Friday, July 6, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (July 2 – July 6)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JUNE 2-6
By David Gewirtzman, Ernio Hernandez,
Anne Bradley, Doug Nevin and Robert Viagas
03 Jun 2012

1866 Birthday of playwright and producer George Broadhurst (1866-1952), responsible for dozens of plays and musicals, including the first stage adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes. Also, namesake of the Broadhurst Theatre.

1898 Birthday of actress Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), longtime acting partner of Noel Coward (Private Lives, Tonight at 8:30) and star of musicals by the Gershwin brothers (Oh, Kay!, Lady in the Dark), who would have her greatest success with her final show, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, in which she originated the role of Mrs. Anna.

1900 Birthday of director/producer/writer Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971) who will stage Broadway productions of The Tenth Man, Tamburlaine the Great and the Leonard Bernstein musical Candide.

1927 From Brighton Beach to Biloxi to Broadway, Bronx boy Neil Simon is born today. He will go on to become one of America's most prolific (and produced) playwrights with such plays as The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite, Barefoot in the Park, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Lost In Yonkers, Laughter on the 23rd Floor and The Dinner Party. He will also be an accomplished book writer, via the musicals Little Me, Sweet Charity, They're Playing Our Song and The Goodbye Girl.

1928 The 1928 edition of George White's Scandals features Willie and Eugene Howard, Ann Pennington, and Bernice & Emily, with a score by Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson.

1929 The new musical Show Girl starring Ruby Keeler opens tonight at the Ziegfeld Theatre. During the out-of-town tryouts, Al Jolson came to the rescue when wife Keeler froze onstage, mid-show. Jolson jumped out of the audience, onto the stage and began to sing Keeler's next number, "Liza," in an effort to get the actress back on track.

1931 Jump on the The Band Wagon at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre. Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz provide lyrics and music with dancing turns by Fred and Adele Astaire and Tilly Losch. It rolls on for 260 performances.

1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs The American National Theatre and Academy bill today, calling for a self-supporting national theatre. ANTA will get off to a slow start but will eventually be responsible for raising money for both the American Repertory Theatre and the Experimental Theatre. It will also host an annual "ANTA Album" review, highlighting the best of Broadway theatre and beyond. In August 1981 the theatre, located on Broadway, will be renamed the Virginia Theatre after the daughter of Jujamcyn founder William McKnight.

1939 A young Hollywood hopeful is forced to watch her own career fizzle as her boyfriend's blossoms in Lew Brown's new musical, Yokel Boy. Lois January and Buddy Ebsen star in the new show, opening tonight at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. There will be 208 performances.

1942 The Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical that had the longest run in its original production (427 performances) is the nearly forgotten By Jupiter, starring Ray Bolger, Benay Venuta and Vera-Ellen.

1962 The Klondike Gold Rush is the setting of Foxy, the new Robert Emmett Dolan-Johnny Mercer musical that premieres today at the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City in the Yukon. The book is by Ring Lardner, Jr. and Ian McLellan Hunter, based on Ben Jonson's Volpone. Bert Lahr will plays his final role on Broadway when the production opens at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre for what will prove to be a short run.

1962 Aspiring playwright Lanford Wilson arrives in New York today, determined to start a career. Wilson has nowhere to stay tonight and finds himself sleeping in Central Park. Fortunately, he will not remain homeless forever, as Wilson will soon become a highly successful, Pulitzer-winning playwright. He will immortalize the date of his New York arrival as the title of his well-known 1978 play, Fifth of July.

1965 The Long Wharf Theatre opens its doors today for the first time in New Haven, Connecticut. The premiere production is a new staging of Arthur Miller's witch trial tale, The Crucible. Written at the height of McCarthyism, Miller's play depicted a Massachusetts town that falls under siege to lies and betrayal when several teenage girls appear to have been bewitched. Miller's play drew subtle parallels between Salem and 1950s anti Communist hysteria.

1970 The first season of Summer Shakespeare in Monmouth, Maine starts today. Produced by "The Theatre at Monmouth," the festival includes productions of Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, and Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not For Burning.

1970 American actress Marjorie Rambeau dies today at age 81. Most of her career was spent performing in stock companies, with credits included productions at the Burbank and Belasco Theatres in Los Angeles. Rambeau made her New York stage debut in 1913's Kick In and subsequently appeared there in Cheating Cheaters and Eyes of Youth.

1971 No Sex Please - We're British begins performances at London's Strand Theatre. Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot penned this farce about a family man mistakenly inundated with pornography. It will stay for years in the West End, but enjoy only a brief Broadway run.

1972 Actor Brandon de Wilde dies today in Lakewood, California. Born in 1942, he is only 30 years old at the time of his death. Winning the Donaldson Award for his performance in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding at the age of seven, de Wilde became the youngest actor ever to receive that honor.

1975 The Fred Ebb-John Kander musical Chicago comes to New York City on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre. Director-choreographer Bob Fosse brings to life the story of a chorus girl who gets away with murder, literally. The cast features Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. It will run just two years in its original production, but a 1996 revival will run more than fifteen years.

