PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JUNE 18 – 22
By David Gewirtzman, Doug Nevins,
Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas
18 Jun 2012
Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas
18 Jun 2012
1903 Caricaturist Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) is born today. His distinctive looping line drawings will capture the essence of Broadway shows from the 1920s through the early 2000s. The Martin Beck Theatre will be renamed the Al Hirschfeld in 2003, just months after his death at age 99.
1905 Birthday of playwright Lillian Hellman (1905-1984), who will go on to write The Children's Hour, The Little Foxes, Another Part of the Forest, Watch on the Rhine and the book to Candide.
1906 See-see, described by its authors as a "Comic Chinese opera," opens at the Prince of Wales's Theatre in London. The musical boasts a book by Charles Brookfield and a score by Sidney Jones and Adrian Ross. Denise Osme performs the title role. See-see will run 152 performances.
1910 In a strike against racial prejudice, Florenz Ziegfeld opens the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers have appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production.
1920 Opening night of the starry Ziegfeld Follies of 1920 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, featuring performances by Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields and Moran & Mack; and music by Irving Berlin, Harry Tierney and Victor Herbert. It will run 123 performances.
1921 Birthday of Joseph Papp (1921-1991), founder and longtime executive director of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre. Aside from the annual free productions of Shakespeare in New York's Central Park, NYSF will present annual subscription seasons of works by two generations of theatre artists, with a special emphasis on work by and about minorities. Productions under his auspices included A Chorus Line, Hair, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Pirates of Penzance and That Championship Season.
1921 Future stage and screen star Judy Holliday is born today. By the time of her untimely death in 1966 Holliday will have won the 1951 Academy Award for best actress for her performance in "Born Yesterday," a role she has already done on Broadway. She will also win a Tony Award as best leading actress for her performance in the Jule Styne-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical, Bells Are Ringing.
1929 The musical revue Hot Chocolates opens a 219-performance run today at the Hudson Theatre, featuring some of the great stars of Harlem nightclubs, including the Broadway debut of Louis Armstrong, and a score by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf.
1937 Laurence Housman's Broadway smash Victoria Regina opens at London's Lyric Theatre. The historical drama, which proved to be a personal triumph for star Helen Hayes on Broadway, now stars Pamela Stanely as the 19th-century British Queen. The show will run 42 weeks.
1951 Audience members are taken back to Indianapolis circa 1907 as Seventeen opens at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. Based on the novel by Booth Tarkington, the new musical features a book by Sally Benson. Singing the Walter Kent-Kim Gannon score are leads Ann Crowley and Kenneth Nelson. The show will run 23 weeks.
1956 The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario kicks off its season with productions of Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. Also included are productions of three Moliere comedies.
1962 A New York theatregoing tradition is born as the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park first opens, with a production of The Merchant of Venice starring George C. Scott. The construction of the famed home of free Shakespeare is made possible by a $400,000 donation from George Delacorte of Dell Publishing.
1963 The 1876-vintage Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, reopens after an extensive renovation as a headquarters for musical revivals and new musicals. The first show in the new series will be Oh Lady, Lady. Among Goodspeed Musicals productions to land on Broadway will be Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah and Annie.
1965 Actor Sydney Chaplin leaves the Broadway production of Funny Girl after settling with the producers. Despite rumors that Chaplin has left the show because of some friction between himself and co-star Barbra Streisand, the official reason given for his early departure is that Chaplin has had disagreements with the show's producer, Ray Stark.
1965 A musical classic returns to the New York stage as the Music Theatre of Lincoln Center revives Kismet at the New York State Theatre. Alfred Drake returns to the role he originated in the Broadway production of the musical for the length of this six-week run.
1966 Stage and film actor Ed Wynn dies at age 80. After starting out with a career in Vaudville on the Orpheum-Keith Albee vaudeville circuit, Wynn became a staple on Broadway (Simple Simon, The Laugh Parade) and in Hollywood ("Mary Poppins," among many other Disney films). Wynn also received much acclaim for his performance in the film version of "The Diary of Anne Frank."
1976 Godspell, the third longest-running show in Off-Broadway history ends its run at 2,124 performances to transfer to Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre, where it will open tonight. The Stephen Schwartz musical directed and conceived by John-Michael Tebelak is based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. It will close after switching to the Plymouth Theatre and end at Ambassador Theatre Sep. 4, 1977.
1978 The gay-themed revue, Crimes Against Nature, begins a 10-week engagement at the Actors Playhouse in New York. Created by the Gay Men's Theatre Collective of San Francisco, the show deals with both current events and more personal homosexual concerns.
1978 Carol Hall's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Carlin Glynn, opens on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre. The musical directed by Peter Masterson and Tommy Tune will garner seven Tony nominations and win two; for Glynn and co-star Henderson Forsythe.
1984 David Rabe's play Hurlyburly opens Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre. The original cast from Chicago's Goodman stays intact, including William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Jerry Stiller, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, and Judith Ivey. The play will run 45 performances, then transfer to Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
1987 Steel Magnolias, Robert Harling's smalltown drama transfers from Off-Broadway's WPA Theatre to Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre where it will play 817 performances. The play features Kate Wilkinson under the direction of Pamela Berlin.
