Martha Wright, a Standout as a Broadway Substitute, Dies at 92

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Martha Wright in a 1963 touring production of 'Mary, Mary.'

The soprano stepped in for Mary Martin to star in the legendary musicals 'South Pacific' and 'The Sound of Music.'

Martha Wright, the singer and actress who replaced Mary Martin in the Tony-winning Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals South Pacific and The Sound of Music, has died. She was 92.

Wright died March 1 in Newburyport, Mass., her daughter told The New York Times.

In South Pacific, Wright took over for Martin as nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush in June 1951 and appeared in more than 1,000 performances, singing the amusing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and other numbers.

She was spotted by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II while performing in Chicago. “I was so surprised, you could have knocked me over with a feather,” she once said of replacing Martin. "I thought I was being considered for the touring company.”

Wright stayed with the show, which had opened in April 1949, through its closing in January 1954, and then toured the country with it.

For The Sound of Music in the early 1960s, she replaced Martin as governess Maria Rainer and performed the title song and “My Favorite Things.”

A native of Seattle who attended the University of Washington, the coloratura soprano made her Broadway debut in Music in My Heart in 1947 and starred in Great to Be Alive! in 1950. Later, Wright had her own show on ABC and sang on The Ed Sullivan Show and Jack Paar’s The Tonight Show.

 

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