Broadway great and TLT’s “Mattress”

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

George Abbott

George Abbott

When the Tryon Little Theater plays the delightful medieval musical “Once Upon a Mattress” Feb. 18-21 and 25-28, it will be carrying forward a production originally directed on Broadway by the legendary George Abbott.


George Abbott.  For many he is Broadway history: director, playwright, actor, producer in a career that spanned 1915 to 1994.  And he didn’t neglect film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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But for local resident Betsy Miner, he is above all Uncle George. Betsy remembers as a girl going backstage to meet Carol Burnett after one of her rousing performances as Princess Winnifred the Woebegone in “Mattress.” Being the great niece of the director has a magic way of opening doors to the backstage world.


Among Mr. Abbott’s many Broadway successes in addition to “Mattress” are “Pajama Game,” “Damn Yankees,” “Fiorello,” “The Boys From Syracuse,” “Where’s Charley?”, and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”  He won every theatre award you can think of — multiple Tony’s and Drama Desk Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, even the Kennedy Center Honors.


Yet to Betsy Miner, he was the funny, charming uncle who helped put her father through university, and who wrote delightful letters as he kept in touch with family while so busy on Broadway.  She treasures the collection of letters she keeps in a leather binder with a special Playbill displayed inside the protective cover, a Playbill for Broadway’s Palace Theatre saying “Happy Birthday, Mr. Abbott!”


About a week and a half before he died at age 107, Mr. Abbott was dictating revisions to the second act of “Pajama Game” with a revival in mind. At the age of 106 in 1994 he walked down the aisle on opening night of the “Damn Yankees” revival and received a standing ovation. He was heard saying to his companion, “There must be somebody important here.”


The TLT box office opens Feb. 15, Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays 4-7 p.m. Reserved seats are also available at


-Submitted by Connie Clark