b. Catherine Gloria Balotta, 20 November 1925, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. An actress and singer with a long and distinguished career in the theatre and on television and film, Ballard came from Italian descent, and entered showbusiness when she was 14 years old, appearing in a US production of Stage Door Canteen in Cleveland. She began her professional career in vaudeville in 1943, and three years later was in the revue Three To Make Ready in New York. In the late 40s she toured in various stock productions including Look Ma, I’m Dancin’ and Annie Get Your Gun, and was in the cast of the 1948 Harold Rome revue That’s The Ticket, which closed out of town in the dreaded ‘graveyard’ for Broadway-bound shows, Philadelphia.
In 1950 Ballard made her London debut at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the revue Touch And Go, and also starred in that year’s Royal Variety Performance, before joining the US tour of Top Banana. In 1954, she was back on Broadway as Helen of Troy in The Golden Apple in which she introduced Jerome Moss and John Latouche’s languorous ‘Lazy Afternoon’. This was followed by Reuben Reuben, a Marc Blitzstein show that closed in Boston in 1955, and good roles in Broadway productions of Carnival (1961, Rosalie), the revue The Beast In Me (1963), and Molly (1973, Molly Goldberg). She also appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies (1956, Canada), a revival of Wonderful Town at the New York City Center (1963), and the revue The Decline And Fall Of The Entire World As Seen Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter Revisited (1965, off-Broadway).
In the 70s Ballard appeared in cabaret at prestige rooms such as Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, and the St. Regis and Hotel Plaza in New York. She made her only film musical, The Girl Most Likely (1957), with Jane Powell, Tommy Noonan, Cliff Robertson and Keith Andes, having entered television via The Mel Tormé Show some six years earlier. She was in the original television production of Cinderella (1957, starring Julie Andrews), and starred with Eve Arden in the fondly remembered series The Mothers-In-Law in the late 60s. Other frequent television work has included The Love Boat, The Robber Bridegroom, numerous guest appearances, and her own specials such as Hello Kaye Ballard, Welcome To Las Vegas (1980).
In more recent times, Ballard joined the Big Band Era 4 Girls 4 tour with Kay Starr, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell, delighting audiences not only with her singing and comedy, but with added burlesque impressions and some sensitive flute playing. In the early 90s she was in the casts of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera production of Chicago with Juliet Prowse and Bebe Neuwirth, the New York Festival’s Pirates Of Penzance, at the Rainbow And Stars in New York with Jason Graae, Liz Callaway and Ron Raines in an Irving Berlin revue entitled Say It With Music; and with Jaye P. Morgan and Marcia Lewis in Nunsense in Florida. She also visited London in 1992 and presented her one-woman show at the Lyric Theatre. She has continued to record occasionally, and in 1958 made the album The Fanny Brice Story In Song, which she sent to producer Ray Stark suggesting that she star in a film of the entertainer’s life. Stark rejected her offer, but eventually produced the biopic under the title of Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand. In 1997, Ballard headlined at the Paper Mill Playhouse in No, No Nanette, and returned to the same venue a year later to play Hattie (‘Broadway Baby’) in a revival of Follies. Three years later she appeared in the musical version of The Full Monty.