Friday, March 2, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (Feb 27 - Mar 2)

The Past Week In Theatre History: February 27 - March 2
By Robert Viagas, David Gewirtzman,
Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley

February 29 can be found in a seperate post here

1848 English actress Ellen Terry is born today. She will make her American debut in 1883 with Henry Irving's company. She will go on to star in classic and contemporary works. The Terry family will become a prominent force in theatre; John Gielgud is a relative.

1894 Birthday of playwright Ben Hecht (1894-1964) , author or co-author of The Front Page, Twentieth Century, Jumbo, The Egoist and The Great Magoo.

1900 Composer Kurt Weill is born today in Dessau, Germany. He will compose the score for Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, and Mahagonny. Among his many works, Lady in the Dark will be his first Broadway success. Weill's collaboration with Ira Gershwin on this 1941 production starring Danny Kaye and Gertrude Lawrence will run 467 performances.

1906 Actor Franchot Tone is born today. He will appear in several productions with the Theatre Guild including Green Grow the Lilacs which will be the basis for the musical Oklahoma!. He will become a member of the Group Theatre.

1915 Birthday of comedian Zero Mostel (1915-1977) star of Fiddler on the Roof, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Rhinoceros and the original movie version of The Producers.

1916 Novelist Henry James dies today in London. Several of his novels became the basis for plays. "Washington Square," which came to life as The Heiress was the most successful. He was 73 years old.

1921 The Klaw Theatre on West 45th Street opens with a production of Rachel Crother's Nice People. Owned by theatrical producer Marc Klaw, the house will be renamed the Avon in 1929. Columbia Broadcasting System will take it over for its radio studio. It will be razed in 1954.

1939 That's tap dancing you hear. Dancer-choreographer-director Tommy Tune is born today. He will go on to perform in shows such as Two for the Seesaw, and My One and Only, choreograph A Day in Hollywood and a Night in the Ukraine, and direct and choreograph Nine.

1944 Even the bright lights of Broadway are affected by World War II. A midnight curfew quiets the Times Square nightlife.

1955 Ben Bagley's Shoestring Revue has a big name cast. Chita Rivera, Beatrice Arthur and Arte Johnson head the cast at the President Theatre in New York.

1955 Harold Clurman directs Bus Stop. Kim Stanley and Elaine Stritch are two of the stranded passengers in this William Inge play.

1957 Opening night for the final show to bear the Ziegfeld Follies name, 50 years after the very first edition, and 25 years after its namesake's death. The Ziegfeld Follies of

1959 Playwright Maxwell Anderson died today in Stamford, Connecticut. Among his many plays are Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, Anne of the Thousand Days, and The Bad Seed. He was 71 years old.

1960 Don Ameche stars in the memorable flop 13 Daughters, with book, music and lyrics by Eaton Magoon. The show opens tonight and runs 28 performances at the 54th Street Theatre.

1962 There was vaudeville, but This Was Burlesque. Ann Corio stars in this revue that will run for 900 performances.

1964 Athol Fugard's tale of two brothers in South Africa, Blood Knot, stars J.D. Cannon and James Earl Jones. John Berry stages at the Cricket Theatre in New York.

1975 Did anyone guess the careers Gilda Radner, John Belushi and Bill Murray would have? All three appeared in The National Lampoon Show at the Palladium in New York. This revue, directed by Martin Charnin, will run 23 weeks.

1979 Ernest Thompson's late-in-life drama On Golden Pond, which premiered Off Broadway Sept. 13 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, transfers to Broadway's New Apollo Theatre. The play, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, will close Mar 14, 1980 after a switch to the Century Theatre.

1979 Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opens at Broadway's Uris Theatre. Len Cariou stars as the bedeviled barber and Angela Lansbury plays the cannibalistic cook in the production that made a piercing factory whistle infamous. The musical swept the Tony Awards, taking home the prize for Best Musical, Leading Actor and Actress, Director for Harold Prince, Best Book, Score, as well as Scenic and Costume Design.

1988 Robert Prosky and Sam Waterston play Russian and American negotiators trying to pull the world back from nuclear confrontation in Lee Blessing's Pulitzer finalist A Walk in the Woods, which opens today at the Booth Theatre, beginning a 137-performance run.

