Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (Mar 26 - Mar 30)

Here is last weeks "Theatre History" post. Sorry for the delay.  Busy, Busy, Busy!

Today In Theatre History: MARCH 26-30
By David Gewirtzman, Robert Viagas,
Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley

1905   Actor Maurice Barrymore dies today. He was father to Lionel, Ethel and John. He was 57 years old.

1911   Thomas Lanier Williams is born today in Columbus, Mississippi. In 1940 a play will open in Boston titled Battle of Angels by 'Tennessee' Williams and theatre will soon change forever, as he goes on to write The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and other plays.

1946   Although protested by some cast members over demeaning stereotypes, St. Louis Womanwill run 113 performances. Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer collaborate on this all-black musical. The powerhouse cast includes the Nicholas Brothers, Pearl Bailey in her Broadway debut, and Juanita Hall.

1951   Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I dances into the St. James Theatre in New York. An English governess (Gertrude Lawrence) is hired to tutor the prince and princesses of Siam, but also finds a willing student and friend in the King (Yul Brynner). Jerome Robbins choreographs. There will be 1,246 performances.

1964   Barbra Streisand becomes "the greatest star" when she opens on Broadway in her signature show, Funny Girl, and debuting her signature song, "People" by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill.

1966   It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's SUPERMAN soars slightly at the Alvin Theatre in New York. There will be just 75 performances of this David Newman, Robert Benton, Lee Adams, Charles Strouse musical. Bob Holiday wears the cape, Patricia Morand is Lois. Harold Prince stages.

1967   Sherry!, a musical adaptation of the play The Man Who Came to Dinner opens today to dismissive reviews, and it closes 72 performances later. Cut to 2004 when librettist James Lipton, now host of Bravo's "Actors Studio" series, puts together a dream cast of Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane, Tommy Tune and Mike Myers finally to record and release a studio cast album.

1970   Lauren Bacall hears the Applause. Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapt the film "All About Eve" at the Palace on Broadway. This musical is directed and choreographed by Ron Field. It will run 896 performances and win a Tony Award for Best Musical.

1970   Martin McDonagh is born in Camberwell, London, and after a childhood spent in Ireland, would go on to write a series of lauded plays set mostly in County Galway. His first trilogy of plays consisted of The Beauty Queen of Leenane,A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West. McDonagh would go on to write The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman, most of which would be produced on Broadway.

1972   Phil Silvers, who originally turned down the role of Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, only to take the role of Marcus Lycus in the film, finally gets to play the wily slave in a revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical. He will win the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for what will turn out to be his final Broadway role.

1973   Playwright, composer and actor Noel Coward dieds today in Jamaica. He made his Broadway debut in The Vortex, which he also wrote and directed. A prolific writer and composer, his style set and captured the wit and elegance of the time. He was 74 years old.

1976   Samuel Beckett directs his play Waiting for Godot in German, with actors from Berlin's Schiller Theatre. They appear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

1980   Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God, which tells the story of a romance betwee a deaf woman and a hearing man, opens today en route to an 887-performance run and a Tony Award as Best Play. Lead Phyllis Freilich, who is deaf in real life, will win the Tony as Best Actress in a Play.

1982   John Pielmeier's Agnes of God takes over the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Ashley, and Amanda Plummer are the threesome in this drama that unfolds over the body of a murdered baby. Plummer will go on to win the Tony Award.

1983   Playwright Neil Simon presents the first of his BB trilogy featuring the astute character Eugene Jerome as Brighton Beach Memoirs opens at Broadway's Alvin Theatre. Matthew Broderick, who will reprise the character in the second play Biloxi Blues, stars as the keen protagonist.

1984   Dustin Hoffman plays Willy Loman in a Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, opposite John Malkovich as Biff. The production will run 97 performances and produce a minor scandal when the much-praised Hoffman fails to earn a Tony nomination for his performance.

1985   Eugene Jerome returns to the Neil Simon Theatre in the Neil Simon sequel to Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues.  Now it’s 1943, six years after the end of Memoirs, Eugene is on his way to boot camp during World War II. Matthew Broderick once again dons the duds of the character, then hand off the role to Jonathan Silverman, who will go on to star in the third part of the trilogy, Broadway Bound.

