Friday, July 13, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (July 9 – July 13)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JUNE 9 - 13
By David Gewirtzman, Ernio Hernandez,
Doug Nevin, Robert Viagas, and Anne Bradley

1895 Birthday of Oscar Hammerstein II, scion of a notable theatrical family who went on to become its most famous and honored member as a lyricist and librettist. Hammerstein enjoyed a major career as lyricist for composer Jerome Kern on many musicals and operettas, most notably Show Boat. After a series of flops in the 1930s and the death of Kern in the early 1940s, Hammerstein launched into a second career, and one of the greatest in American musical theatre history, with composer Richard Rodgers. Hammerstein wrote lyrics to classics including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, among others. He also served as mentor to a friend of his children, whom he recruited as go-fer on his 1947 musical Allegro. The young man who resolved to follow in Hammerstein's footsteps? Stephen Sondheim.

1903 In The Runaways with a book by Addison Brukhardt and a score by Raymond Hubbell, the hero is transported to a tropical island and will be made a king. The catch? He must marry the queen. The show will run nearly 21 weeks at Broadway's Casino Theater.

1920 American author, critic and playwright William Dean Howells dies today in New York City. In his criticism he championed the work of James A. Herne and Clyde Fitch. His plays include Yorick's Love, The Garroters and The Mouse Trap (not to be confused with Agatha Christie's play of the same name). He was 83 years old.

1930 In today's Variety, a review of a new vaudeville show at the Eighty Sixth Street Theatre singles out a newcomer from the world of cabaret. Reads the review: "She is a good looking girl with a fair enough voice that might carry much further with special stuff. This is her first stage appearance. She's out of cabaret so probably has plenty to learn." Her name is Ethel Merman.

1931 "It's Today" -- that Jerry Herman is born. Herman will become one of Broadway's great musical theatre composers. Among his esteemed credits are the hits Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles.

1938 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart contribute music and lyrics for I Married an Angel at the Shubert Theater on Broadway. George Balanchine choreographs this story of a banker who looks for Ms. Right from above. Dennis King and Vera Zorina are featured for this 42-week run.

1940 Actor Patrick Stewart is born today. Stewart, a Shakespearean-trained actor, will appear on Broadway in his solo production of A Christmas Carol, in the Public Theater production of The Tempest, first staged in Central Park and in Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mt. Morgan. Stewart is known to television and film audiences around the world as Capt. Picard from the popular 1990s television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and several "Star Trek" films.

1964 Leo Genn is the odd man out as Juror Number 8 as Reginald Rose's hit play 12 Angry Men makes its London debut tonight at the Queen's Theatre. Surprisingly, British audiences do not take to the play as well as American audiences did, and the Margaret Webster-directed production closes after only 99 performances.

1974 Bloomsbury brings back the flavor of that literary era in this new drama by Peter Luke. Richard Cottrell directs Yvonne Mitchell as Virginia Woolf and Daniel Massey as Lytton Strachey. Opening tonight at London's Phoenix Theatre, Bloomsbury will have 53 performances.

1977 A massive power failure blacks out New York City around 9:30 PM, halting the second acts of many Broadway shows. Power will be restored the following morning, neighborhood by neighborhood, but that will not be enough to save the July 14 evening attendance numbers from decreasing so sharply, many brokers will sell tickets for that night at face value.

1984 The Roundabout Theatre Company revives William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba starting tonight. Philip Bosco, Mia Dillon, Shirley Knight and Steven Weber are in the cast directed by Paul Weidner. The production marks the first major revival of the play in more than 30 years. The original production played at Broadway's Booth Theatre in 1950 for 191 performances.

1988 Tony Award-winning director Joshua Logan dies today at 79. One of the most accomplished theatre artists of his time, Logan had under his belt such credits as co-writing the Tony Award-winning play Mister Roberts and directing and co-writing, with Oscar Hammerstein II, the Pulitzer Prize winning musical South Pacific. Other shows included This Is the Army, Annie Get Your Gun, and Fanny, which he also co produced.

1993 Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Sunset Boulevard has its world premiere today in London starring Patti LuPone, already signed to open the show in New York. Based on the classic Billy Wilder film of the same name, the show will soon transfer to New York - minus LuPone. Following LuPone's less-than-stellar review from Frank Rich in The New York Times, Glenn Close will be hired to play Norma Desmond in the American premiere of the musical in Los Angeles. LuPone will subsequently be let go and Close is asked to open the show at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre. She will win the Tony Award for her performance.

1994 A revival of the musical Grease opens on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Featured in director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun's cast are Megan Mullally and Rosie O'Donnell.

