Friday, May 4, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (April 30 - May 4)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: April 30-May 4
By David Gewirtzman, Robert Viagas,
Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley

1887    Vernon Castle who, with wife and dancing partner Irene Castle, would redefine not just what dancing represented on Broadway, but the kind of music used for that dancing, is born. He was featured in About Town; The Girl Behind the Counter, The Summer Widowers and The Hen-Pecks before being killed at the front in World War I.

1897    Birthday of Lorenz Hart (1897-1943), sparkling Broadway lyricist whose most famous collaboration, with Richard Rodgers, would produce Babes in Arms, Pal Joey, On Your Toes, A Connecticut Yankee, The Boys from Syracuse, By Jupiter, and other witty musicals of the 1920s-1930s.

1919    Birthday of Betty Comden, Broadway lyricist and librettist, mainly in collaboration with Adolph Green. Her works include On the Town, Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, On the Twentieth Century, The Will Rogers Follies, Singin' in the Rain, Bells Are Ringing and many more.

1922    George Ault Mosel, Jr. is born today in Steubenville, Ohio. Under the name Tad Mosel, his adaptation of James Agee's novel "A Death in the Family," titled All the Way Home, will win the Pulitzer Prize for Best Play of 1960.

1924    Birthday of Sheldon Harnick, who will go on to write lyrics to musicals including Fiorello!, She Loves Me, The Apple Tree and Fiddler on the Roof.

1926    Scotland Yard is chasing The Ringer. Edgar Wallace's mystery will have a run of 410 performances at London's Wyndham's Theatre. Gerald Du Maurier directs.

1929    Albert Carroll, Dorothy Sands and James Cagney are members of this final collection of The Grand Street Follies. The show will survive just 93 performances at the Booth Theatre on Broadway.

1936    Proving that our tax dollars can be spent in highly suspect ways, Anne Nichols' comedy depicting a senator engaged to be married but having one last fling, Pre-Honeymoon, fills the Lyceum Theatre. Jessie Royce Landis and Clyde Fillmore are the leads in the eight-month Broadway run.

1944    Elsa Shelley's Pick-Up Girl exposes the life of a 15 year-old-girl who has a venereal disease and must sort her life out in a hospital and then reform school. It plays five months at the 48th Street Theatre.

1976    Side by Side by Sondheim is exactly that in this revue filled with songs by Stephen Sondheim. Ned Sherrin (who also stages), Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie and David Kernan make up the cast at London's Mermaid Theatre. It will later move to Wyndham's Theatre for 781 performances.

1977    Yul Brynner returns to Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. It will play Broadway's Uris Theatre for 696 performances. Constance Towers plays Anna.

1982    Playwright-director Athol Fugard's "Master Harold"...and the Boys opens on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The play involves a white South African boy and his two black servants and stars Lonny Price, Zakes Mokae and Danny Glover.

1983    Originally intended as a revival of the 1927 Gershwin musical Funny Face, Tommy Tune's My One and Only has transformed into its own new musical as it opens on Broadway. The show, with book by Timothy S. Mayer and Peter Stone and music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, respectively, will play 767 performances at the St. James Theatre.

1984    Stephen Sondheim spends Sunday in the Park with George as his new musical opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. The show, which brings the famous George Seurat painting to life, stars Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters.

1988    David Mamet has an immaculate conception of his own as his play, Speed-the-Plow starring Madonna in her Broadway debut, opens. Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver co-star in the production that plays at the Royale Theatre for 278 performances and closes out the year on Dec. 31.

1991    Tommy Tune directs and, of course, choreographs The Will Rogers Follies which opens at the Palace Theatre. The show will garner 11 Tony nominations and win six of them, including two for Tune and Best Musical.

1993    John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally work their magic on Kiss of the Spider Woman, based on Manuel Puig's novel about two men confined in a prison cell. Harold Prince directs Chita Rivera, Brent Carver and Anthony Crivello in the production that lasts 906 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1993    Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. This first half of Kushner's soon-to-be Pulitzer and Tony Award-winner stars Ron Leibman, Joe Mantello, Marcia Gay Harden, Stephen Spinella and Kathleen Chalfant.

