Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: April 11

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: April 11
Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon.
Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon. Joan Marcus

1914 Mrs. Patrick Campbell and Herbert Beerbohm Tree are the very first Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins. George Bernard Shaw's tale of class and character, Pygmalion, plays 118 performances at His Majesty's Theatre in London.

1932 Birthday of Broadway hoofer and leading man Joel Grey, whose best-known roles include the title character in George M!, the spectral Emcee in the original Cabaret, and the morally compromised Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Wicked.

1936 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart provide music and lyrics for On Your Toes at Broadway's Imperial Theatre. George Balanchine choreographs the jazz ballet, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, featuring Ray Bolger and Tamara Geva. The show runs nearly 10 months.

1950 Birthday of actor and New Vaudeville clown Bill Irwin. Irwin appears on Broadway in three runs of Fool Moon (in 1993, 1995 and 1998), and wins a Tony Award for his performance as George in the 2005 revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

1967 What happens offstage in Hamlet is the premise of Tom Stoppard's comedy, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. John Stride and Edward Petherbridge are the doomed pair at London's Old Vic.

1967 Melina Mercouri has the lead in Jules Dassin's Illya Darling. Joe Darion provides the lyrics for Manos Hadjidakis' music. Dassin adapted the book from Never on Sunday, and he provides the staging. There are 319 performances at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway.

1991 Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Miss Saigon opens, updating Madame Butterfly, making a star of Lea Salonga, and causing a ruckus when Englishman Jonathan Pryce is chosen to play a Eurasian "Engineer." Both Pryce and Salonga win Tony Awards for their performances, and it runs for 4,092 performances at the Broadway Theatre.

1996 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's most famous duo, The King and I, return to Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy shall dance their way to the Tony Awards to capture the Best Actress and Best Revival awards.

2000 Michael Frayn's drama about the much-debated 1941 meeting between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen opens at the Royale Theatre on Broadway. The play with minimal set and characters, starring Philip Bosco, Blair Brown, and Michael Cumpsty, wins the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Director for Michael Blakemore (who also wins the Best Director award for the revival musical Kiss Me, Kate the same night).

2005 Margo Skinner, who played the role of Miss Poppenghul, the harried secretary of movie mogul David O. Selznick, in the spring run of Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Moonlight and Magnolias, is found dead in her apartment during the run of the play. She was 55.

2007 Actor and playwright Roscoe Lee Browne dies of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 81.

2010 Million Dollar Quartet, a musical about the legendary 1956 recording session that brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley, opens at the Nederlander Theatre. Directed by Eric Schaeffer, the production stars Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Levi Kreis, and Robert Britton Lyons. Kreis, who made his Broadway debut in the production, wins a Tony Award for his performance as Jerry Lee Lewis.

2011 Actor-comic Chris Rock makes his Broadway debut in Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**ker with the Hat, which opens at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The play, which is described as a "high-octane, verbal cage match about love, fidelity, and misplaced haberdashery," also stars of Bobby Cannavale, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Annabella Sciorra, and Yul Vazquez.

2012 Magic/Bird, Eric Simonson's highly theatrical drama about the college-to-Olympics rivalry and friendship of basketball heroes Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird, opens at Broadway's Longacre Theatre. Tug Coker and Kevin Daniels play household-names Bird and Johnson, respectively. The production fails to catch on with audiences, and closes after 37 performances.

2013 Roald Dahl's beloved children's book about a precocious bookworm with magical powers comes to life as Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin's Matilda The Musical opens on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Young actors Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro share the title role. The cast also includes Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull, Lauren Ward as Miss Honey, and Gabriel Ebert and Lesli Margherita as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. The production runs almost four years, for a total of 1,554 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Paul Douglas 1907. Louise Lasser 1939. Peter Riegert 1947.

Watch highlights from the 2013 Broadway production of Matilda The Musical:

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