Star of 1947 Broadway show ‘High Button Shoes’ still going strong at 97
Seventy-two years ago a bright-eyed brunette named Gloria Casper sang and danced in the original cast of High Button Shoes — and on Saturday, she’ll be back on stage for the latest Broadway production of the 1947 musical.
Casper, who now goes by Gloria Vivo, and who turns 97 next month, will reminisce about the show at a post-matinee “talk back” with the lucky New York City Center audience.
They may have a hard time keeping up with her.
“I have plenty of energy — one day I asked myself do I feel like I’m 20?” Vivo, a spunky Floridian, told The Post.
“And I answered myself, no, that’s too old. I feel 18,” she said. “I still go Latin dancing. I can still do everything I always did.”
Vivo was just 25 years old and newly wed to a construction exec when she was picked out of an audition crowd of 300 young ladies and given a role in the eight-women chorus.
The then-Manhattan resident had no theater experience — just some singing and piano lessons.
But she was so talented that over the smash show’s two-year run she understudied some 50 times for the ingenue role, “Fran Longstreet,” performing opposite mega-stars Nanette Fabray and Phil Silvers.
“It was fun,” she said. “Oh, it was fun.”
In her favorite scene, she gazed admiringly at her football star sweetheart as he crooned, “You’re my girl, I’ve told them so.”
“Then I sang it to him, ‘I’m your girl,” she recalled. “We had old-fashioned clothes — the show took place, remember, in 1914. And I had high button shoes on, of course.”
As a chorus gal, she danced in “one of those red and white stripes bloomer bathing suits — with black stockings! And a hat!” she remembered.
“It was crazy how they were all covered up. Look at what they wear today! It’s just strings!”
The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett
She then told a Post reporter, slyly, “By the way, your photographer is very handsome. I told him, if I was young, forget it, I would not let you get away!
Vivo would go on to raise a son and daughter in upstate Mount Vernon, and to play piano and sing on TV shows, supper clubs and restaurants.
But she was not bitten by the Broadway bug. Fame, she explained, was underwhelming.
“What to hear something weird? When I took my first individual bow as Fran — everybody’s in a line when the curtain’s open, and then each individual who had a main part steps forward for an individual bow.
“And I said to myself, where’s this big kick I’m supposed to get from the applause?” she said.
“I did not need applause,” she added. “That was a good thing to learn.”
Vivo credits her longevity to eating well and keeping busy — she’s writing a book, and still goes dancing with friends.
“I’ve only ever used natural vitamins and minerals, and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables along with protein every day — and I keep a happy attitude,” she said.
“I have friends as young as 65! And I don’t have any wrinkles yet.”
Amazingly, at least two other original High Button Shoes cast members are still alive, though neither was able to join Vivo at Saturday’s talk-back, said Jack Viertel, artistic director of City Center’s “Encores!” series, which is mounting the latest production.
“We’ll be delighted to hear her reminiscences,” Viertel said. “And she’s going to tell us a lot of wonderful things.”
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