Rita McKenzie, star of ‘Ethel Merman’s Broadway,’ dead at 76

Rita McKenzie

LOS ANGELES — Actress Rita McKenzie, who starred in the longest one-woman show in theatrical history when she appeared in “Ethel Merman’s Broadway,” died Saturday. She was 76.

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McKenzie died in Los Angeles, several days before her 77th birthday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She died after a long illness, her husband, talent agent Scott Stander, said in a statement.

With her powerful voice and personality, McKenzie premiered “Ethel Merman’s Broadway” in 1988 at an off-Broadway theater, the entertainment news website reported.

McKenzie would star in the show throughout her career in the United States, Europe and Asia, performing as recently as 2016, according to Playbill. She belted out many of Merman’s memorable songs, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

McKenzie also played Lita Encore in the Los Angeles premiere of “Ruthless! The Musical,” Deadline reported.

She toured the U.S. and appeared in “Anything Goes!” and in the 50th anniversary tour of “Annie Get Your Gun,” the entertainment news website reported. She also played the role of Rose in “Gypsy” and co-starred with Barbara Eden in a three-year tour of “The Female Odd Couple.”

McKenzie also opened for Milton Berle, Don Knotts, Norm Crosby, Donald O’Connor and Steve Allen, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She also played the housekeeper Alice in the 2000 telefilm ”Unauthorized: Brady Bunch — The Final Days” and appeared on television in episodes of “Daddy Dearest,” “Frasier,” “Big Brother Jake” and “Caroline in the City.”

McKenzie’s most recent role was as associate producer for the pre-Broadway tour of “All Things Equal: The Life and Trials of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” according to Deadline.

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