Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: January 5

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: January 5
 
Hinton Battle, Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, and Tiger Haynes in <i>The Wiz</i>.
Hinton Battle, Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, and Tiger Haynes in The Wiz. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1894 U.S. premiere of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, starring Ida Jeffries Goodfriend, at the Berkeley Lyceum Theatre.

1914 James M. Barrie's The Legend of Leonora plays at the Empire Theatre in New York. Maude Adams stars in this play about a woman on trial for pushing a man out of a train. It's a comedy.

1921 Birthday of Swiss playwright Friedrich Duerrenmatt (1921-1990), whose best-known work, The Visit, will be produced on Broadway in 1958 with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and subsequently adapted as a musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

1925 James Gleason and Richard Taber ask Is Zat So? at the 39th Street Theatre. These co-authors star as a down-and out boxer and manager who disguise themselves as servants to help a wealthy young man expose his corrupt brother-in-law. The comedy runs for 618 performances.

1928 Twenty-nine year old Elizabeth Scott wins the architectural design competition for a new Stratford Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Scott, the lone female entrant, incorporates some of the remains of the burnt building, but her Art Deco design breaks with the former Victorian tradition.

1939 The Group Theatre produces The Gentle People at the Belasco Theatre. Irwin Shaw's drama about two men standing up against mob rule stars Sam Jaffe, Roman Bohnen, and Franchot Tone.

1975 The Wiz, Charlie Smalls' adaption of The Wizard of Oz opens today at the Majestic Theatre and proves to be a sleeper hit, eventually running 1672 performances and winning the Tony Award as Best Musical. The score includes "If You Believe," "Be a Lion," and the disco hit "Ease on Down the Road." Cast with black actors and set in an African-American mileu, the show proves a springboard for the career of Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, and features Tiger Haynes, Hinton Battle, Ted Ross, Andre de Shields, and Dee Dee Bridgewater in supporting roles. A 1978 film version stars Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

1980 Harold Pinter's Betrayal premieres on Broadway at the Trafalgar Theatre. Blythe Danner, Raul Julia, and Roy Scheider star in the production directed by Peter Hall.

1984 Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close star in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Plymouth Theater. The play also stars Christine Baranski and Kenneth Welsh. The Real Thing wins 1984's Tony Award for Best Play, as well as acting awards for Irons, Close, and Baranski, and an award for director Mike Nichols.

1989 Richard Greenberg's Off-Broadway play, Eastern Standard, transfers from the Manhattan Theatre Club to the John Golden Theatre. The play examines a group of young achievers who search for the truth about their lives and loves. Peter Frechette receives a 1989 Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of Drew Paley.

1990 Arthur Kennedy, who appeared in the original companies of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and The Price, dies at age 75.

2003 David Auburn's Pulitzer-winning drama, Proof, closes on Broadway after 917 performances.

2003 Playwright Jean Kerr dies at age 80. Her comedy, Mary, Mary, is one of Broadway's longest-running non-musicals ever, at 1572 performances. She had a best-seller (later adapted as a film and TV series) with Please Don't Eat the Daisies, a book about her life in Larchmont, NY, with her husband, New York Times theatre critic Walter Kerr.

2016 Elizabeth Swados, whose experimental and socially searching pieces of musical theatre were a mainstay of 1970s and '80s theatre in New York, dies at age 64. Her breakout work was the musical Runaways, which ran on Broadway for eight months in 1978, and earned her Tony nominations for Best Book, Best Score, Best Choreography, and Best Direction.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jack Norworth 1879. Cora Witherspoon 1890. Alvin Ailey 1931. Robert Duvall 1931. Diane Keaton 1946. Bradley Cooper 1975.

Watch highlights from the 2016 Encores! Off-Center production of Elizabeth Swados' Runaways:

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