Friday, November 25, 2011

The Past Week In Theatre History (Nov. 21-25)

Today In Theatre History: NOVEMBER 21-25

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Steve Luber, Anne Bradley and Sam Maher

1694 Birthday of French author François Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778) whose satirical novel "Candide" served as source material for the 1956 Leonard Bernstein/Lillian Hellman/Dorothy Parker musical.

1849 Birthday of author Frances Hodgeson Burnett (1849-1924), author of several Broadway plays in the first decade of the 20th century, including Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Little Princess, The Pretty Sister of Jose and That Man and I. Her novel The Secret Garden was adapted as a musical in 1991.

1888 Birthday of Adolph Marx, better known as Harpo (1888-1964), silent sibling of the Marx Brothers comedy team, seen on Broadway in I'll Say She Is, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts, and a character in the biographical musical Minnie's Boys.

1920 In Rollo's Wild Oat, the title character rents a theatre and hires actors so he can star in Hamlet. Roland Young has the lead in this Clare Kummer play.

1934 With words and music by Cole Porter, Anything Goes opens tonight at the Alvin Theatre. The cast includes Ethel Merman, William Gaxton and Victor Moore in this one year-plus run. The book, about cabaret singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy No. 13 chasing around a France-bound ocean liner, is provided by Bolton, Wodehouse, Lindsay and Crouse. Songs include "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."

1934 Birthday of actor, lyricist and director Martin Charnin, a late-career collaborator of Richard Rodgers on the musicals Two by Two and I Remember Mama.. His other works will include Annie, Upstairs at O'Neals, Hot Spot and The First. He will begin his career as one of the original Jets in West Side Story.

1937 John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men opens at the Music Box Theater. Wallace Ford and Broderick Crawford star as traveling companions Lenny and George. It will run 207 performances.

1938 Eddie Albert, Ronnie Graham, Teddy Hart, Jimmy Savo and Burl Ives are The Boys From Syracuse. George Abbott adapted the story from Shakepeare's Comedy of Errors. Music and lyrics are supplied by Rodgers and Hart, and George Balanchine provides the choreography.

1940 This week many legitimate theatres begin Sunday performances. In the past, the Winter Garden, the Selwyn and the Century had presented Sunday evening variety shows, but these were special vaudeville programs.

1950 "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" as Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls opens at the Forty-sixth Street Theatre. George S. Kaufman directs and Michael Kidd choreographs this Abe Burrows, Jo Swerling and Loesser musical based on Damon Runyan's stories. Sam Levene is Nathan Detroit, co-starring with Robert (father of Alan) Alda, Isabel Bigsley, Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye. The show gets rave reviews and runs for a total of 1,200 performances.

1965 Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion are living "The Impossible Dream" tonight as their musical, Man of La Mancha, opens tonight at the ANTA Theatre. This pre-Broadway run starred people who would comprise the original Broadway cast including Richard Kiley in the title role. His co-stars included Irving Jacobson, Joan Denier, Ray Middleton and Robert Rounseville. This production will run for 2,238 performances.

1993 In order to get a review from Frank Rich of the New York Times before he leaves, Tony Kushner opens his Angels in America, Part II: Perestroika at the Walter Kerr Theatre tonight. Rich, who is known for raving about the first part of the play, is leaving his post soon, to be succeeded by a reviewer known for not being enthusiastic about the piece. When the review comes out, the play is defined as a "true millennial work of art." Perestroika runs in repertory with Millennium Approaches and runs for 216 performances.

2004 Woody Allen returns to the stage to direct his new play, A Second Hand Memory, about a family of misfits. Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company hosts the premiere, which stars Kate Blumberg, Beth Fowler, Dominic Chianese and Michael McKean.

2005 A film adaptation of the musical Rent opens featuring most of the original Broadway cast.
2006 Betty Comden, 89, the award-winning lyricist and librettist who — with writing partner Adolph Green — created such iconic musicals as Bells Are Ringing, Wonderful Town, The Will Rogers Follies, On the 20th Century and On the Town dies in New York. They also wrote the script to the film Singin' in the Rain.

2008 Opening night for the Broadway stage adaptation of Irving Berlin’s holiday film "White Christmas," about a pair of army buddies who try to help their former commanding officer who has fallen on hard times. Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'Malley and Meredith Patterson star in the production, staged by Walter Bobbie. The score includes songs from the Bing Crosby film, augmented with other tunes from the Irving Berlin songbook.

2010 Simon Bent's Elling, an odd-couple comedy about two inmates from a mental institution who are given a shot at living on their own, opens on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Directed by Doug Hughes, the cast includes Brendan Fraser, Denis O'Hare, Jennifer Coolidge, Richard Easton and Jeremy Shamos. The production will close the following Sunday, after 9 performances.

More Birthdays: Scott Joplin 1868. Boris Karloff 1887. Erté (nee Remain de Tirtoff) 1892. Benjamin Britten 1913. Will B. Able 1923. Geraldine Page 1924. Jerry Bock 1928. Peter Hall 1930. Marlo Thomas 1937. Tom Conti 1941. Lorna Luft 1942.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that happen this week in theatre history, that post would be WAY longer than this one. To see more check out the blog on in their news feed.


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