Friday, April 20, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (April 16 - April 20)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: APRIL 16-20
By Anne Bradley, David Gewirtzman,
Ernio Hernandez, and Robert Viagas

1906     John Philip Sousa supplies the music for The Free Lance. Herbert Gresham stage this 35 performance run at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.

1920     A pair of marooned teenagers discover love in The Blue Lagoon. Norman MacOwen and Charlton Mann based their drama on the novel by H.De Vere Stacpoole. Harold French and Faith Celli are the twosome at London's Prince Of Wales Theatre.

1927     Russian-born Sam Levene makes his Broadway debut in Wall Street at the Hudson Theatre. He studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. He will later play Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.

1936     In Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead the task becomes impossible as the six dead soldiers refuse the grave. This one-act protest against the war will run three months at the Ethel Barrymore in New York. Robert Porterfield and Joseph Kramm are among the actors portraying the soldiers.

1939     This time as a leading man, Laurence Olivier stars opposite Katharine Cornell in No Time for Comedy at New York's Ethel Barrymore Theatre. S. N. Behrman's comedy about a playwright in the throes of writer's block will run 185 performances.

1946     Actor Tim Curry is born in Cheshire, England. He will create memorable Broadway roles including Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, Mozart in Amadeus, Dada artist Tristan Tzara in Travesties and King Arthur in Monty Python's Spamalot, as well as appear, usually as the villain, in more than one hundred films and cartoons.

1946     Betty Garrett and Jules Munshin are among the cast of Call Me Mister. This revue satirizes subjects from Army red tape to southern racial prejudice. Harold Rome provides music and lyrics.

1951      Edith Evans, Sybil Thorndike, and Wendy Hiller are residents at a country hotel in N. C. Hunter's Waters of the Moon. They won't be checking out till they register 835 performances at London's Haymarket. Frith Banbury stages.

1964     Author and playwright Ben Hecht, 70, died today in New York. He started his career as a journalist. Of his collaborations with Charles MacArthur The Front Page, Jumbo,and Twentieth Century are the best known.

1965     Anne of Green Gables plays at London's New Theatre. Based on L.M. Montgomery's novel it stars Polly James as the orphan Anne who changes the lives of those around her. Donald Harron adapted the book and provides the lyrics for Norman Campbell's score.

1968     Author Edna Ferber died today in New York. She successfully collaborated with George S. Kaufman on the plays Dinner at Eight and Stage Door. Her novel "Show Boat," was the basis for the musical. She was 81 years old.

1972     If only people listened when you say Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope! Micki Grant stars in and supplies the music and lyrics for this musical exploring the trials, and celebrating the pride, of African-American life. It will run 1,065 performances at the Edison Theatre in New York.

1975     Bette Midler's Clams on the Half Shell Revue takes over the Minskoff Theatre for 67 performances. Joe Layton choreographed and staged this showcase for the Divine Miss M.

1979     Bernard Pomerance's tale of the grossly disfigured John Merrick, better known as The Elephant Man, opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. Philip Anglim stars as the stricken man (sans makeup) while Carole Shelley and Kevin Conway co-star. The play wins the Tony Award for Best Play.

1994     Two years after the infamous riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles, Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. The text of this solo show is taken from interviews she had with people directly or indirectly involved in the case. The play premiered at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum and also ran Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre prior to its Broadway run.

1990     August Wilson's The Piano Lesson opens tonight at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Charles S. Dutton stars alongside S. Epatha Merkerson as siblings in 1930s Pittsburgh who struggle over the choice to sell a family heirloom. Lloyd Richards directs the production that will run 320 performances.

1994     The day that Disney came to Broadway: the full-scale live version of their animated film, Beauty and the Beast, opens at the Palace Theatre. Susan Egan and Terrence Mann embody the title roles and Tom Bosley costars Belle's father. The production will move to another Broadway venue, the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, on Nov. 12, 1999 to make room for Disney's third Broadway venture, Aida.

1997     Charles Durning and Julie Harris star in a revival of The Gin Game. It runs 145 performances at the Lyceum Theatre. It's her last Broadway appearance to date.

