Ms. Roberts was born Josephine Rose Seagrist in New York City on July 15, 1917, and reared in Queens.
Paramount Pictures had a studio in Queens. When Josephine was 5 or 6, she marched in, announced she wanted to be in pictures, and was cast as an extra in several films. As a girl, she studied with Estelle Liebling, a singing teacher who also taught Beverly Sills. As a teenager, she toured the country in Shubert brothers musicals, taking the stage name Joan Roberts early on.
Ms. Roberts appeared in several more Broadway musicals of the '40s, including Marinka and High Button Shoes, before settling into a life of marriage, motherhood, summer stock, and regional theater. In 2001, she returned to Broadway after more than 50 years to play the operetta star Heidi Schiller in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies.
Ms. Roberts' first husband, John Donlon, died in 1965; her second, Alexander Peter, died in 1993. Survivors include a son, John Donlon; two stepsons, Robert and James Peter; and a number of step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren. - N.Y. Times News Service