Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 25

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 25
 
Vivienne Segal and Gene Kelly in Pal Joey.
Vivienne Segal and Gene Kelly in Pal Joey. Vandamm Studio / The New York Public Library

1865 Birthday of Fay Templeton (1865-1939), durable musical comedy actor from the 1870s to the 1930s. Her appearances include Roberta, Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway, and Fiddle-dee-dee.

1907 Birthday of Cab Calloway (1907-1994), bandleader who epitomizes Harlem in the 1920s, and who occasionally appears on Broadway. Appearances include Porgy and Bess in 1953, and Hello, Dolly! in 1967.

1912 Stop Thief don't steal all the laughs! Frank Bacon and William Boyd lead the cast in the comedy by Carlyle Moore. It runs for 149 performances at the Gaiety Theatre in New York.

1914 It's Hello Broadway from creator-director George M. Cohan. The cast, including the leads Peggy Wood and Louise Dresser, bring on and strike the sets, speeding up the pace of the revue.

1917 Jesse Lynch Williams' comedy Why Marry? is compared by the critics to the satire of George Bernard Shaw, and later receives the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A modern young woman asks the title question when she decides to take a mate. Lotus Robb, Beatrice Beckley, and Nat C. Goodwin star.

1918 World War I dogfighters inspire a craze for flying. The first musical to deal with flyers, Going Up, opens at the Liberty Theatre and runs 351 performances, with Ed Begley, Donald Meek, and Marion Sunshine.

1928 Broadway has one of its biggest nights ever, as eight separate shows open on Christmas Day: Cyrano de Bergerac, Falstaff, Ruth Draper, Houseboat on the Styx, The Red Robe, Brothers, Sakura, and Back Seat Drivers.

1934 Samson Raphaelson's play Accent on Youth opens at the Plymouth Theatre and stays 229 performances, starring Constance Cummings.

1939 J.B. Priestley's drama When We Are Married gets its U.S. premiere, with a cast featuring Estelle Winwood. It runs 156 performances at the Lyceum Theatre.

1940 Opening night for Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's hard-bitten musical, Pal Joey, starring Vivienne Segal and, in the title role, Gene Kelly, in his first (and last) Broadway lead. He is soon snapped up by Hollywood. Pal Joey stays 374 performances, but gets a longer run in a 1950s revival.

1977 Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, and composer Charlie Chaplin dies in Switzerland at age 88. Following his father's death and mother's complete emotional breakdown, Charlie joined a group of child dancers, the Eight Lancashire Lads. At age eight he appeared in the premiere performance of Peter Pan in 1904. It was with the Fred Karno company's tour of the U.S. that he caught the eye of Mack Sennett. The rest is film history. In 2012, Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan use Charlie Chaplin's life as the subject for the Broadway musical Chaplin.

1999 Tony n' Tina's Wedding gives its 4,000th performance Off-Broadway. The interactive comedy includes an Italian-American wedding and a sit down reception with a meal.

2008 Singer and actor Eartha Kitt, whose exotic, sex-kitten persona and sultry, purring vocal delivery was unlike anything that had come before her, dies of colon cancer at age 81. Kitt was a best-selling recording artist, a Tony-nominated stage actor (for Timbuktu! and The Wild Party), a sex symbol, a paragon of both high art and high camp, and the author of three autobiographies.

2012 Les Misérables, the star-studded film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, and Herbert Kretzmer, opens in theatres. Directed by Tim Hooper, it stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, and Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Hathaway receives an Academy Award for her performance.

2014 Meryl Streep casts a spell across the nation as the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's classic musical Into the Woods hits movie theatres. Directed by Rob Marshall, the film stars Streep as the Witch with James Corden as the Baker, Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife, and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella.

More of Today's Birthdays: Evelyn Florence Nesbit 1884. Humphrey Bogart 1899. Lewis Allen 1905. Lew Grade 1906. Quentin Crisp 1908. Rod Serling 1924.

Watch highlights from the 2014 film adaptation of Into the Woods:

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