Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (July 16 – July 20)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JULY 16 – 20
By David Gewirtzman, Doug Nevin,
and Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas

1924    Broadway premiere of George Dibdin-Pitt's Sweeney Todd, one of numerous adaptations of the penny-dreadful tale of murder and cannibalism that would later be adapted as a musical of the same title. Robert Vivian stars as Sweeney; Raffaella Ottiano as Mrs. Lovett. It runs 67 performances.

1928    Following the birth of "talkie" films, Variety prints an article focusing on the amount of legit theatre talent that is being sought for this new medium. Among those stage actors being pursued for the silver screen is a Yiddish Theatre star named Muni Wiesenfreund, whose name will later be changed to Paul Muni.

1938    Stage and film actor Burgess Meredith divorces Margaret Perry today. Perry, an actress, is the daughter of Antoinette Perry, after whom the Tony Awards are named. The union was rather short-lived, as the future star of "Rocky" only married his now-ex-wife little more than two years earlier, in January of 1936.

1953    Actress Maude Adams dies today. Born in 1873, Adams, at the age of 32, played the title role in James M. Barrie's Peter Pan when it had its American premiere at the Empire Theatre in 1905. (Nina Boucicault played the role in London in 1904). Barrie wrote the part with Adams in mind.

1956    London's Old Vic presents its Shaw Festival, starting today with the Bristol Old Vic production of Major Barbara. In the cast are Peter O'Toole and Moira Shearer. The Birmingham Repertory Company production of Caesar and Cleopatra will follow Major Barbara on July 30.

1961    Stop The World - I Want To Get Off opens tonight at the Queen's Theatre on London's West End. The musical, which follows the life of one man from birth to death, will run 485 performances. The show, which features book, music, and lyrics by its star, Anthony Newley, and Leslie Bricusse, will then open at Broadway's Shubert Theatre on October 3, 1962 for a 555 performance run.

1966    The Abbey Theatre of Dublin, Ireland is founded. It will go on to provide a central showcase for Irish playwrights new and old.

1967    David Wayne, Constance Towers and Barbara Cook are on-board the Cotton Blossom as the latest New York revival of the Oscar Hammerstein II-Jerome Kern musical, Show Boat, opens at the Music Theatre of Lincoln Center. Lawrence Kasha directs and Ron Field choreographs this latest revival, which will run 63 performances.

1971    Nicol Williamson marries actress Jill Townsend today. Williamson, a stage actor well-known to Broadway, is best known for essaying many Shakespearian characters, especially Hamlet, which he has done numerous times at different venues across the globe. Newspapers reported that he became a little too physically animated in Paul Rudnick's comedy, I Hate Hamlet, causing costar Evan Handler to file a complaint and leave the show.

1972    A compilation of four one-act plays by Frank D. Gilroy, titled Present Tense, opens today at the Sheridan Square Playhouse. Starring in Come Next Tuesday, Twas Brillig, So Please Be Kind, and the title play are Biff McGuire and Lois Smith. There will be only eight performances.

1979    Tom Stoppard's revisions of two Shakespearian tragedies are presented as a double bill tonight at the Collegiate Theatre in London. Entitled Dogg's Hamle/Cahoot's Macbeth, the evening of one acts features Ruth Hunt, Stephen D. Newman and Alan Thompson in the British-American Repertory Theatre production. The show opens in New York on October 3 at the 22 Steps Theatre and will soon embark on a tour.

1985    The Negro Ensemble Company present Trevor Rhone's Two Can Play at Off-Broadway's Theatre Four. The play that explores a victory over male chauvinism is directed by Clinton Turner Davis and stars Hazel J. Medina and Sullivan H. Walker.

1985    Benn W. Levy's Springtime for Henry is revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Christian C. Yegen Theatre Off-Broadway. Peter Evans, Tovah Feldshuh, George N. Martin and Jodi Thelen comprise the cast of the production helmed by Tony Tanner. (The play's title is the inspiration for the supposed über-flop Springtime for Hitler in Mel Brooks' 1968 film "The Producers" which will play on Broadway in 2001.)

1986    Robert De Niro and Ralph Macchio star in Reinaldo Povod's Cuba and His Teddy Bear, opening at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. The play tells of a macho drug dealer and his struggle to keep his son out of the business. Bill Hart directs the production which transferred from Off-Broadway's Public Theater. It will play 53 performances.

