1899 Happy birthday Edward Kennedy Ellington, who, taking the surname "Duke," became one of the 20th century's most important musician-composers. His Broadway shows, Beggar's Holiday and Pousse-Cafe, made little mark, but shows that draw on Ellington's music, such as Sophisticated Ladies and Play On!, are only likely to multiply in the century ahead.
1919 Actress-singer Celeste Holm is born today in New York City. She will never say no as Ado Annie in the 1943 production of Oklahoma! and go on to act in films as everybody's witty and wise best friend.
1940 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne head the cast in Robert E. Sherwood's There Shall Be No Night. This drama describes the courage of the Finns recently overrun by Russian invaders. It plays at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway.
1966 Paula Strasberg, an early member of the Actors Studio (with husband Lee) and also a drama coach, died today at age 55.
1968 This is the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius" when Hair opens on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre. James Rado, Gerome Ragni wrote the book and lyrics for the Galt MacDermot musical. The show will close July 2, 1972 following 1,742 performances.
1996 It's "No Day But Today" for the cast of the Broadway sensation Rent, which opens tonight at the Nederlander Theatre. Michael Greif directs this musical that made names for such actors as Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel. Written by Jonathan Larson, the show will go on to play 5,123 performances on Broadway, and win many awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Larson sadly never saw any of the success that his musical brought having died in January 1996 of an aortic anuerysm.
1997 Leonard Bernstein's musical Candide is revived on Broadway by director Harold Prince. The show, based on the 1759 novel "Candide" by Voltaire, features Jim Dale, Andrea Martin and Harolyn Blackwell. The production will last only 11 previews and 103 performances.
2001 Two-time Pulitzer winner August Wilson continues his epic chronicle of 20th century African-American life when King Hedley II opens on Broadway. Two Tony-winning musical comedy stars take on dramatic roles in the play: Brian Stokes Mitchell and Leslie Uggams.
2002 Broadway and TV comedian Carol Burnett makes her debut as a playwright when her Hollywood Arms, co-written with her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, opens at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. It will transfer to Broadway in October 2002.
2006 Rent celebrates its 10th anniversary on Broadway with a reunion event at the Nederlander Theatre.
2009 The first Broadway revival of Samson Raphaelson's 1934 romantic comedy Accent on Youth opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. David Hyde Pierce portrays a playwright who finds fresh inspiration in a pretty young secretary in the Manhattan Theatre Club production, directed by Daniel Sullivan.