1996    Sam Shepard is Broadway's newborn baby as his first play to reach The Great White Way, Buried Child, opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production, about a family with a terrible secret, is directed by Gary Sinise and features James Gammon, Jim True and Lois Smith. The play makes it to Broadway nearly two decades after it wins the Pulitzer Prize for its original Off-Broadway production.

1999    Having begun March 12, 1987, the Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg musical Les Miserables reaches its 5,000th performance tonight. As of March 1999, nearly 400 shows had closed on Broadway since Les Miserables opened, and the on-stage turntable had made a dizzying 159,744 revolutions. The show will close in spring 2003.

2000    Manhattan Theatre Club's staging of Proof, by David Auburn, begins performances tonight. Larry Bryggman, Johanna Day, Ben Shenkman and Mary-Louise Parker star in the play that will extend, transfer to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre and win newcomer Auburn the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

2001    It's a publicist's dream: A lush revival of the musical 42nd Street opens on the revitalized 42nd Street (at the Ford Center), and goes on to win the Tony Award as Best Revival of a Musical.

2002    Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's Into the Woods gets a starry, high-tech revival with Vanessa Williams, Laura Benanti and John McMartin. The show goes on to win the 2003 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

2003    First Off-Broadway performance at Playwrights Horizons for Doug Wright's play I Am My Own Wife, which will move to Broadway and win both the 2004 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award as Best Play.

2003    Bernadette Peters stars in a major Broadway revival of Gypsy, which runs 13 months and is nominated for a Tony Award as Best Revival.

2005    The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee open on Broadway after a long rise from Off Off Broadway to regional theatre to Off Broadway. The musical, with a score by William Finn, will will Tony
Awards for Best Book (Rachel Sheinkin) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler).

2006    The old red-and-white canvas TKTS discount ticket booth, a Times Square landmark since 1974, closes today to make way for a new booth promised to be built on the site. Operations move temporarily to a kiosk at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

2006    Jay Presson Allen, the playwright, director and screenwriter whose credits included The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Tru and the film of Cabaret, dies of a stroke at her home in Manhattan.

2008    Laura Linney and Ben Daniels star in a Broadway revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre.

2008    Thurgood - a one-man show starring Laurence Fishburne as Civil Rights activist and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall - officially opens at the Booth Theatre.

2008    The Broadway transfer of the hit revival of Boeing-Boeing, Marc Camoletti's sex farce about a swinging bachelor and his three stewardess girlfriends, opens at the Longacre Theatre. It stars Mark Rylance, Bradley Whitford, Christine Baranski and Gina Gershon, and is directed by Matthew Warchus. Rylance will win the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play, and the production will win for Best Revival of a Play.

2009    Country star and actress Dolly Parton makes her Broadway debut as composer-lyricist of 9 to 5, which opens at the Marquis Theatre. Based on the film by Patricia Resnick (who also wrote the libretto for the musical), the tale of female office workers’ conflicts with their male chauvinist boss stars Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty.

2009    The Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, the modern classic set in a wasteland, opens at Studio 54. The production stars Bill Irwin, Nathan Lane, John Glover and John Goodman.

2010    Lynn Redgrave, a member of England's legendary acting clan, dies at age 67. Redgrave made her professional debut in 1962, as part of the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal Court Theatre. Some of her numerous Broadway credits included Black Comedy/White Lies, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Saint Joan, Aren't We All??, Love Letters, A Little Hotel on the Side, Shakespeare for My Father, and The Constant Wife.

More of This Week’s Birthdays: Junius Brutus Booth 1796.  Jerome K. Jerome 1859.  Tyrone Power, Sr. 1869.  Hedda Hopper 1885.  Shelton Brooks 1886.  Brian Aherne 1902.  Luther Adler 1903.  Eve Arden 1908.  Howard Da Silva 1909.  Glenn Ford 1916.  Theodore Bikel 1924.  Roscoe Lee Brown 1925.  Cloris Leachman 1926.  Audrey Hepburn 1929.  Jill Clayburgh 1944.  David Suchet 1946.  Craig Lucas 1951. Christine Baranski 1952.  Ana Gasteyer 1967.

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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