Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 18

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 18
 
Rex Harrison in the 1981 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady.
Rex Harrison in the 1981 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1873 Birthday of Otto Harbach (1873-1963) who writes the lyrics and/or book for more than three dozen musicals from 1908 to the 1930s including Roberta; No, No, Nanette; The Cat and the Fiddle; Rose-Marie; and The Desert Song.

1925 The revue Gay Paree, starring Texas Guinan and Jack Haley, begins its 181-performance run at the Shubert Theatre.

1969 Christian Slater is born in New York. He becomes a teen sensation in such films as Heathers, Interview With the Vampire, and True Romance before returning to his stage roots during the 1998-1999 Broadway season. Slater plays Clifford, mid-run, in the 1999 Tony Award-winning play Side Man at the John Golden Theatre. Other theatre credits include Winthrop Paroo opposite Dick Van Dyke's Harold Hill in The Music Man (1980), and Tom Wingfield opposite Jessica Lange's Amanda in The Glass Menagerie (2005).

1981 Following an 11-month national tour, a revival of My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison re-creating his Tony and Oscar Award winning performance as Henry Higgins, opens on Broadway at the Uris Theatre. Although Harrison fought with Actors Equity to have British actor Cheryl Kennedy as his Eliza Doolittle, vocal damage forces her to drop out of the production after the first Broadway preview, and she is replaced by her American-born understudy Nancy Ringham.

1981 Playwright and screenwriter Anita Loos dies at age 92. Her play Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was the basis for the popular stage musical of the same name. That musical, which starred Carol Channing, was filmed with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in 1953.

1999 The Donkey Show, described as a "Midsummer Night's disco," opens at New York City's Club El Flamingo. Created and directed by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, the show sets William Shakespeare's classic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream into the 1970s disco scene where a nightclub impresario Oberon and disco diva Titania find themselves in the midst of a timeless lovers' quarrel. Donkey features disco era songs like "I Love the Nightlife," "Ring My Bell," "Car Wash," and "You Sexy Thing." Originally announced as a six-week limited engagement, it runs for six years.

2002 Broadway gets its first revival of The Boys From Syracuse since the 1938 original. The revival stars Tom Hewitt, Erin Dilly, Lee Wilkof, Chip Zien, and Georgia Engel.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jack Pickford 1896. Shelley Winters 1920. Robert Redford 1937. Patrick Swayze 1952. Craig Bierko 1964.

Watch Megan Hilty and Rachel York rehearse for the 2012 Encores! staging of the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:

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