1999     Emlyn Williams' Night Must Fall, which opened in March 8 at the Lyceum Theatre, reopens tonight at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The production was scheduled to close April 11, but star Matthew Broderick decides to stay on with the show, making the transfer viable. The thriller focuses on a psychopathic bellboy and the spell he casts on several women in an English country house.

1999     Martin McDonagh, whose The Beauty Queen of Leenane ended its yearlong Broadway run just weeks ago, now has another play, The Lonesome West, starting previews at the Lyceum Theatre tonight. The play is part of McDonagh's "Leenane" trilogy (the third being A Skull in Connemara) and opens on Broadway April 27.

2000    The London revival of Tom Stoppard’s play, The Real Thing, that deals with love, marriage and adultery from varying perspectives, officially opens at the Barrymore Theatre. Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle will both win Tony Awards for their portrayals, and the show, directed by David Leveaux, wins the Best Revival Tony.

2001      The Proof is in the Pulitzer. The prestigious award goes to David Auburn's drama about a troubled young woman trying to prove that a mathematics breakthrough is her own work and not cribbed from her math-genius father.

2001      It's ker-ching time for Hitler -- and Mel Brooks and all of Broadway. Legendary opening night of The Producers at the St. James Theatre, as ticket buyers form lines down 44th Street to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the musical adaptation of the 1968 Brooks film. Wildly positive reviews the next morning prompt producers to raise the top ticket price to $100.

2002     A stage adaptation of the film musical Thoroughly Modern Millie opens on Broadway with a largely new score by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan. It goes on to win six Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Actress in a Musical for its star, Sutton Foster.

2003     Cholly Atkins, a Broadway tap dancer and choreographer whose collaborations with Charles "Honi" Coles were the stuff of showbiz legend, dies in Las Vegas at age 89.

2005     The Light in the Piazza, a new musical by Adam Guettel (grandson of Richard Rodgers) and Craig Lucas opens at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre for what is supposed to be a limited run. The show wins six Tony Awards (the most of any show in 2006), including Best Actress for Victoria Clark and Best Score for Guettel and Lucas. After several extensions, the run becomes open-ended.

2006     Film star Julia Roberts makes her Broadway debut as one point of a love triangle in the Broadway premiere of Richard Greenberg's drama Three Days of Rain.

2006     Henderson Forsythe, 88, the character actor who won a Tony Award playing the Texas sheriff in Broadway's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, dies in Williamsburg, VA.

2007     Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96, the longtime stage and film actress who served as chairperson of the New York State Council of the Arts for 20 years and was a staple of the performing arts community, dies of pneumonia at her home in Manhattan.

2008     Harvey Fierstein is librettist and co-star of A Catered Affair, a musical adaptation of the Paddy Chayefsky film, with music and lyrics by John Bucchino. Faith Prince, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh co-star in this show about a working class couple trying to stage a grand wedding for their only daughter. Directed by John Doyle.

2010     The Menier Chocolate Factory's critically acclaimed revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's musical La Cage aux Folles opens on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. Directed by Terry Johnson, the production stars Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge.

2010     American Idiot, the musical based on the Grammy Award-winning rock album by Green Day, and featuring direction by Michael Mayer, opens at the St. James Theatre. John Gallagher, Jr., Michael Esper and Stark Sands star as three friends who attempt to escape from lives in suburbia.

2011     Following a 2009 London premiere, the musical stage adaptation Sister Act – featuring a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater – opens in New York at the Broadway Theatre. Patina Miller stars as a singer on the run who transforms the lives of a convent full of nuns when she hides out among them.

2011     High, Matthew Lombardo's play about an addict, an enabler and a sponsor — starring Kathleen Turner as a nun who agrees to counsel a tough 19-year-old crystal-meth abuser — opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. After struggling at the box office through previews, and receiving a slew of negative reviews, the production will close five days later.

This Week’s Birthdays:  Señor Wences 1896.  Vivienne Segal 1897.   Thornton Wilder 1897.  Norwood Smith 1915.  Barry Nelson 1920.  Peter Ustinov 1921.  Edith Adams 1927.  Robert Stigwood 1934.  Dudley Moore 1935.  Hayley Mills 1946.  Jessica Lange 1949.  Betsy Joslyn 1954.  Rebecca Luker 1961.  Ashley Judd 1968.  Gavin Creel 1976.  Kelli O'Hara 1976.

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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