Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 25

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 25
The cast of <i>42nd Street</i>.
The cast of 42nd Street. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1918 Birthday of composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), who will bridge the worlds of classical and Broadway, both as conductor for the New York Philharmonic and as composer of classic scores including On the Town, West Side Story, Wonderful Town and Candide.

1936 Broadway sees its first new comedy of the season as Philip Barry's Spring Dance opens at the Empire Theatre. Louise Platt and Richard Kendrick star in the play about a woman determined to win the heart of a Yale man about to leave for a two year trip to Russia. Also in the cast, playing the role of a know-it-all named "The Lippincott," is a young Jose Ferrer.

1945 Producer Oliver Morosco dies today when hit by a trolley on Hollywood Boulevard. The producer dies broke at the age of 69.

1967 Paul Muni dies today, age 72 or thereabouts. After starting out as a young man in Yiddish Theatre, Muni got his big break playing a Jewish lawyer in 1931's Counsellor-at-Law. His greatest stage triumph was in the Lawrence and Lee evolutionary court drama, Inherit the Wind. Muni, also a celebrated film actor, is remembered for such movies as "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang," "The Good Earth," and "The Story of Louis Pasteur." He was nominated for six Academy Awards, and won for his performance in "The Story of Luis Pasteur."

1980 Tonight is a Broadway-sized mix of tragedy and triumph as the Great White Way's new musical smash, 42nd Street, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre. 42nd Street, based on the 1930s Busby Berkeley film musical of the same name, stars Jerry Orbach, Tammy Grimes, Wanda Richert and Lee Roy Reams. At the curtain call of the opening night performance producer David Merrick announces that the musical's director choreographer, Gower Champion, died that afternoon. Among Champion's finest musical credits were the original Broadway productions of Bye Bye Birdie, Hello, Dolly!, and Sugar. At the time of his death, Champion was in a relationship with Richert, the much-younger newcomer who received a Tony nomination for her performance in 42nd Street.

2001 The Tony-winning musical revue Fosse closes after 1,100 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

2002 Wesley Naylor, the composer who forged a career out of the long-running gospel musical Mama, I Want to Sing!, and its sequels, dies today at age 44.

2015 Benedict Cumberbatch returns to the stage as Hamlet, opening tonight at the Barbican Centre in London.

More of Today's Birthdays: Ruby Keeler 1910. Van Johnson 1916. Mel Ferrer 1917. Sean Connery 1930. Marshall Brickman 1941.

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