Friday, July 27, 2012

The Past Week In Theatre History (July 23 – July 27)

PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JULY 23 – 27
By David Gewirtzman, Ernio Hernandez, Doug Nevin and Robert Viagas

1853    Birthday of Broadway impresario David Belasco, namesake of the Belasco Theatre, who wrote and/or produced dozens of plays including The Return of Peter Grimm and Laugh, Clown, Laugh!, and two that inspired great operas, Madame Butterfly and Girl of the Golden West. His ghost is believed to haunt the Broadway theatre that bears his name.

1856    A Dramatic genius is born today in the person of George Bernard Shaw. Among Shaw's many playwriting credits will be Pygmalion, Man and Superman and Saint Joan. The former play, a comedy about one Professor Henry Higgins determined to turn a cockney flower girl into a "lady," would become the basis for the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe masterpiece My Fair Lady.

1920    Producer Alexander H. Cohen, known for bringing quality plays to Broadway for six decades, is born today. Lastly represented on Broadway by the Noel Coward play, Waiting in the Wings, starring Lauren Bacall and Rosemary Harris, he will produce 101 Broadway shows, including the 1964 Hamlet starring Richard Burton, Harold Pinter’s drama The Homecoming, Peter Brook’s Tony Award-winning La Tragedie De Carmen, James Joyce's Ulysses in Nighttown starring Zero Mostel, Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Long Day's Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, both starring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst. He will live to age 79.

1938    Helen Hayes is named the stage's greatest performer when the New York Sun prints its list of great performers today. Compiled after polling 150 notable people, mostly in the theatre industry, the list names Katharine Cornell as runner-up. The pair of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne is third and others on the list include John Barrymore, Maude Adams and John Gielgud.

1955    The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company presents King Lear. Sir John Gielgud, Helen Cherry and Claire Bloom star in this latest production of the Shakespearean tragedy.

1962    Comic actor Victor Moore dies today at age 86. Moore clowned around opposite straight man William Gaxton in seven original Broadway musicals, including Anything Goes, Of Thee I Sing, and Louisiana Purchase. As a dramatic actor, Moore appeared in a revival of On Borrowed Time and in the Hollywood film "Swing Time."

1975    After a smash run at The Public Theater in New York City, the Marvin Hamlisch-Edward Kleban musical A Chorus Line makes the move uptown to Broadway's Shubert Theatre. The Michael Bennett-helmed show, including such songs as "What I Did for Love" and "One," features Donna McKechnie, Kelly Bishop and Robert LuPone. A Chorus Line will truly prove to be, as its lyrics say, "one singular sensation," racking up 6,137 performances to become Broadway's longest running show up to that time. (In June 1997, Cats will break that record.) A 1985 film version of A Chorus Line, directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, will feature Michael Douglas and Terrence Mann in its cast.

1982    Little Shop of Horrors begins a 2,209-performance run today at Off-Broadway's Orpheum Theatre. Based on the Roger Corman cult classic about a man-eating plant, this Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical stars Lee Wilkof and Ellen Greene. The 1986 film version of the musical, directed by Frank Oz, will star Rick Moranis, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, John Candy, and Greene reprising her stage role as Audrey.

1985    Film buffs will be interested to know that up until this day in 1985, Tony-winner Mandy Patinkin was to star opposite Meryl Streep in the Mike Nichols film Heartburn. After this one day of shooting, however, Patinkin is replaced on the project by Academy Award-winner Jack Nicholson. The Evita star's future film credits will include 1987's "The Princess Bride" and 1990's "Dick Tracy." He will return to Broadway in fall 1998 with his one-man show Mamaloshen.

1992    Broadway star Alfred Drake, 78, dies today. Born Alfred Cappuro, Drake went on to star in the original productions of such Broadway musical classics as Oklahoma!, Kiss Me, Kate, and Kismet. For a time in 1953, Drake replaced Yul Brynner as the King of Siam in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's The King and I, a role he had turned down when the show was first being produced.

