Friday, March 16, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (Mar 12 - Mar 16)

The Past Week In Theatre History: March 12 - March 16
By Robert Viagas, David Gewirtzman
Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley

1911    Constance Collier, Tyrone Power (father of the future film star), and Sidney Greenstreet are in the cast of Thais. Paul Wilstach bases his play on the Anatole France story.

1913    Initially Damaged Goods, describing the effects of venereal disease, is given just one matinee performance at the Fulton Theatre in New York. But Eugene Brieux's play will attract so much interest, it will begin a 66 performance run one month later.

1922    Phileas Fogg is asked to go Round in Fifty instead of 80 days. This musical will run at London's Hippodrome for 471 performances. Circling the globe are Renee Reel, George Robey, and Barry and Wallace Lupino.

1928    It's one for all, and all for almost 10 months of The Three Musketeers. William A. McGuire stages his book based on the Dumas novel. P.G. Wodehouse and Clifford Grey write the lyrics for Rudolf Friml's score. Dennis King, Vivienne Segal and John Clarke are in the cast at the Lyric Theatre in New York.

1928    Birthday of playwright Edward Albee, who will go on to write Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? and Pulitzer-winners, A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women.

1934    The New Faces of 1934 revue introduces future stars Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca.

1945    This Foolish Notion lingers 13 weeks at the Martin Beck Theatre. Philip Barry's comedy stars Tallulah Bankhead and is directed by John C. Wilson.

1946    Birthday of actress and singer Liza Minnelli, star of Cabaret on film, and Broadway musicals including Flora the Red Menace, The Rink, The Act and Minnelli on Minnelli among many other projects.

1947    Brigadoon appears out of the mist at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Lerner and Loewe's musical has choreography by Agnes de Mille and a cast that includes David Brooks, George Keane and Pamela Britton. It will run 581 performances.

1956    Under the tutelage of Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews changes from a poor flower girl to My Fair Lady at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York. Robert Coote, Cathleen Nesbitt and Stanley Holloway are also in the cast of the Lerner and Loewe musical adapted from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Cecil Beaton designs the costumes for the 2,717 performance run.

1963    And the director says Enter Laughing. Carl Reiner's novel is adapted by Joseph Stein; Alan Arkin stars as a delivery-boy who has a chance to make it big in theatre. There will be 419 performances at the Henry Miller Theatre in New York. The play would later be made into a film and adapted into the musical, So Long 174th Street.

1962    There's No Strings attached to Richard Rodgers' score for this tuner. Rodgers supplied his own lyrics for this musical starring Richard Kiley and Diahann Carroll. There will be 580 performances.

1964    To honor Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, the New York Philharmonic presents an Homage to Shakespeare. William Ball directs a stellar cast that includes John Gielgud, Edith Evans and Margaret Leighton interpreting various selections.

1969    The Great White Way turns red, white and blue when 1776 opens at the 46th Street Theatre. The musical, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and book by Peter Stone about the Declaration of Independence, stars Howard Da Silva, William Daniels, Ken Howard and, making her Broadway debut, Betty Buckley.

1971     In the wings after his major number in 70 Girls, 70 comedian David Burns dies of a heart attack.

1973    A revival of Irene featuring Debbie Reynolds inaugurates the new Minskoff Theatre. The musical comedy, with music by Harry Tierney, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy and book by Hugh Wheeler and Joseph Stein, will garner Reynolds and castmate Patsy Kelly Tony nods, but only George S. Irving will go home a winner for his performance.

1976    Jo Mielziner, a set designer who ruled the Broadway stage for years, dies four days before his 75th birthday. In 1949, he earned his first Tony Award for set design for his productions of Sleepy Hollow, Summer and Smoke, Anne of the Thousand Days, South Pacific and the transparent framework set for Death of a Salesman, for which he is perhaps best remembered.

1986    Playwright and director Emily Mann makes her Broadway debut as both with Execution of Justice. The play, starring John Spencer, Mary McDonnell, Stanley Tucci and Wesley Snipes, opens at the Virginia Theatre.

1987    Jean Valjean begins his years of hiding from Javert as Les Miserables opens on Broadway. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg based their book on the novel by Victor Hugo. Music is provided by Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. Trevor Nunn stages. Colm Wilkinson and Terrence Mann star as the arch enemies. It will become the third-longest-running Broadway show in history.

1987    Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express rolls into the Gershwin Theatre. The roller skate spectacle with John Napier's set features Broadway's original Annie, Andrea McArdle.

1990    Craig Lucas' Prelude to a Kiss opens today Off-Broadway at the Circle Rep Theatre. Alec Baldwin and Mary Louise Parker star as the oddly-fated newlyweds. It will transfer to Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre May 1, where Timothy Hutton replaces the groom.

1997    Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive opens at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre and stars Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse. The play will transfer to the Century Theatre and win the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (as it was not eligible for the 1997 award owing to a scheduling technicality.) Despite the award, the show closed as scheduled, four days after winning, on April 19, 1998.

1998    The hills are revived! The 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound Of Music undergoes a Broadway revival at the Martin Beck Theatre. Rebecca Luker stars as the problem-to-be-solved Maria and Michael Siberry as the Captain with a flock of children.

2000    After years of international touring and even a TV broadcast, the Celtic dance revue Riverdance opens at the Gershwin Theatre under the title Riverdance -- On Broadway, and runs 605 performances.

2001    Cathy Rigby joins the cast of the struggling Seussical as The Cat in the Hat.

2002    Beauty and the Beast plays its 3,225th performance, surpassing Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's Life with Father, to become the 10th longest running show in Broadway history.

2003    Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks opens first new drama since winning the Pulitzer Prize the previous year, but many newspapers refuse to print the title. Fucking A, her new take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," opens at the Public Theatre's Anspacher Theater space, with a cast that includes Mos Def, Daphne Rubin Vega and Bobby Cannavale. Michael Greif directs.

2003    Lynne Thigpen, the respected actress with the rich, strong voice who won a Tony Award for An American Daughter on Broadway, dies today in her Los Angeles home at age 54. She also appeared in the original cast of Godspell and was widely known for starring in CBS TV's drama, "The District," and the PBS educational series, "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?"

2006    Joe Bova, who was Tony-nominated as Prince Dauntless to Carol Burnett's Princess Fred in Once Upon a Mattress, dies at age 81 at the Actors' Fund Retirement Home in New Jersey.

2009    A revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit — featuring an array of stars from the worlds of stage and screen — opens at Broadway's Shubert Theatre. Michael Blakemore directs the "improbable comedy" about a novelist (Rupert Everett) doing research with an eccentric medium (Angela Lansbury) who conjures up the ghost of his late first wife (Christine Ebersole), with dire consequences for his second wife (Jayne Atkinson).

More of This Week’s Birthday:  Doris Eaton 1904.  Henny Youngman 1906.  Roger L. 1913.  Robert Whitehead 1916.  Horton Foote 1916.  Luther Henderson 1919.  Leo McKern 1920. Gordon MacRae 1921.  Hildy Parks 1926.  Jerry Lewis 1926.  Judd Hirsch 1935.  Billy Crystal 1947.  Victor Garber 1949.  William H. Macy 1950.  Scott Walton 1959.

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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