, not only an actress and singer with exceptional talents, but a bright, educated woman who worked as an activist raising social consciousness in many areas. Her mother was an early suffragette who worked hand-in-hand with Susan B. Anthony. Lillian would later take up their cause for women's rights later in her career. She worked on behalf of actor's rights as well, and was instrumental in starting the concept of actor's equity.

Later in her life she would expound upon her own philosophy in her syndicated newspaper column. It was one of the first self-help/advice columns ever published where Lillian touted having an educated mind, a cheerful attitude, and physical fitness at all times! The latter seems incongruous with her vuluptuoius hourglass figure, however it was she who took up bicycle riding with her longtime friend Diamond Jim Brady (hence her title of "Diamond Lil.")! They made quite a pair as they cycled around Central Park on their gold plated, diamond encrusted "exercise mobiles!" When Lillian toured the United States she would alight from her opulent train car wearing her most elegant plumes and richest gowns, anything to entertain! Lillian had musicals and songs written for her, and was an "American Original" even starring in a movie ("Wildfire") with John Barrymore. From a romatic bygone era Lillian paved the way for women today by upholding a standard for beauty, talent, freedom, and education. This is a dramatic show featuring songs that delighted Lillian's audiences a century ago and will do the same once again.