1976 It's no Mousetrap, but Agatha Christie's new mystery thriller, Murder in the Vicarage, will run an impressive 1,776 performances. Having already premiered at the West End's Savoy Theatre, the production opens today at the Fortune Theatre.

1981 Al Pacino stars in a revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo at Off-Broadway's Circle in the Square Downtown. The production is directed by Arvin Brown and also starred Clifton James and Thomas G. Waites.

1985 Singin' in the Rain, the musical based on the 1952 MGM film, opens at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted their screenplay for the stage with music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Twyla Tharp directs and choreographs the production which runs 367 performances until closing May 18 of the next year.

1987 Michael Bennett dies, age 45, from complications caused by AIDS. Bennett, who made his Broadway debut as a dancer at age 18 in Subways Are for Sleeping, was one of the most influential director choreographers of his time. Among his greatest successes were Follies (choreographed and co-directed with Harold Prince), A Chorus Line, and Dreamgirls.

1998 Joel Grey, the original Amos Hart from the revival of Chicago, returns to the role at Broadway's Shubert Theatre for four weeks. Enamored with the role, he will then step into the London production, then reprise it the Chicago version.

1998 Eli Wallach, who originated the title role in Visiting Mr. Green, steps out of the play running
Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre. The story about an unlikely friendship that develops when a young executive nearly runs over a Jewish octogenarian. Replacing the Drama Desk-nominated Wallach two days later will be Hal Linden.

1999 Celebrating its 40-year anniversary as a theatre group, the San Francisco Mime Troupe present Division Street, a musical about the urban housing crisis, starting today in parks across the San Fran area. The Troupe was founded in 1959 by R.G. Davis, and in 1987 won the Regional Theater Tony Award, for sustained excellence.

1999 Composer-lyricist Paul Gordon and librettist-director John Caird's musical, Jane Eyre, based on the Charlotte Bronte novel, opens at Southern California's La Jolla Playhouse tonight. The story of an impoverished governess who falls in love with her employer will make its way to Broadway Dec. 10, 2000. Despite a handful of major Tony Award nominations, a Drama Desk Award for lead actress Marla Schaffel and a donation by songwriter Alanis Morrisette of $150,000 to keep it running, the show ends its journey June 10, 2001.

2000 The high-altitude comedy, The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair, begins performances at New York City's 78th Street Theatre Lab. The ensemble created piece explores the real life Larry Walters, who launched himself to 16,000 feet in an aluminum lawn chair, with the help of fifty surplus weather balloons, where he was spotted by passing aircraft.

2001 TV star Tom Selleck makes his Broadway debut with the first preview of a revival of Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns.

2001 Brooke Shields returns to Broadway as Sally Bowles in the Cabaret revival. Also today, pop singer and '80s icon Cyndi Lauper stars in David Henry Hwang's new musical Largo, which had a brief run at New York Stage and Film's summer season at Vassar College's Powerhouse Theatre.

2001 Mel Brooks' musical The Producers, based on his own film parody of Broadway, wins a record 12 Tony Awards, sweeping every category in which it was nominated.

2002 Movie star Anne Heche takes over the leading role in Broadway's Proof, opposite Len Cariou.

2004 Buddy Ebsen, the folksy star of television's "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Barnaby Jones" who began his career as a popular Broadway dancer, dies in Los Angeles at age 95. Ebsen's seven-decade career began in New York, when he was cast in the chorus of the 1928 Eddie Cantor vehicle Whoopee!. He danced with his sister Vilma in that and several other Broadway shows, as well as in clubs and on the vaudeville circuit. Ebsen was successful enough to be cast in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, where his co-stars included Fanny Brice and Eve Arden. Other shows included Flying Colors (1932) and Yokel Boy (1939). He missed his chance at movie immortality when he withdrew at the Tin Man in the MGM musical The Wizard of Oz when he developed an allergic reaction to the silver face paint.

2010 Rue McClanahan, who gained fame as the star of two long-running sitcoms, "Maude" and "The Golden Girls," dies at age 76. Her Broadway credits included The Best Laid Plans, Jimmy Shine, Father's Day, Sticks and Bones, California Suite, The Women and Wicked.

2011 The London premiere of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's musical Road Show opens at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Directed by John Doyle, the production stars Michael Jibson and David Bedella as brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner.

More of This Week’s Birthdays: Aleksander Pushkin 1799. Pat Rooney 1880. Jean Cocteau 1889. Irving Caesar 1895. Maurice Evans 1901. Paulette Goddard 1910. William Douglas Home 1912. Dorothy Kilgallen 1913. Leo Gorcey 1917. Lili St. Cyr 1918. Colleen Dewhurst 1924. Susan Johnson 1927. Brock Peters 1927. Katherine Helmond 1928. Shirley Knight 1936. Ned Beatty 1937. Ron Silver 1946. Geoffrey Rush 1951. Barbara Walsh 1955. Douglas Sills 1960. Edie Falco 1963. Jeff Blumenkrantz 1965. Jarrod Emick 1969.


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