1987    Up-and-coming singer-actor Kevin Marcum, currently playing minor roles in the Broadway production of Les Misérables, is found dead in his apartment today. Marcum, also a current Jean Valjean understudy, was slated to take over that role full-time after original star Colm Wilkinson's planned departure the following November. The cause of death is "acute cocaine intoxication."

1987    Charles Busch's sendup of beach movies, Psycho Beach Party, opens Off-Broadway at the Players Theatre. Busch himself is among the cast of the lampoon directed by Kenneth Elliott. It will ride the waves for 344 performances and close May 15 the following year.

1990    Got a dime? Off-Broadway's John Houseman Theatre becomes the Broadway Jukebox as Ed Linderman's musical revue opens. The show is new every night as audience members pick 30 songs to be performed from a collection of 90 Broadway showtunes from relatively obscure musicals. The impromptu players include Robert Michael Baker, Susan Flynn, Beth Leavel, Gerry McIntyre, Amelia Prentice and Sal Viviano.

1996    Tom Ziegler's Grace & Glorie opens at Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre. Estelle Parsons and Lucie Arnaz play an educated hospice volunteer and an elderly terminally-ill cancer patient. Gloria Muzio directs the production, which plays 134 performances and will close Nov. 10.

1999    Pretty in... Blues. Film star Andrew McCarthy takes over the role of Clifford in Warren Leight's 1999 Tony Award-winning jazz drama, Side Man. McCarthy, known for roles in movies such as "Pretty in Pink," "Mannequin," "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Weekend at Bernie's" replaces Scott Wolf (from TV's "Party of Five").

1999    Laurie Metcalf returns to Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company as Maureen Folan in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Directing the production is another prodigal son of Steppenwolf, Randall Arney.

2000    Christmas in July! Book writer Paul Blake adapts the 1954 movie musical, "White Christmas," for the stage. Charles Repole directs the world premiere of the show at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri. The show has a cast that features Howard Keel, Karen Mason, Lee Roy Reams and Lara Teeter.

2000 Producer Stewart F. Lane and former theatre columnist Ward Morehouse III's first collabo   ration, If It Was Easy... opens in Atlanta's 7 Stages theatre. The play about a Frank Sinatra musical that becomes a hit when the mob gets involved will open Off-Broadway March 7 at the Douglas Fairbanks. It will swim with the fishes, though, as it closes April 1.

2001    Broadway found itself full of Bologna today, as husband/wife acting team Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor brought their two-person stage memoir to the Cort Theatre. It was titled If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going with You!

2001    British playwright Harold Pinter stars in his own One for the Road as part of a Pinter festival at New York's Lincoln Center.

2002    Billy Joel's musical Movin' Out opens its tryout at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago. Mixed reviews will prompt director/choreographer Twyla Tharp to overhaul the production, bringing it to Broadway three months later to acclaim, and to eventual Tony awards for both the primary creators.

2002    Future Tony-winning musical Hairspray plays its first Broadway preview at the Neil Simon Theatre.
2006 Henry Hewes, 89, the longtime theatre critic at The Saturday Review who championed regional theatre and founded the American Theater Critics Association, dies at his home in Manhattan.

2008    [title of show] — the musical that would rather be nine people's favorite thing than 100 people's ninth favorite thing — opens at the Lyceum. Originally produced at the Vineyard Theatre in 2006, the entire original cast — including co-creators Jeff Bowen (score) and Hunter Bell (book) as well as co-stars Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff — made the leap to the Broadway stage with the show.

2008    Larry Haines, a stage and television actor who gave a Tony Award-nominated performance as the humane Dr. Dreyfuss in Promises, Promises, a 1968 musical version of the Billy Wilder film "The Apartment," died in Delray Beach, FL. He was 89.

2008    The London bow of Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female of the Species officially opens at the Vaudeville Theatre. Eileen Atkins stars as feminist literary giant Margot Mason, in the production directed by Roger Michell.

2009    A musical version of Jack Heifner's play Vanities — featuring a score by David Kirshenbaum — opens Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre. Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles and Anneliese van der Pol star.

   Husband-and-wife actors Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie join the cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal at the Booth Theatre. Mazzie and Danieley succeed Tony winner Alice Ripley and Brian d'Arcy James, respectively, as Diana and Dan Goodman.


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