Eileen Rodgers in Tenderloin(PhotoFest)
Eileen Rodgers in Tenderloin
(PhotoFest)
Eileen Rodgers, a singing actress who co-starred on Broadway in Fiorello! and Tenderloin and who played Reno Sweeney in a major Off-Broadway revival of Anything Goes opposite Hal Linden, died on Sunday, July 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was 73.

Born in Pittsburgh, Rodgers began her career as a nightclub entertainer. She became the lead vocalist with the Charlie Spivak Orchestra and was signed by Columbia Records, going on to record more than 30 singles and two LPs for that label in the 1950s and '60s. After appearing in the musical revue Chic in New York, she made a notable Broadway debut in the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Fiorello! (1959), belting out the show-stopper "Gentleman Jimmy." The following year, Rodgers was back on Broadway in Tenderloin. Both shows had scores by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and were co-written (with Jerome Weidman) and directed by the legendary George Abbott.

The production of Anything Goes in which Rodgers starred opened at the Orpheum Theater in 1962; in addition to Hal Linden, the cast included Kenneth Mars, Mickey Deems, and Barbara Lang. This production of the Cole Porter musical was significant in that it established a new performing edition of the show that was licensed to professional and amateur groups for many years thereafter. The show later played in Las Vegas, and its excellent cast album has never been out of print.

Rodgers also appeared on Broadway in the notorious flop Kelly (1965), and she was a standby for Ethel Merman in the 1966 revival of Annie Get Your Gun. She performed frequently on television variety shows and starred opposite Art Carney in a "Chevrolet 50th Anniversary" special. Rodgers gave up her career at its height in favor of marriage and motherhood. She is survived by her husband Bill Thompson; their sons, Wm. J. Thompson III and Mark Thompson; and three grandchildren.