Friday, June 15, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (June 11 – June 15)

The Past Week In Theatre History (June 11 – June 15)
By David Gewirtzman, Ernio Hernandez
Anne Bradley, Robert Viagas, and Doug Nevins

1894    Birthday of Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), orchestrator of Broadway classics including the original Sunny; Show Boat; Anything Goes; Oklahoma!; Annie Get Your Gun; Kiss Me, Kate; The King and I, My Fair Lady, Camelot and The Sound of Music. He was honored with a special Tony Award on the anniversary of his birthday in 2008.

1929    Birthday of Broadway composer Cy Coleman, (1929-2004) whose multidextrous scores for shows like Sweet Charity, I Love My Wife, On the Twentieth Century, The Will Rogers Follies, The Life and City of Angels will show him to be equally adept with jazz, operetta, Big Band, country and R&B.

1955    The American actor-manager Walter Hampden dies in Hollywood at age 75. In 1925 he leased the Colonial Theatre and played in revivals of Ibsen and Shakespeare. Cyrano de Bergerac was his most memorable role.

1956    The revue New Faces of 1956 showcases the talents of future stars Maggie Smith, Jane Connell, Tiger Haynes, Viginia Martin, Bill McCutcheon and Inga Swenson. The show offers sketches by Neil and Danny Simon, Paul Lynde and Louis Botto, and songs by Marshall Barer and Ronny Graham, among others.

1961    Bye Bye Birdie opens at London's Her Majesty's Theater. Chita Rivera, the star of the original Broadway production, reprises her role opposite Marty Wilde, Peter Marshall and Angela Baddeley. The West End staging of the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical will last 268 performances.

1961    American ideals and and practices are put on trial as The Red Eye of Love opens at New York's Living Theatre. The satire by Arnold Weinstein will last 169 performances.

1963    Stage actor Howard Da Silva finds himself at the other end of the spectrum: as director of a Lewis John Carlino double bill. Shelley Winters and Jack Warden star in the two one acts, Snowangel and Epiphany. The production will run 22 weeks.

1965    Legendary theatre is made when the husband-and-wife team of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy open in The Cherry Orchard at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Variety hails this latest production as "the outstanding presentation of the Chekhov classic in a lifetime of theatregoing and would be a credit to any company." Cronyn and Tandy will continue to grace the stage together for many years to come in such productions as Foxfire and The Gin Game.

1966    The New York Shakespeare Summer Festival is under way as Central Park's Delacorte Theater opens for its summer season. Among this year's productions: All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III, featuring such talents as Christopher Walken, Barbara Barrie, and Richard Jordan.

1966    Audiences can't help but laugh as The Kitchen opens at the 81st Street Theater in New York. The raucous comedy, set in the kitchen of a popular restaurant at dinner time, featured Rip Torn, Constance Clarke, and Sylvia Miles. After opening night, dinner will continue to be prepared on stage for 136 more performances.

1967    Michael Langham stages his final season as artistic director of Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival. His final production with the Festival is a new staging of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra.

1970    Parliamentary history is made as Sir Laurence Olivier becomes the first actor to be seated in Britain's House of Lords when he is named a life peer. At the time, he is playing Shylock in a National Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice.

1974    The World of Lenny Bruce, opens at the Players Theatre. Frank Spieser's one-man show, in which he impersonates the satirist Lenny Bruce, will run for 17 weeks.

1979    Flowers for Algernon, a new musical by Charles Strouse and David Rodgers, opens at London's Queen's Theatre. Based on the novel by Daniel Keyes, the show stars a pre-Phantom Michael Crawford as mentally handicapped Charlie Gordon, the same role that won Cliff Robertson an Oscar for "Charly," the film version of the novel. Cheryl Kennedy co-stars in the musical, which will run 28 performances and spawn an ill-fated Broadway production.

1979    Film star Al Pacino (already a household name thanks to the "Godfather" films and "Dog Day Afternoon") returns to his Broadway roots as the title role in Richard III. The production of the Shakespearean tragedy, staged at the Cort Theater, does not garner strong reviews for its leading man, whose persona is deemed unsuitable for the role.

1980    The life and loves of Frank Harris are set to music in the musical Fearless Frank which opens at the Princess Theatre tonight. The short-lived homage runs only 12 performances.

1983    Samuel Beckett is examined in three parts as his Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe and What Where are presented Off Broadway at the Harold Clurman Theatre. The evening of one-acts will run 350 performances until it closes April 15, 1984. Alan Schneider directs a cast that features David Warrilow, Rand Mitchell, Donald Davis, Daniel Wirth and Margaret Reed.

