Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: April 13

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: April 13
Mandy Patinkin in The Wild Party.
Mandy Patinkin in The Wild Party.

1886 Birthday of Willie Howard (1886-1949), half of the comedy team of Willie and Eugene Howard, who appear in vaudeville, in musicals Sally and Girl Crazy, and in various editions of revues including Ziegfeld Follies, The Passing Show, and George White's Scandals.

1925 The Guild Theatre on West 52nd Street in New York, opens with a production of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. Helen Hayes stars as the young queen opposite Lionel Atwill. Designed by Howard Crane and founded by members of the Theatre Guild, it becomes a radio playhouse from 1943-1950. It is later purchased by the American National Theatre and Academy (A.N.T.A.) and returns to presenting live theatre. It is known today as the August Wilson Theatre.

1926 T. C. Murray's Autumn Fire is presented at the Little Theatre in London for an eight week run. Una O'Connor leads the cast.

1926 Helen Hayes plays Maggie Shand, a role made famous by Maude Adams, in J.M. Barrie's What Every Woman Knows. The revival runs beyond the season, closing after 268 performances.

1933 Broadway opening night of Kurt Weill's and Bertolt Brecht's landmark Threepenny Opera. It flops after just 12 performances, but is revived for a phenomenal seven-year run in 1954.

1938 George Abbott produces and directs What A Life. Clifford Goldsmith's comedy concerning the goings on of a high school, stars Ezra Stone, Butterfly McQueen, and Eddie Bracken. It has a long run at the Biltmore Theatre and later becomes the basis for a radio show.

1940 Birthday of playwright Lanford Wilson, who goes on to write The Hot l Baltimore, Angels Fall, Fifth of July, Burn This, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley's Folly.

1957 The musical Shinbone Alley, based on the Archy and Mehitabel stories, opens a six-week run on Broadway, with lyrics by Joe Darion and book (his first for Broadway) by Mel Brooks.

1995 David Mamet's play The Cryptogram opens at the Westside Upstairs Theatre. The play about a father who leaves his wife and son, stars Ed Begley, Jr., Felicity Huffman, and Shelton Dane.

2000 Michael John LaChuisa's Broadway musical The Wild Party opens at the Virginia Theatre. It's the second New York musical of the season to be based on the 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure March. Composer-lyricist LaChiusa wrote the libretto with George C. Wolfe, who directs the production. Mandy Patinkin, Toni Collette, and Eartha Kitt star.

2003 The beloved characters of Arnold Lobel's children's book come to life in the Broadway musical A Year With Frog and Toad, which goes on to be nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

2004 Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and the producers of the Off-Broadway show The Joys of Sex: A Naughty New Musical reach an agreement on the use of the "virtual orchestra" machine.The union was ready to rally at the first preview of the show at Off Broadway's Variety Arts. The deal struck allows use of the machine for the production, but future stagings—for the next ten years—at the Variety Arts Theatre will need approval from the union. Sadly, The Joys of Sex is the final theatrical production at the Variety Arts, and the theatre is torn down a year later.

2011 The world-premiere of Betty Blue Eyes, featuring a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, opens at the West End's Novello Theatre. Cameron Mackintosh produces the musical based on Alan Bennett's film comedy A Private Function about a pig being illegally reared to ensure local dignitaries can celebrate the Royal Wedding with a lavish banquet, while the local population make do with spam.

2014 Audra McDonald returns to Broadway as Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson's play with music, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, opening at Circle in the Square. Lonny Price directs the limited engagement. McDonald wins her sixth Tony Award for her performance.

More of Today's Birthdays: Samuel Beckett 1906. Howard Keel 1919. Jules Irving 1925. Beverley Cross 1931. Liz Callaway 1961.

Watch highlights from the 2014 Broadway production of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, starring Audra McDonald:

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