Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: December 20

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: December 20
Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine in <i>Dreamgirls</i>
Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine in Dreamgirls Martha Swope

1912 Laurette Taylor stars in Peg O' My Heart, written and directed by her husband, J. Hartley Manners. This story of a winsome orphan becomes a vehicle for Taylor, and she revives it often over the years.

1922 Actor Morris Carnovsky makes his New York debut in Sholom Asch's The God of Vengeance at the Provincetown Playhouse. The cast includes Sam Jaffe, Lillian Taiz and Rudolph Schildkraut, who also directs. When the production moves uptown to the Apollo Theatre the following year, producer Harry Weinberger and the cast become the first in New York City to be convicted by a jury of giving an immoral performance. The controversy surrounding the production is later used by Paula Vogel as the subject for her play Indecent.

1926 Sidney Howard's Mama's Boy tale, The Silver Cord opens on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, starring Margalo Gillmore. It runs 112 performances as part of The Theatre Guild's repertory.

1928 Ethel Barrymore gets a theatre named for her, and it drives her to a convent—on stage, that is. The Kingdom of God, Gregorio Martinez Sierra's play, inaugurates the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York. Sister Gracia shuns her luxurious upbringing and the love of a young doctor to care for the abandoned. This production will be forced to close after three months when Barrymore is confined to her home with influenza.

1934 Katharine Cornell produces Romeo and Juliet at the Martin Beck Theatre. She stars alongside Basil Rathbone, Orson Welles, Brian Aherne, and Edith Evans. It runs 77 performances.

1951 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh play William Shakespeare's voluptuary tragic lovers in Antony and Cleopatra at the Ziegfeld Theatre. It stays for 66 performances, running in repertory with George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra.

1968 Bernadette Peters and Tamara Long are Dames at Sea at the Bouwerie Lane Theatre. George Haimsohn and Robin Miller's book and lyrics spoof old musical films. Jim Wise provides the score.

1972 Jack Albertson and Sam Levene play feuding old vaudevillians in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. It opens a 538-performance run today at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1979 Gregory Hines plays a Harlem Ebenezer Scrooge in the musical Comin' Uptown!. It runs 45 performances at the Winter Garden.

1981 Michael Bennett's Dreamgirls opens on this date. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the production will serve as a star vehicle for Jennifer Holliday, whose legendary performance of Effie won her a Tony Award. The musical runs more than 1,500 performances.

2005 New York transit workers begin a three-day strike, shutting down subways and buses—but not theatres—at the height of the holiday rush. The shows go on, with many Broadway actors seen walking or roller-blading to work.

2009 Actor Brittany Murphy, who starred in Clueless on the silver screen and A View From the Bridge on Broadway, dies at age 32.

2015 Following in the footsteps of Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Topol, and Alfred Molina, among others, Danny Burstein is Tevye in the 50th anniversary staging of the classic American musical Fiddler on the Roof at the Broadway Theatre.

Today's Birthdays: Elsie DeWolfe 1865. Irene Dunne 1898. George Roy Hill 1921. John Spencer 1946.

Watch highlights from the 2015 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof:

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