Friday, April 6, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (April 2 - April 6)

Today In Theatre History: APRIL 2-6
By David Gewirtzman, Anne Bradley,
Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas

1923    There's trouble At Mrs. Beam's -- this boardinghouse keeper thinks one of her guests is a killer. There will be 280 performances at London's Royalty Theatre of this C. K. Munro play.

1924    Birthday of actor Marlon Brando, who will star memorably on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire before heading off to Hollywood, where he will recreate that role, and co-star in Guys and Dolls and many other film classics.

1947    George Abbott stages the Barefoot Boy with Cheek at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York. Max Shulman devised this musical about college radicals. Sylvia Dee and Sidney Lippman provide words and music. Red Buttons and Nancy Walker are in the cast.

1947    The first Tony Awards ceremony is held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Thirteen awards are presented to the likes of Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Fredric March, Jose Ferrer, Agnes de Mille, Kurt Weill and Elia Kazan. No Best Play or Best Musical category yet exists, but the Best Author award goes to a young Arthur Miller for All My Sons. No medallions yet either; men get engraved cigarette lighters, women get compacts.

1948    During this month members of ASCAP, the union protecting the rights of composers and lyricists, strike for better terms for royalties on recordings and radio works. Since radio play is vital to boost popularity of showtunes, this hurts Broadway revues and musicals.

1950    German-born composer Kurt Weill dies today in New York. Among his many works are The Threepenny Opera, Mahagonny, Knickerbocker Holiday, and Lady in the Dark. He was 50 years old.

1958    Say, Darling -- isn't this a musical about a musical? Abe Burrows and Richard Bissell fashion this story about the transformation of Bissell's novel, "7 1/2 Cents," into the Broadway musical The Pajama Game. Jule Styne composes the score, Comden and Green provide the lyrics. Vivian Blaine, Johnny Desmond and David Wayne head the cast.

1962    A Thousand Clowns and Jason Robards make for a run of 428 performances of this Herb Gardner comedy. Robards plays a nonconformist caring for his nephew and fighting the Welfare Department.

1966    Theatre critic and scholar John Gassner dies today. He was head of the Theatre Guild's play department and instrumental in bringing playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller into public attention. He was 64 years old.

1971    The "Broadway Baby" is pounding 42nd St... well a few blocks away actually, at the Winter Garden Theatre as Follies opens. The Stephen Sondheim musical about Ziegfeld-era performers is co-directed by Michael Bennett and Harold Prince and stars Alexis Smith, Gene Nelson, Dorothy Collins and John McMartin.

1986    A. R. Gurney, Jr.'s The Perfect Party opens Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The comedy about a professor who sets out to throw the perfect party under the scrutiny of a newspaper columnist runs 70 performances under the direction of John Tillinger.

1995    Opening night for Having Our Say, Emily Mann's chronicle of the real-life stories of the Delaney sisters, both of whom lived to be more than 100 years old. They tell what it was like to grow up young, gifted and black in the post-Reconstruction South, and how one of them became one of the first black female doctors in the U.S. Mary Alice and Gloria Foster star.

1998    Celluloid celebs Quentin Tarantino and Academy Award-winning Marisa Tomei open a revival of the 1966 thriller Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott. Tarantino, director/actor of cult classics "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," plays the psychotic stalker who preys on a blind woman, played by Tomei (Oscar winner for "My Cousin Vinny"). Playwright Knott made revisions for the updated drama that played at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

2000    In Chicago, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comes back to the stage as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company revives the play by Dale Wasserman based on Ken Kesey's novel. Gary Sinise stars as McMurphy and Amy Morton as Nurse Ratched in the mental hospital drama that will play in London before reaching Broadway in spring 2001 at the Royale Theatre.

2001    A long-awaiting Broadway revival of the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical Follies brings on those beautiful girls at the Belasco Theatre -- but runs into critical static, despite the presence of a cast that includes Blythe Danner, Treat Williams, Gregory Harrison, Marge Champion and Joan Roberts (the original Laurey in Oklahoma!).

2001    42nd Street comes home to 42nd Street when previews begin for an opulent new Broadway revival of the backstage musical at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The show would go on to win the 2001 Tony as Best Revival of a Musical.

2001    Teen idol Aaron Carter joins the cast of the struggling Broadway musical Seussical and, for a while, buoys the box office.

2002    Some 150 years after it was written, Ivan Turgenev's Fortune's Fool gets its Broadway debut. Alan Bates and Frank Langella earn Tony Award nominations, and Mike Poulton's translation is nominated for Best Play.

2002    A Broadway adaptation of the film The Graduate earns headlines for a nude scene featuring Hollywood star Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson.

2005    Nearly 400 years after his death, William Shakespeare is a hit on Broadway yet again -- with a little help from Denzel Washington, who stars as Brutus in Julius Caesar.

2008    The first-ever Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific opens at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont. Kelli O'Hara and Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot are the lovers who "meet across a crowded room" in the new production directed by Bartlett Sher. Unbilled co-star is the 30-piece orchestra, one of the largest on Broadway.

2009    Neil LaBute officially makes his debut as a Broadway playwright when MCC Theater's production of reasons to be pretty, which played an acclaimed Off-Broadway run, opens at the Lyceum Theatre. Terry Kinney directs Marin Ireland, Steven Pasquale, Piper Perabo and Thomas Sadoski in the examination of people’s obsession with physical beauty.

2009    Christopher Durang's absurdist political comedy, Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, starring Laura Benanti, Amir Arison and Kristine Nielsen, has its world premiere at the Public Theater.

2010    A revival of Lend Me a Tenor, Ken Ludwig’s farce about the backstage chaos that erupts at an Ohio opera house when the star tenor fails to show up for an all-important benefit gala, opens at the Music Box Theatre. Directed by Stanley Tucci, the cast includes Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub, Jan Maxwell, Mary Catherine Garrison and Jennifer Laura Thompson.

This Week’s Birthdays:  Hans Christian Andersen 1806.  Spencer Tracy 1900.  Buddy Ebsen 1908.  Bette Davis 1908.  Alec Guinness 1914.  Gregory Peck 1916.  Nigel Hawthorne 1929.  Tony Perkins 1932.  Billy Dee Williams 1937.  Michael Moriarty 1941.  Marsha Mason 1942  Linda Hunt 1945.  Marilu Henner 1952.  Alec Baldwin 1958.  David Hyde Pierce 1959.  Paul Rudd 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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