1989 Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, starring Victor Garber, Philip Bosco and Tovah Feldshuh, opens on Broadway. Bosco, who will play at the Royale Theatre 11 years later in Copenhagen, wins a Tony for his turn in this production at the same theatre.

1994 Off-Broadway's Orpheum Theatre, once a home for old-fashioned Yiddish theater, suddenly crashes and bangs with the energy of Stomp, a UK dance piece that would keep slamming binlids, sweeping brooms and flicking cigarette lighters for years to come.

1995 Opening night for Smokey Joe's Cafe, the musical revue saluting the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Directed by Jerry Zaks, the show will run 2.036 performances at the Virginia Theatre, making it the longest-running revue in Broadway history, save Oh! Calcutta.

1997 Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo opens at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. The comedy-drama, which goes on to win a Best Play Tony, concerns a Jewish family in Atlanta and stars Jessica Hecht, Dana Ivey and Paul Rudd.

1998 Yasmina Reza's international hit play Art, opens at the Royale Theatre with Victor Garber, Alan Alda and Alfred Molina starring. Reza's comedy about a blank painting took top honors at France's Molière Awards and London's Olivier Awards and goes on to win the Tony Award for Best Play.

1999 The Jason Robert Brown-Alfred Uhry-Harold Prince musical Parade, which opened at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre Dec. 17, 1998, closes. Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello starred in the show, based on the real-life Leo Frank case and tragic events that followed.

2000 Susan Stroman and John Weidman's dance play Contact starts performances at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The show, which sold out its Off- Broadway run at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, gained Broadway status (and Tony eligibility) in the move. It will officially open March 30 and win the Tony Award for Best Musical, despite using an entirely pre-recorded score of jazz music and pop tunes.

2002 Off-Broadway opening today for Eve Ensler's drama Necessary Targets, about sexual violence against women during the early 1990s war in Yugoslavia.

2003 Opening night of Take Me Out at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. Richard Greenberg's story of a major league baseball star who comes out as gay will go on to win the Tony Award as Best Play.

2005 Jilline Ringle, a Barrymore Award-nominated actress-singer who was a bright spot in theatres and cabarets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cape May, NJ, dies at age 40 after an illness.

2005 The musical Altar Boyz, which spoofs the boy-band craze, opens Off-Broadway.

2006 Jack Wild, 53, who won acclaim as the Artful Dodger in the 1968 film version of the 1960 Lionel Bart musical Oliver!, dies in England after a long battle with oral cancer.

2007 Jay Harnick, 78, who founded TheatreWorks USA, the nation's largest touring children's theatre company, dies in Manhattan after a long illness.

2008 Passing Strange opens at the Belasco Theatre, after a successful off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. A young black Californian who feels trapped by his suburban upbringing goes on a coming-of-age odyssey to Bohemian Amsterdam and Berlin in this musical narrated by the rock musician Stew, who co-composed the score with Heidi Rodewald.

2009 A Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls that uses animated projections and introduces author Damon Runyon as a character, opens at the Nederlander Theatre. The classic “musical fable of Broadway” is directed by Des McAnuff, and stars Craig Bierko as Sky Masterson, Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit, Kate Jennings Grant as Sarah Brown and Lauren Graham as Miss Adelaide.

2011 A stage production of The Wizard of Oz, based on the story by L Frank Baum as immortalized in the 1939 M-G-M film musical featuring music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, opens at the London Palladium. Danielle Hope – winner of the reality TV casting show "Over the Rainbow" – stars as Dorothy, alongside Michael Crawford as The Wizard and Hannah Waddingham as the Wicked Witch of the West. The score is supplemented with four new songs written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

More of This Week’s Birthdays:  Anne Sutherland 1867.  John Steinbeck 1902.  Vincente Minnelli 1903. Desi Arnaz 1917.  Michael Flanders 1922.  Charles Durning 1923.  Harry Belafonte 1927. Tom Aldredge 1928.  Joanne Woodward 1930.  John Cullum 1930.  Elizabeth Taylor 1932.  Mercedes Ruehl 1948.  Bernadette Peters 1948.  Debra Monk 1949.  Brent Barrett 1957.  Kevin McCollum 1962.  Bryan Batt 1963.  Robert Sean Leonard 1969.

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 "Today in Theatre History" blog posts on


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