Friday, March 23, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (Mar 19 - Mar 23)

Today In Theatre History: MARCH 19-23
By David Gewirtzman, Robert Viagas,
Ernio Hernandez, and Anne Bradley

1828    Birth of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who will revolutionize world theatre with his realistic dramas A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, Rosmersholm and Peer Gynt.

1867    Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. is born today in Chicago, Illinois. He will go on to become one of the most powerful showmen ever. His Follies, filled with beautiful women and exciting variety acts, will become a 25-year tradition following the first Follies of 1907. He will introduce talent such as Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Marion Davies, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.

1901    Birthday of groundbreaking set designer Jo Mielziner (1901-1976) who will win five Tony Awards for his designs, which included sets for original productions of Death of a Salesman, Guys and Dolls, A Streetcar Named Desire, South Pacific, The King and I, Gypsy, 1776, and dozens more.

1908    British actor Michael Redgrave is born today. He will grow to play opposite the likes of Olivier and Gielgud. His wife is actress Rachel Kempson and their children are Vanessa, Corin and Lynn.

1912    Karl Malden is born in Chicago, Illinois today. He will appear in numerous Broadway productions, most memorably as Mitch in the original A Streetcar Named Desire.

1923    Shhhh! Marcel Marceau is born today in Strasbourg, France.

1930    It's the first day "Being Alive" for composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, born today. The songwriter of Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Sunday in the Park With George and lyricist of West Side Story and Gypsy shares his birthdate with Andrew Lloyd Webber (see below).

1936    Long before Cats, T.S. Eliot gets music by Lehman Engel for his religious drama, Murder in the Cathedral. It runs 38 performances at the Manhattan Theatre.

1948    Evita, Cats and Phantom of the Opera composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is born today. Officially dubbed "Lord Lloyd Webber" by Queen Elizabeth, the composer's recent shows include Beautiful Game, Whistle Down the Wind and Woman in White.

1962    Barbra Streisand and Elliot Gould star in I Can Get It For You Wholesale at the Shubert in New York. Jerome Weidman adapts his own book with songs by Harold Rome. Arthur Laurents stages.

1966    Hal Holbrook opens at Broadway's Longacre Theatre in Mark Twain Tonight!. Holbrook toured widely with this show since it was first produced in 1959 Off-Broadway. This production will run for nine weeks.

1968    Adding music to the bane of high school literature class, the Canterbury Tales spin at London's Phoenix Theatre. Nevill Coghill writes the book with Martin Starkie, Coghill also provides the lyrics for the music composed by Richard Hill and John Hawkins. There will be 2,082 performances.

1971    This downtown One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest soars more successfully than its earlier Broadway flight. Kirk Douglas starred in that short-lived production of the Ken Kesey novel. William Devane heads this cast in Dale Wasserman's revised adaptation. It will run for 1,025 performances at the Mercer-Hansberry Theatre in Greenwich Village.

1988    David Henry Hwang's gender-bending drama, M. Butterfly, opens at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Broadway. John Lithgow and B. D. Wong star as the diplomat and his lover in the work, which wins the Best Play Tony Award.

1990    Kathleen Turner is the Cat and Charles Durning the Big Daddy in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Howard Davies directs the production, which runs 149 performances and closes Aug 1.

1990    John Steinbeck's contemporary classic novel is turned into a stageplay as The Grapes of Wrath opens at the Cort Theatre. The Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Frank Galati's adaptation stars Terry Kinney and Gary Sinise.

1994    Two years after the infamous riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles, Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 opens Off Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre. The text of this dateline drama is taken from interviews she had with people directly or indirectly involved in the case. The play, which premiered at the Center Theatre Group/ Mark Taper Forum, will transfer to Broadway following its runs at NJ's McCarter Theatre and the Public.\

1995    Matthew Broderick teaches Broadway How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as the Frank Loesser musical is revived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Broderick will win the Tony for his performance then be 'succeed'ed by John Stamos for a brief stint before returning to close the show July 14, 1996 with his real-life sweetheart (and future wife) Sarah Jessica Parker.

1997    Shakespeare meets Ellington in the musical Play On!, which updates Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to 1940s Harlem with a score of Duke Ellington standards. The Sheldon Epps conception opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre with stars Andre De Shields and Tonya Pinkins.

1997    A Prince turns to a King as Tony winner Faith Prince joins the cast of the revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I at the Neil Simon Theatre. She replaces Donna Murphy as the woman who steals the heart of Lou Diamond Phillips.

1998    Proving everything old can be very new again, Cabaret transforms the Henry Miller Theatre into the Kit Kat Klub. Directed by Sam Mendes and co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, this revival opens tonight with Natasha Richardson, Ron Rifkin, Mary Louise Wilson and Alan Cumming. It will go on to win four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical. The show will later move uptown to Studio 54, where it has seen several big-name stars such as Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary McCormack, and Susan Egan play the role of Sally Bowles. It will also become one of the few Broadway revivals to run longer than the original.

2000    A new staging of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Cherry Jones and Gabriel Byrne, officially opens at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. The revival and its stars earn Tony nominations, and Roy Dotrice wins for Featured Actor in a Play.

2001    A line of ticket buyers (a rare sight in the age of telephone and online ticket sales) snakes down 44th Street as previews begin for Mel Brooks' musical adaptation of The Producers.

2001    Bat Boy, a musical adaptation of the tabloid newspaper legend, opens Off-Broadway today and earns surprisingly respectful reviews.

2003    Opening night for the R-rated puppet musical Avenue Q, by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. It will move to Broadway by fall, and go on to win the 2004 Tony Award as Best Musical.

2003    Chita Rivera puts her stamp on a sixth decade when she plays Liliane LeFleur in a Broadway revival of Nine, co-starring Antonio Banderas, Jane Krakowski and many other female luminaries. The production, which starts previews today, will win the 2003 Tony Award as Best Musical Revival.

2003    The film version of the musical Chicago wins six Oscars including Best Picture at the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards. The win marks the first time a movie musical has taken home the Best Picture Oscar in more than three decades (Oliver! was the last, in 1968). Other Oscars for the film include Catherine Zeta-Jones for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of killer showgirl Velma Kelly. (Zeta-Jones was nominated in a category that also included her Chicago co-star, Queen Latifah.)

2008    Paul Scofield, whose sonorous voice, commanding presence and mournfully dignified mien made him one of the leading players of the London and international stage during the latter half of the 20th century, dies of leukemia at age 86. He is perhaps best known for creating the role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's history play A Man for All Seasons.

2009    Following a critically acclaimed London run, Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage opens on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the play stars James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis as the increasingly belligerent parents of two boys involved in a playground fight.

2011    Elizabeth Taylor, a movie star who for a half-century was as famous for her personal attractiveness and sensational personal life as she was for her many films, dies at the age of 79. Her Broadway appearances included revivals of The Little Foxes and Private Lives.

2011    Ghetto Klown, a solo show conceived by and starring John Leguizamo, officially opens at the Lyceum Theatre. The show takes audiences "from Leguizamo's childhood memories in Queens to the early days of his acting career in the 1980s avant-garde theatre scene, and on to the sets of major motion pictures.

This Week's Birthdays:  Carl Reiner 1922. James Coco 1930. Hal Linden 1931. William Shatner 1931. Richard Easton 1933. Phyllis Newman 1933. Glenn Close 1947. William Hurt 1950. Amanda Plummer 1957. Holly Hunter 1958. Matthew Broderick 1962. Rosie O'Donnell 1962. Neil LaBute 1963. Hope Davis 1964.

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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