1985    Neil Simon's The Odd Couple gets a revised and reversed revival at the Broadhurst Theatre. Gene Saks directs Rita Moreno as Olive Madison and Sally Struthers as Florence Unger in the play that was originally written for men. The production will play 295 performances before closing on Feb. 23 of the following year.

1986    Alan Jay Lerner, lyricist and librettist of a number of musicals, dies today at the age of 67. Frederick Loewe, his long-time collaborator, and he produced such shows as Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot and Gigi.

1987    Actress Geraldine Page dies of a heart attack at the age of 62. The stage star of Sweet Bird of Youth and Agnes of God was performing in a revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the time of her death. As a screen actress she was honored with seven Academy Award nominations before finally winning Best Actress for her turn in "The Trip to Bountiful." She also earned two Emmy Awards for roles in TV movies and, though nominated thrice for Tony Awards, was never awarded one.

1988    Director Jose Quintero helms a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre. Jason Robards stars as James Tyrone and Colleen Dewhurst as his wife Mary in the production that runs in repertory with another O'Neill play, Ah, Wilderness!.

1990    Actor Charles Grodin knows the Price of Fame as his show opens Off-Broadway. The Roundabout Theatre Company production features Grodin, Lizbeth Mackay, Jace Alexander, Joseph R. Sicari and Michael Ingram under the direction of Gloria Muzio.

1995    Michael John LaChiusa makes his Broadway debut writing additional music to Bob Telson's score to Chronicle of A Death Foretold, a musical directed by Graciela Daniele, based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez. It runs just 37 performances, but gets nominated for Best Musical in the 1996 Tony Awards.

1996    The world of pornography enters the theatre as Ronnie Larsen's Making Porn plays at the Actor's Playhouse. The erotic comedy-drama, in which a straight man becomes a porn star in the gay adult video industry, stars Rex Chandler. Larsen directed and also co-starred in the production, which ran 395 performances.

1998    The Jello Is Always Red, a musical revue of his songs and sketches by Clark Gesner, who created You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, plays Off Broadway at the York Theatre Company. James Morgan directs the production starring Celia Gentry, Neal Young and Gesner himself.

2000    Tony takes its toll as two shows close one week following the Awards. Elaine May's Taller Than a Dwarf, which opened on April 24 at Broadway's Longacre Theatre, did not receive any Tony nominations and Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, which received seven noms, were both shut out and subsequently shut down.

2001    Six years after the untimely death of its composer, tick, tick...BOOM!, the autobiographical musical by Rent author Jonathan Larson, is rescued from his trunk and opens Off-Broadway.

2002    The Phantom of the Opera plays its 6,000th performance on Broadway.

2002    Future Tony-winning musical Hairspray begins a triumphant tryout at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre.

2002    Robert Whitehead, who, over a 50-year career produced landmark stagings of everything from Arthur Miller to Euripides to Terrence McNally, dies at age 86, just two weeks after receiving a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

2003    After touring North America consistently since 1988, the third national company of Les Misérables, the Cameron Mackintosh-produced musical, takes a summer hiatus after its Utah engagement ends today.

2011    Following the longest preview period in Broadway history — performances began Nov. 28, 2010 — Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark officially opens at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre. Over the course of its 182 previews, original director/librettist/designer Julie Taymor is replaced by creative consultant Philip Wm. McKinley and librettist Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who make changes to the musical during a monthlong hiatus in April/May 2011. Reeve Carney stars as the superhero with the powers of a spider in the show which cost a reported $75 million, by far the most expensive in Broadway history.

2011    Lend Me a Tenor The Musical, based on the hit Ken Ludwig stage comedy, opens in London at the West End's Gielgud Theatre. The musical features book and lyrics by Peter Sham and music by Brad Carroll.

More of This Week’s Birthdays:  Ben Jonson 1572. Richard Strauss 1864. Basil Rathbone 1892. Burl Ives 1909. Bernard B. Jacobs 1916. Dorothy McGuire 1916. Gene Barry 1919. Uta Hagen 1919. Rex Everhart 1920. Paul Lynde 1926. Athol Fugard 1932. Gene Wilder 1933. Daniel Sullivan 1940. Lorraine Serabian 1945. Laurie Anderson 1947. Richard Thomas 1951. Julie Hagerty 1955. Polly Draper 1956. Helen Hunt 1963. Jere Shea 1965. Neil Patrick Harris 1973.


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