1987 Fred Astaire, one half of Hollywood's Astaire-Ginger Rogers dancing duo, dies today. As a Broadway dancer, Astaire appeared on Broadway in such musicals as The Band Wagon, opposite his sister, Adele, and Gay Divorce. Among the many Hollywood musicals in which he danced opposite Rogers was 1935's "Top Hat."
1989 A musical version of Death of a Salesman? That's what the Jewish boy in The Loman Family Picnic dreams of writing while his family stresses about his bar mitzvah. The play by Donald Margulies opens at the Manhattan Theatre Club's City Center Stage 2.
1992 It is Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber now, as the famed musical theatre composer is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir Andrew's many musical credits include Broadway's longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, and the international phenomenon, Cats. He'll later be elevated to the peerage as Lord Lloyd Webber.
1997 Though Cats, Broadway's longest-running musical opened to mixed reviews October 7, 1982 and its slogan, "Now and Forever," seemed a bit presumptuous, the show has officially become the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Its record-breaking 6,138th performance plays tonight.
1998 Seven playwrights, commissioned by the New York-based Acting Company, see their Love's Fire open at Off-Broadway's Joseph Papp Public Theatre. John Guare, Marsha Norman, Eric Bogosian, William Finn, Tony Kushner, Ntozake Shange and Wendy Wasserstein were all asked to contribute one-act plays inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets. The result, directed by Mark Lamos, plays a limited run through July 5.
1998 A New Brain, the latest work from Falsettos composer William Finn, opens at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre in New York's Lincoln Center. The musical, about a composer who faces the possibility of death from a brain tumor, stars Malcolm Gets, Mary Testa, Kristin Chenoweth, Chip Zien and Penny Fuller.
2000 Solo performer Sarah Jones brings her Surface Transit to New York City's downtown mecca Performance Space 122 starting today. The show headlines the First NYC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival produced by and also starring Danny Hoch (Jails, Hospitals, & Hip-Hop). In the piece, Jones embodies eight widely varied characters that range from a raving bag lady to a widowed Russian mother to a narrow-minded Jewish grandma to a recovering hip-hop rhyming addict turned-slam poet. She will later use this experience as a springboard to her 2006 Tony-winning play Bridge & Tunnel.
2000 Composer-lyricist-librettist Kirsten Childs' musical about Viceca "Bubbly" Stanton, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin gets its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons. Wilfredo Medina directs and A.C. Ciulla choreographs the musical memoir starring LaChanze.
2000 Josh Brolin and Elias Koteas replace Tony-nominated stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in Sam Shepard's True West on Broadway. The drama, in which two brothers change personalities, made for an interesting twist as the two actors would switch lead roles every few performances. The replacement players will follow in the same fashion until the Matthew Warchus directed show closes July 29.
2002 A.R. Rahman and Don Black's Bombay Dreams, a musical about a love story set in India, opens at London's Apollo Victoria. The producer is Andrew Lloyd Webber. It will open on Broadway in 2004.
2003 George Axelrod, the playwright, director and screenwriter who penned the stage comedy, The Seven Year Itch, about a Manhattan man who lusts after his comely neighbor while his family is away for the summer, died today at age 81. Axelrod also penned the Broadway plays Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?? (1955) and Goodbye, Charlie (1959), which he also directed; and the films "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's".
2003 Bounce, the first musical collaboration between composer Stephen Sondheim and director Hal Prince in more than two decades, opens a tryout in Chicago. It will move on to Washington DC and play out a limited run without moving to New York. In 2008, John Doyle will direct a revised version of the musical at Off-Broadway's Public Theater under the title Road Show.
2004 Tony-winning musical Thoroughly Modern Millie closes after a run of 32 previews and 904 regular performances at the Marquis Theatre.
2006 The north half of Times Square becomes a construction zone as the building at the corner of 46th Street and Seventh Avenue, which for decades housed a Howard Johnson’s restaurant and the Off-Broadway Duffy Theatre, is torn down and the 1974-vintage TKTS discount ticket booth in Father Duffy Square is dismantled. TKTS moves to temporary space in the ground floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The landmark statue of George M. Cohan is encased in plywood for the duration.
2010 The City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of the Charlie Smalls-William F. Brown musical The Wiz, which boasts R&B artist Ashanti as Dorothy, officially opens at the famed New York venue. Directed by Thomas Kail, the cast also includes Orlando Jones at The Wiz, LaChanze as Glinda and Tichina Arnold as Evillene.
This Week’s Birthdays Philip Barry 1896. Dorothy Stickney 1896. Moe Howard 1897. Jack Whiting 1901. David Burns 1902. Mack Gordon 1904. Katherine Dunham 1909. Michael Todd 1909. Keye Luke 1904. Mildred Natwick 1905. Billy Wilder 1906. E. G. Marshall 1910. Mary McCarthy 1912. Martin Gabel 1912. Sammy Cahn 1913. Louis Jourdan 1919. Gower Champion 1919. Jane Russell 1921. Maureen Stapleton 1925. Michael Blakemore 1928. Ralph Waite 1928. Nancy Marchand 1928. Gena Rowlands 1930. John Cunningham 1932. George Hearn 1934. Mariette Hartley 1940. Elizabeth Franz 1941. Maria Tucci 1941. Michael Gross 1947. Phylicia Rashad 1948. Meryl Streep 1949. Carol Kane 1952. Cyndi Lauper 1953. Kathleen Turner 1954. David Marshall Grant 1955. Kerry Butler 1971.