Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 26

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 26
Gregg Edelman and Melissa Errico in Anna Karenina.
Gregg Edelman and Melissa Errico in Anna Karenina.

1880 Broadway director-producer Philip Moeller is born today 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 today in the person of future British author Christopher Isherwood, today in Cheshire, England. Isherwood will go on to write The Berlin Stories, a memoir of his exploits in the Berlin of the 1930s that will become the basis for the play, I Am a Camera, and its John Kander & Fred Ebb musical version, Cabaret.

1918 Lightnin', billed as a "Live Wire American Comedy" opens its record-breaking Broadway run today. 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. Will Rogers played Lightnin' in a 1930 film version. Though largely forgotten today, it 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 today in Lawrenceberg, Tennessee. Jeter will win the Tony Award as best featured actor for his performance in the original cast of Grand Hotel, and he will win an Emmy as best supporting actor for his role on CBS' "Evening Shade." Film credits include "The Green Mile" (1999) as well as "Patch Adams," "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-winning actress Carole Shelley assumes the role of Boo Levy in Alfred Uhry's Tony-winning Best Play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Cynthia Nixon will take over the role of Lala Levy and Kimberly Williams will assume the role of Sunny Freitag. The show, which opened Feb 27, 1997 at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, will close the following year on June 28.

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

2004 In an unusual dictum apparently issued in response to rumors of a protest walk-out on Broadway, Actors' Equity instructs its performer members to report to work as usual during the coming week's Republican Convention. A posting on the Equity website reads: "Actors' Equity, the national union representing actors and stage managers in the U.S., has advised its members working on Broadway to report to work as usual during the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York City." Equity spokesperson Maria Somma says a group called Shut It Down NYC! had reached out to Broadway casts in an attempt to organize a desertion of Times Square stages in protest of the presence of Republicans delegates in the city and in Broadway auditoriums.

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

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