1899 Noël Coward is born today. He authored plays such as Hay Fever, Design for Living and Private Lives, many of which he performed in; scripts for the films Brief Encounter and This Happy Breed, and more than 500 songs, including "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." Coward made his Broadway debut in 1925 in his own The Vortex. A first-time Broadway mounting of Waiting in the Wings marked the 100 year anniversary of Coward's birth when it opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre, Dec. 16, 1999.
1936 Eddie Albert and Jose Ferrer are featured in Brother Rat, a comedy by John Monks, Jr. and Fred F. Finklehoffe, which runs 577 performances at the Biltmore Theatre. It's about cadets at the Virginia Military Academy who try to keep the secret that one of them has gotten married. Albert recreated his role for the 1938 film, which co-starred Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman.
1954 Agatha Christie returns to Broadway with her third, and most successful, thriller: Witness for the Prosecution, about an attorney who has survived a near-fatal heart attack only to take on a murder case that turns up the pressure when his client's wife becomes a witness against him. It runs 645 performances at Henry Miller's Theatre. Francis L. Sullivan plays the stressed-out attorney.
1959 When a deceased womanizer comes back to life in the body of Lauren Bacall, co-star Sydney Chaplin says Goodbye, Charlie. Written and directed by George Axelrod, this comedy runs for 109 performances at the Lyceum Theatre.
1960 Lucille Ball drills for oil in Wildcat at the Alvin Theatre. Michael Kidd hat-tricks by producing, directing and choreographing this N. Richard Nash (book), Cy Coleman (in his Broadway debut) and Carolyn Leigh (music and lyrics) tuner. Lucy leaves after 171 performances and the show will close.
1987 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a program designed to help fight the threat of the AIDS virus, is launched on this day.
1993 Composing great Jule Styne gives Broadway his final score in the musical adaptation of the ballet classic The Red Shoes. But it flops after just 5 performances, and the ailing composer dies 10 months later. Lyrics are by Pulitzer-winner Marsha Norman and Paul Stryker (aka Bob Merrill). Staging is by Stanley Donen. Roger Rees plays the imperious dance master Boris Lermontov.
1999 Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings gets its posthumous Broadway debut, with a cast of great doyennes, including Rosemary Harris, Lauren Bacall, Dana Ivey, Elizabeth Wilson, and many more. Sadly, it's also the last of more than 100 Broadway shows produced by titan Alexander H. Cohen, who dies the following April while the show is still running. It ends up playing 183 performances.
2005 Enzo Stuarti, 86, the Italian-born tenor (also known as Larry Laurence and Larry Stuart) who sang in concert halls and on Broadway, dies of congestive heart failure.
2006 Taliep Petersen, 56, a successful South African producer and writer of musicals whose Kat and the Kings was seen on Broadway, is killed in a robbery at his home in Athlone township outside Cape Town.