1987   August Wilson comes out swinging with his new play, Fences, which opens at the 46th Street Theatre. This drama about a family in the 1950s will win the Tony, the Drama Desk, the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Stars James Earl Jones and Mary Alice also go home with Tonys.

1994   Known as the father of Absurd Theatre, he was a man who said "It's not a certain society that seems ridiculous to me, it's mankind." The penner of Rhinoceros, The Bald Soprano, Exit the King and The Chairs, playwright Eugene Ionesco dies at age 84.

1997   The sun finally comes out for another tomorrow when the 20th anniversary revival of Annie, starring Nell Carter, opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. In the weeks prior to the opening, the show was making headlines after replacing star Joanna Pacitti, the young actress chosen via a nation-wide contest, with Brittny Kissinger.

2000   Susan Stroman's dance piece, Contact opens today at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. It will run 1010 performances and win the Tony Award as Best Musical despite the fact that it has no original score and no musicians (dances are performed to taped tracks of pop and classical pieces).

2002   Milton Berle, the performer who straddled vaudeville, Broadway, radio, nightclubs and movies before becoming the first star of the post-war industry known as television, dies at 93 in Los Angeles. Known as "Uncle Miltie," he appeared on Broadway in the Earl Carroll Vanities (1932) and as Windy Walker in Saluta! (1934), See My Lawyer (1939), Ziegfeld Follies (1936 & 1943), and produced Broadway's I'll Take the High Road and Seventeen. He appeared in Top Banana on a summer stock tour in 1963. He also appeared on Broadway in Herb Gardner's The Goodbye People.

2002   Dudley Moore, the diminutive actor who reached international heights starring in film comedies, 10 and Arthur, but who was known to theatregoers in London and New York for the revues, Beyond the Fringe, and Good Evening, dies at age 66.

2003   British comedians Sean Foley and Hamish McColl pay wacky tribute to forebears Morecambe and Wise in the imported hit The Play What I Wrote, a silly bit of clowning with an unusual gimmick: a different "Mystery Guest Star" each night. Among MGSs during the show's run: Nathan Lane, Kevin Kline and Roger Moore.

2004   Actors' Equity Association celebrates its 90th anniversary.

2004   Peter Ustinov, the portly, bearded Renaissance Man of British Theatre (and an Oscar-winner in films) dies at age 82. His Broadway plays (as both author and performer) include Romanoff and Juliet, Who's Who in Hell and Beethoven's Tenth, the latter of which had him playing the ghost of Ludwig von Beethoven.

2008   Conor McPherson's play The Seafarer closes at the Booth Theatre after 133 performances. The play would garner a Best Play Tony nomination and win for Jim Norton a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.

2008   Movie star Jeremy Irons makes his London National Theatre debut in Howard Breton's play Never So Good, playing British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

2009   Geoffrey Rush holds court in a starry Broadway revival of Eugene Ionesco's absurdist comedy Exit the King at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Neil Armfield directs a cast that also includes Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose and Andrea Martin.

2010   June Havoc, a show-business legend whose hard-knocks childhood as a stage performer was depicted in the classic musical Gyspy, dies at age 96. Following an early vaudeville career as "Baby June," and later "Dainty June," Havoc appeared in a number of Broadway shows (including Pal Joey, Mexican Hayride and Affairs of State) and films (including "My Sister Eileen" and "Gentleman's Agreement"), and wrote two autobiographies.

2011   Daniel Radcliffe climbs the ladder from window washer to corporate wunderkind in the 50th anniversary revival of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Rob Ashford directs and choreographs the musical, which features a score by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert.


This Week’s Birthdays: Howard Lindsay 1889.  Gloria Swanson 1899.  Pearl Bailey 1918.  Eileen Heckart 1919.  John Astin 1930.  Steve McQueen 1930.  Rex Robbins 1935.  Warren Beatty 1937.  Austin Pendleton 1940.  Michael York 1942.  Eric Idle 1943.  Reba McEntire 1955.

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


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More