1994 Roundabout Theatre Company presents Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the Criterion Theatre. Kelly McGillis stars as the title character in a cast that also features Patricia Conolly, Bette Henritze and Laura Linney. The production, directed by Sarah Pia Anderson, will play 33 performances.

1995 Something Wonderful, a one-night-only 100th birthday tribute to Oscar Hammerstein II, sells out the Gershwin Theatre with performances by Michel Bell, Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker, Audra McDonald and Maureen McGovern.

1995 Ferene Molnár's The Play's the Thing sees the Broadway stage again, courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company. Adapted by P.G. Wodehouse, the play features Joe Grifasi, Peter Frechette, Jay Goede, Paul Benedict, J. Smith-Cameron, Jeff Weiss and Keith Reddin. The Gloria Muzio-helmed production plays 49 performances at the Criterion Theatre.

1997 Some New York theatre notables make their way North to Massachusetts' Williamstown Theatre Festival to star in Sidney Kingsley's Dead End which opens tonight. Among the thespians featured are Robert Sean Leonard, Campbell Scott, Marian Seldes, Hope Davis and Scott Wolf. The play, about the wharf rats on New York's seedy riverfront, is directed by Nicholas Martin.

1999 Singer Gladys Knight joins the cast of the Leiber and Stoller revue, Smokey Joe's Cafe. She will end her stint in the stageshow May 22 but will return for another go at it Aug. 17-29.

1999 Scottish playwright Sharman Macdonald's The Brave begins performances at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theatre. The play about a Scottish housewife who, on a trip to North Africa to reunite with her estranged sister, kills a Muslim man who attempted to rape her. The production is helmed by Dave Mowers.

2000 Cousins Robbie and Steve Fox premiere their new musical The Gift at the Tiffany Theatre in Hollywood, California. The show, about five thirtysomething guys who face their own mortality when an exotic dancer at a bachelor party brings an unexpected gift, is directed by Andy Fickman (Reefer Madness). The cast features Alicia Witt, Robert Torti, James Barbour and Burke Moses.

2000 Charles Nelson Reilly celebrates his 50th year in showbiz when his new solo show, Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, officially opens tonight at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California. The show, directed by Paul Linke, looks back at the life of the ascot-adorned actor from his fourth-grade portrayal of Christopher Columbus to his Tony Award-winning turn in the original production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to his appearances on TV's "Match Game."

2000 The stripping ends at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre as the sold-out hit musical, The Full Monty, already extended past its original July 2 close date, will end its world premiere in Southern California. The show by book writer Terrence McNally and composer-lyricist David Yazbek will move to Broadway, where the lovable losers of The Full Monty will open at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Oct. 26.

2002 Ten months after the World Trade Center terrorist attack obliterated the downtown TKTS discount ticket booth, a new one opens in a new location: Manhattan's South Street Seaport.

2002 The original London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and T.S. Eliot's Cats closes after a record run of 21 years, on the anniversary of its opening night.

2005 West End opening night for smash musical Billy Elliot. With a score by Elton John, the production will go on to win four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.

2006 Carrie Nye, the seductive Mississippi-born actress who found an artistic home at Massachusetts' Williamstown Theatre Festival, dies at age 69 of lung cancer at her home in Manhattan.

2006 Red Buttons, the elfin Borscht Belt comedian whose talent found outlets on Broadway and in television, film and nightclubs, dies at age 87 at his home in Los Angeles.

2008 Following its acclaimed production of Gypsy, which transferred to Broadway, City Center's Encores! Summer Stars series returns for a second season with the Tony-winning Damn Yankees. The baseball-themed musical boasts a starry cast led by Jane Krakowski as Lola, Sean Hayes as Mr. Applegate and Cheyenne Jackson as Joe Hardy.

2010 Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl open in a West End production of Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Vaudeville Theatre. Directed by Terry Johnson, the black comedy depicts a New York couple enduring the trials and tribulations of city life.

2010 Doris Eaton Travis, the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who inspired 21st century audiences with her pluck, good will — and fancy footwork — at 12 of 13 annual Easter Bonnet Competition performances for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, dies at age 106.

2011 The hippies from the national tour of Hair turn their psychedelic bus around for a special engagement on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. The ten-week run is a summer stop on the musical's U.S. tour, which launched in the fall of 2010.

2011 Silence! The MusicalHunter Bell, Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan's parody of the movie "The Silence of the Lambs" – opens at Off-Broadway's Theater 80. Christopher Gattelli directs and choreographs the musical starring Brent Barrett as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and Jenn Harris as Clarice Starling.


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