Friday, April 27, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (April 23 - 27)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: APRIL 23-27
By David Gewirtzman
and Anne Bradley and Ernio Hernandez

1564    Okay, no one's actually certain that April 23, 1564 was William Shakespeare's birthday, but that's the accepted date. Over the next 52 years, the Bard would pen such works as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Comedy of Errors, Othello, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar.

1911     The Folies Bergere Theatre in New York hosts a triple-bill. Hell is described as "a profane burlesque," Temptation, a ballet by Alfredo Curti, and Gaby "a satirical revuette in three acts." It will run for 92 performances.

1926     Sex. It's a comedy. Mae West plays a Canadian woman with no time for those mountees; it's the British navy for her. It runs through one season, but the following it is raided as immoral. The cast is arrested and West, who also co-produced, is sentenced to 10 days in jail and is fined $500. A well-received off-off-Broadway revival in 2000 proved that the show still had laughs and a unique social point of view.

1929     Patrick Hamilton's drama Rope stars Brian Aherne and Anthony Ireland as two Oxford roommates killing a boy for thrills. Reginald Denham directs at London's Ambassadors' Theatre. Years later, Alfred Hitchcock uses this script as the basis for his film of the same name.

1945     Birthday of playwright August Wilson, whose massive cycle of plays about African-American life in each decade of the 20th century includes two Pulitzer winners: Fences and The Piano Lesson.

1959     Andy Griffith plays a gentle sheriff and Dolores Gray is the dancehall girl who falls in love with him in Destry Rides Again. Michael Kidd directs and choreographs the 472 showings at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. Harold Rome provides the score.

1964     James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, about a northern black murdered by a white southern shopkeeper, is staged at ANTA by Burgess Meredith. Rip Torn and Al Freeman, Jr. are in the cast. It will run for 148 performances.

1970     There's a book by George Furth, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince helming, Michael Bennett on hand to choreograph, and Elaine Stritch in the lead; who wouldn't want to be in that Company? There will be 705 performances at Broadway's Alvin Theatre.

1970     Actress and author Gypsy Rose Lee, 56, died today in Los Angeles. She was immortalized along with her mother and sister, actress June Havoc, in the musical Gypsy. Arthur Laurents based the book for that musical on her memoir.

1977     Al Pacino stars in David Rabe's The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. This revival, first mounted by the Theatre Company of Boston, will play on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre for more than 13 weeks.

1978     Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July plays Off-Broadway at the Circle Repertory Theatre. William Hurt stars as disabled Vietnam veteran Kenneth Talley. It will be revived on Broadway in 1980.

1981     Woody Allen returns to Broadway for the first time in more than a decade with the play The Floating Light Bulb, about a young would-be magician growing up amid comic family problems. It runs 62 performances a the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, starring Danny Aiello and Bea Arthur.

1985     Big River opens on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The Tony Award-winning musical by Roger Miller, based on the novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, will enjoy a long stay playing 1,005 performances before closing Sep 20, 1987. Daniel H. Jenkins stars as Huck Finn; joining him are Ron Richardson, John Goodman, Bob Gunton, Reathel Bean and Rene Auberjonois.

1986     Debbie Allen stars as the Sweet Charity in a revival of the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon musical that opens at the Minskoff Theatre. Bebe Neuwirth and Michael Rupert will win Tony Awards for their featured roles; the show itself will take home the Best Revival award.

1991     Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman's musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 1911 novel, The Secret Garden, opens on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Susan H. Schulman directs a cast that includes Rebecca Luker and Daisy Eagan.

1992     The music and life of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton comes to life on stage as Jelly's Last Jam opens at Broadway's Virginia Theatre. Savion Glover and Gregory Hines share the title role at different ages. George C. Wolfe directs the production he wrote the book for.

1997     Iceberg! Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's new musical Titanic opens on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The show, about the infamous night in April 1912 aboard the supposedly unsinkable liner, sails on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical and stays afloat for 804 performances before closing Mar 28, 1999.

1998     Martin McDonagh's hit Off-Broadway drama, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, about an elderly woman who tries to spoil her homely 40-year-old daughter's first (and possibly last) chance for romance opens at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. The production will earn Garry Hynes the first Tony Award ever given to a woman for Best Director. (Moments later, Julie Taymor will take home the second female directorial Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for The Lion King.)

2003     Peter Stone, the Tony Award-winning librettist who wrote the books of the Broadway musicals Titanic, My One and Only, Sugar, The Will Rogers Follies and 1776, dies at a Manhattan hospital.

2004     Bling-flashing rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs makes his Broadway debut in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. He plays Walter Lee Younger, the role originated by Sidney Poitier in the 1959 Broadway original. His co-stars are Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald, both of whom win Tony Awards in their roles.

2006     Susan Browning, 65, the two-time Tony Award nominated actress who created the role of April in the original Company dies after a brief illness.

2007     Michael Smuin, 68, the founder and artistic director of the Smuin Ballet who won a Tony Award for choreographing the hit 1987 Broadway revival of Anything Goes, dies of an apparent heart attack in San Francisco.

2008     Hairspray librettists Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan fashion a musical from another John Waters film, Cry-Baby, set in the world of "Squares" and "Drapes" in 1950s Baltimore. Mark Brokaw directs a cast that includes James Snyder, Harriet Harris and Elizabeth Stanley, performing a score by Broadway newcomers Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum. The musical will play 45 previews and 68 performances at the Marquis Theatre.

2008     Frances McDormand, Morgan Freeman and Peter Gallagher head the cast of the Broadway revival of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl, which officially opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The production is directed by Mike Nichols.

2009     Tony and Emmy Award winner Bea Arthur, who began her career onstage but would later become better known as Maude (on TV's "Maude") and Dorothy Zbornak (on "The Golden Girls") dies at age 86. Ms. Arthur's Broadway career began in 1955 with the musical Plain and Fancy, and also included originating roles in Fiddler on the Roof (as Yente the matchmaker) and Mame (as Vera Charles).

2009     The Goodman Theatre's acclaimed production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, the 1924 tale of lust, promises, property and familial betrayal, opens at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Robert Falls directs the production, which stars Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber.

2009     The Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway production of Christopher Hampton's 1970 comedy, The Philanthropist, directed by Tony Award nominee David Grindley and starring Tony winner Matthew Broderick, opens at the American Airlines Theatre.

2010     The first Broadway revival of Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by August Wilson, officially opens at the Cort Theatre. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both win Tony Awards for their performances in the drama about a former Negro League baseball player who now struggles as a garbage man.

2010     Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth play Chuck Baxter and Fran Kubelik in the first Broadway revival of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's hit 1968 musical Promises, Promises, at the Broadway Theatre. The musical based on the Oscar-winning film "The Apartment," also features Katie Finneran, Tony Goldwyn and Dick Latessa.

2011     A revival of Born Yesterday, Garson Kanin's hit 1946 comedy about a rough-edged chorus girl named Billie Dawn, who refines herself in the context of a world of politics, greed and corruption, opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. Doug Hughes directs the production, which stars Nina Arianda, Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard.

This Weeks Birthday’s:  Blanche Ring 1877.  Jan De Hartog, Jack Cole 1914.  John Springer 1916.  Jack Klugman 1922.  Alan J. Pakula 1928.  Cindy Adams 1930.  Jerry Leiber 1933.  Shirley MacLaine 1934.  Sandy Dennis 1937.  David Birney, Judy Carne 1939.  Al Pacino 1940.  Barbra Streisand 1942.  Blair Brown 1946.  Jeffrey DeMunn 1947.  Eric Bogosian 1953.  Hank Azaria 1964.  James Barbour 1966.

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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