1996    Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's musical The Fantasticks, which opened Off-Broadway May 3, 1960 plays its 15,000th performance. The story about two young neighbors whose stars are crossed purposely by their fathers' fake feuding runs at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York City's Greenwich Village. It will close in January 2002.

1996    Tony Award-winning musical star Patti LuPone returns to the Broadway stage tonight in Terrence McNally's Master Class. Taking over the reins from the play's original Tony Award-winning star, Zoe Caldwell, LuPone is said to speed up the evening's proceedings significantly, due to her fast-paced interpretation. When LuPone finishes her run as opera diva Maria Callas in this Tony-winning play, stage and television star Dixie Carter will become the third -- and final -- actress to play Callas in the production. Faye Dunaway will play the part on tour.

1997    After 738 performances, the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria will terminate its run after today's matinee performance. Based on the 1982 Blake Edwards film of the same name, the Edwards-helmed stage version of Victoria opened in fall 1995 at the Marriott Marquis with stage and screen legend Julie Andrews in the leading role(s). Andrews had also starred in the film version, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance. During the first year of the show's run, Andrews and the show became the center of a Tony nomination controversy. When Victor/ Victoria failed to garner any nominations other than the goes-without-saying citing for Andrews, the actress announced she would decline that honor in protest of the nominating committee ignoring all other members of what she called an "egregiously overlooked" company. Subsequent stars of the Broadway production were Liza Minnelli, who filled in for several weeks while Andrews took a vacation, and Raquel Welch.

1997    Following a sold-out limited run at Greenwich House, Douglas Carter Beane's comedy, As Bees in Honey Drown, begins a commercial Off-Broadway run today at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Although Bo Foxworth has taken over the lead role from Josh Hamilton, who must leave to honor a film commitment, most of the cast, including J. Smith-Cameron, T. Scott Cunningham, Sandra Daley, and Mark Nelson, remains intact.

1999    Cross-dressing British comedian Eddie Izzard begins previews for Lenny, the biopic on the life of American shock comedian Lenny Bruce. The production, directed by Sir Peter Hall, plays at the Queen's Theatre in London. Izzard is best known for his touring comedy shows and videos such as Dress to Kill and Glorious.

1999    Andrea Martin is The Cat in the Hat in the workshop of the new Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical, The Seussical (later known as Seussical the Musical, and then just Seussical) in Toronto. Director Frank Galati helms a cast that includes Kevin Chamberlin, Jason Fuchs, Janine LaManna, David Lowenstein, Michele Pawk, and others. The musical based on the work of late children's author Dr. Seuss (real name: Theodore Geisel) will open at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre Nov. 30, 2000 — but with David Shiner as the Cat.

1999    Writer-performers David Collins and Shane Dundas join the likes of Metallica, Alanis Morisette, the Dave Matthews Band, Rage Against the Machine, Buckcherry and Sheryl Crow as they perform at Woodstock '99 in Rome, New York. At the time, the duo, better known as The Umbilical Brothers, also perform their Off-Broadway show Thwak at the Minetta Lane Theatre.

2000    Tony Award-winning director Joseph Hardy returns to San Diego's Old Globe with Alan Ayckbourn as he helms Things We Do for Love, which begins performances tonight. Charlotte Booker, Monique Fowler, Tom Lacy and Dennis Parlato star in the romantic comedy as the tenants of a Victorian home-turned boarding house.

2000    Thrice extended at Chicago's Goodman Studio Theatre, Rebecca Gilman's comedy Spinning Into Butter officially opens in New York City at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show featuring Hope Davis and Daniel Jenkins exposes the cosmetic and sometimes destructive political correctness that erupts on a small Vermont college campus when an African-American student finds several racist notes pinned to his door.

2000    Nathan Lane stars as Sheridan Whiteside and Jean Smart stars as Lorraine Sheldon in the revival of the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play, The Man Who Came to Dinner, which opens tonight at the Roundabout Theatre Company's new Broadway house, the American Airlines Theatre. Lane will probably be remembered more for his second starring role of the season, as Max Bialystock in The Producers which won him the Tony for Best Actor. The American Airlines Theatre is the refurbished and rechristened Selwyn Theatre on 42nd Street.

