Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 26

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 26
 
Melissa Errico and Gregg Edelman in Anna Karenina.
Melissa Errico and Gregg Edelman in Anna Karenina. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1880 Broadway director-producer Philip Moeller is born in New York. Among his greatest theatrical achievements are productions of Biography, Elizabeth the Queen, Mourning Becomes Electra, and Ah, Wilderness!

1904 "Clifford Bradshaw" is born in the person of future British author Christopher Isherwood, in Cheshire, England. Isherwood writes The Berlin Stories, a memoir of his exploits in the Berlin of the 1930s that becomes the basis for the play, I Am a Camera, and its Kander & Ebb musical version, Cabaret.

1918 Lightnin', billed as a "Live Wire American Comedy" opens its record-breaking Broadway run. Winchell Smith and Frank Bacon wrote the play about a wise-cracking slowpoke, with Bacon originating the title role of Lightnin' Bill Jones. He and his wife operate a hotel that's half in California, half in Nevada, to accommodate Californians looking for a quick divorce. But when Mary decides to take advantage of the situation to divorce Lightnin', comedy ensues. Though largely forgotten today, Lightnin' was the first Broadway play to run more than 1,000 performances, and held the longest-run record for two decades.

1952 Award-winning stage, television, and film actor Michael Jeter is born in Lawrenceberg, Tennessee. Jeter wins the Tony Award as Best Featured Actor for his performance in the original cast of Grand Hotel, and wins an Emmy as Best Supporting Actor for his role on CBS' Evening Shade. Film credits include The Green Mile, The Polar Express, The Fisher King, and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

1992 Ann Crumb stars in the title role of Peter Kellogg and Daniel Levine's musical Anna Karenina, opening on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre for a run of 46 performances. Making her Broadway debut in the role of Princess Kitty Scherbatsky is Melissa Errico.

1997 The cavalry comes! Tony winner Carole Shelley assumes the role of Boo Levy in Alfred Uhry's Tony-winning Best Play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Also joining the cast are Cynthia Nixon as Lala Levy and Kimberly Williams as Sunny Freitag. The show, which opened February 27, 1997 at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, closes the following year on June 28.

2001 The Celtic dance revue Riverdance ends its Broadway run after 605 performances.

2012 The Tony-nominated musical Sister Act, based on the 1992 film of the same title about a nightclub singer who goes into hiding in a convent, ends its Broadway at the Broadway Theatre after 561 performances.

2017 Bernard Pomerance, the Brooklyn-born playwright best known for his Tony Award-winning drama The Elephant Man, dies at age 76.

2018 Neil Simon, the prolific playwright who produced a string of comic smashes and was the most commercially successful American playwright in the latter half of the 20th century, dies at age 91. His work included the plays Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, California Suite, and Brighton Beach Memoirs, and the books for the musicals Little Me, Sweet Charity, Promises, Promises, and They’re Playing Our Song. He received Tony Awards for The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Yonkers, with the last also receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

More of Today's Birthdays: John T. Kelly 1852. Zona Gale 1874. Jan Clayton 1917. Ronny Graham 1919. Gabriel Barre 1957. Keke Palmer 1993.

Watch highlights from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, starring Keke Palmer in the title role:

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