Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 12

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 12
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II Courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein: An Imagem Company

1895 Birthday of Oscar Hammerstein II, scion of a notable theatrical family who went on to become its most famous and honored member as a lyricist and librettist. Hammerstein enjoyed a major career as lyricist for composer Jerome Kern on many musicals and operettas, most notably Show Boat. After a series of flops in the 1930s and the death of Kern in the early 1940s, Hammerstein launched into a second career, and one of the greatest in American musical theatre history, with composer Richard Rodgers. Hammerstein wrote lyrics to classics including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, among others. He also served as mentor to a friend of his children, whom he recruited as go-fer on his 1947 musical Allegro. The young man who resolved to follow in Hammerstein's footsteps? Stephen Sondheim.

1984 The Roundabout Theatre Company revives William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba starting tonight. Philip Bosco, Mia Dillon, Shirley Knight and Steven Weber are in the cast directed by Paul Weidner. The production marks the first major revival of the play in more than 30 years. The original production played at Broadway's Booth Theatre in 1950 for 191 performances.

1988 Tony Award-winning director Joshua Logan dies today at 79. One of the most accomplished theatre artists of his time, Logan had under his belt such credits as co-writing the Tony Award-winning play Mister Roberts and directing and co-writing, with Oscar Hammerstein II, the Pulitzer Prize winning musical South Pacific. Other shows included This Is The Army, Annie Get Your Gun, and Fanny, which he also co produced.

1993 Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Sunset Boulevard has its world premiere today in London starring Patti LuPone, already signed to open the show in New York. Based on the classic Billy Wilder film of the same name, the show will soon transfer to New York - minus LuPone. Following LuPone's less-than-stellar review from Frank Rich in The New York Times, Glenn Close will be hired to play Norma Desmond in the American premiere of the musical in Los Angeles. LuPone will subsequently be let go and Close is asked to open the show at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre. She will win the Tony Award for her performance.

1995 Something Wonderful, a one-night-only 100th birthday tribute to Oscar Hammerstein II, sells out the Gershwin Theatre with performances by Michel Bell, Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker, Audra McDonald and Maureen McGovern.

2000 Charles Nelson Reilly celebrates his 50th year in showbiz when his new solo show, Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, officially opens tonight at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California. The show, directed by Paul Linke, looks back at the life of the ascot-adorned actor from his fourth-grade portrayal of Christopher Columbus to his Tony Award-winning turn in the original production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to his appearances on TV's "Match Game."

2001 The Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of George Bernard Shaw's classic Major Barbara opens on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre. Cherry Jones stars as the good salvation army major who must fight against her heritage as the daughter of a joyfully wicked (and maddeningly articulate) Victorian industrialist.

2006 Carrie Nye, the seductive Mississippi-born actress who found an artistic home at Massachusetts' Williamstown Theatre Festival, dies at age 69 of lung cancer at her home in Manhattan.

2012 A return engagement of Fela!, the musical that explores the life of Nigerian musician and political figure Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in a production that is part narrative and part rock musical, opens on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

More of Today's Birthdays: Milton Berle 1908. Joey Faye 1909. John Lahr 1941. Jamey Sheridan 1951. Cheyenne Jackson 1975.

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