2001    Alan King's solo show, Mr. Goldwyn debuts at New York Stage & Film at Vassar College. The production later transfers to Off-Broadway.

2001    Director-choreographer Graciela Daniele's revival Annie Get Your Gun, celebrates its 1,000th performance at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. Leads on that date are Crystal Bernard and Tom Wopat.

2001    Mike Nichols' starry production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull begins performances at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre. Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline head the cast as Arkadina and Trigorin. Also in the cast are Marcia Gay Harden as Masha, Natalie Portman as Nina, Christopher Walken as Sorin, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Konstantin, John Goodman as Shamrayev, Debra Monk as Polina, Stephen Spinella as Medvedyev and Larry Pine as Dorn.

2002    Clark Gesner, the composer of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, one of the most simple-hearted and frequently-produced musicals in the history of the American theatre, dies at 64. He is visiting the Princeton Club in Manhattan when he suffers a fatal heart attack.

2003    Actor and comedian Bob Hope dies at age 100. Though he's known primarily for his film career, he appeared in eight Broadway musicals in the late 1920s and early 1930s, notably Jerome Kern's Roberta, Cole Porter's Red, Hot and Blue! and Vernon Duke's Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.

2004    Like an open vein, water from a burst pipe spurts into the stage left wing of the Belasco Theatre, halting rehearsals for Dracula, the Musical two days before its first preview. Due to the spillage, the show will eventually start July 30.

2008    Bruce Adler, the scion of Yiddish theatre family who went on to have much success on the Broadway stage, winning two Tony Award nominations, dies at age 63. He had been battling liver cancer for several years. Adler, in the mid-1990s, played to huge success with a series of shows in the theatres of South Florida, from the Palm Beaches to Ft. Lauderdale to Miami.  His shows paid tribute to the performers who had shaped his own style including Danny Kaye, Sammy Davis, Jr., Red Buttons, Cab Calloway and Jimmy Durante, among others. Bruce Adler's first marriage ended in divorce in 2002. He married director/actress Amy London in 2003. In February 2007, he and London had their only child together, Jacob Hayden Adler.

2008    I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, which opened at the Westside Theatre Aug. 1, 1996, plays its final performance at that Off-Broadway venue. The musical revue played a total of 20 previews and 5,003 regular performances, making it the second longest-running musical in Off-Broadway history.

2008    Stuart W. Little, who for three decades covered the New York theatre as a reporter and author, dies at age 86. He wrote a theatre column for the New York Herald Tribune from 1958 until the newspaper closed in 1966. Thereafter, he became known for a series of books that examined the inner workings of the theatre business.

2009    Merce Cunningham, the American choreographer who was one of the most important and influential forces in the dance world during the 20th century, dies at age 90.

2011    Jane White, a stage veteran who created the role of Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress, dies at age 88. Ms. White, a New York City native who grew up in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem and attended Smith College and the New School, also appeared on Broadway in Strange Fruit, Take a Giant Step and the 2001 revival of Follies.

Today's Birthdays: Alexandre Dumas, fils 1824.  William Gillette 1853.  Nat C. Goodwin 1859.  Montague Glass 1877.  Lord Dunsany 1878.  Arthur Treacher 1894.  Aldous Huxley 1894.  Gracie Allen 1895.  Herbert Fields 1897.  Jack Gilford 1908.  Vivian Vance 1909.  Helen Martin 1909.  Keenan Wynn 1916.  Blake Edwards 1922.  Jason Robards, Jr. 1922.  Estelle Getty 1923.  Barbara Harris 1935.  Chris Sarandon 1942.  Santo Loquasto 1944.  Helen Mirren 1945.  Larry Shue 1946.  Maureen McGovern 1949.  Simon Jones 1950.  Kevin Spacey 1959.  Woody Harrelson 1961.  Jeremy Piven 1965.  Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967.  Kristin Chenoweth 1968.  Tamyra Gray 1979.


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