Actress and singer Priscilla Gillette (b. Tenafly, NJ, 27 November 1925; d. New York, NY, 2 February 2006) made her Broadway debut in 1947, replacing Marion Bell as Fiona MacLaren in the first run of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon. She had made her public stage debut in the national touring company of that show immediately after graduating from music school at Syracuse University. An outstanding talent with a voice that served as well in opera as in musical comedy, she premiered the role of Alexandra Giddens (“Zan”) in Regina, Marc Blitzstein’s 1949 musical adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s drama The Little Foxes, winning a 1950 Theatre World Award.
Broadway remembers Priscilla Gillette best for her portrayals of two beautiful Homeric heroines: first Helen in Cole Porter’s Out of This World (1950), sharing the stage with Charlotte Greenwood as Juno and William Redfield as Mercury; then Penelope in Jerome Moross and John LaTouche’s The Golden Apple (1954), with Kaye Ballard, Portia Nelson, and Bibi Osterwald.
Gillette’s television career began in 1950 when she starred with Charlton Heston in a production of The Willow Cabin presented by Westinghouse on the series Studio One in Hollywood. She subsequently appeared in nine more presentations in that series before 1957. In 1952 she sang in Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue and on Curtain Call.
In 1953 Gillette reprised her performance as Alexandra Giddens with the New York City Opera Company at City Center. Three years later she appeared with the Company in a one-act opera by Frank Martin after Shakespeare’s The Tempest; the premiere had taken place four months earlier in Vienna, Austria, with Richard Cassilly singing the part of Ferdinand to Gillette’s Miranda. During the New York run of The Tempest, Gillette was simultaneously understudying Phyllis Curtin in the title role of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. (Floyd and Gillette had worked together in the ’forties as music students at Syracuse University.)
During the television season 1957–1958 Priscilla Gillette was a familiar character, Sybil Gordon, on the popular soap opera The Edge of Night. She made later appearances on Startime, The United States Steel Hour, and Armstrong Circle Theatre.
Priscilla Gillette Perrone died at age 80 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after a period of declining health.
– Lucy E. Cross