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 becomes its most famous and honored member as a lyricist and librettist. Hammerstein enjoys 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 launches into a second career, and one of the greatest in American musical theatre history, with composer Richard Rodgers. Hammerstein writes lyrics to classics including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, among others. He also serves as mentor to a friend of his children, whom he recruits as go-fer on his 1947 musical Allegro. The young man who resolves to follow in Hammerstein's footsteps? Stephen Sondheim.

1984 The Roundabout Theatre Company revives William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba at its Off-Broadway theatre. 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 at age 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 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 soon transfers to New York—minus LuPone. Following LuPone's less-than-stellar review from Frank Rich in The New York Times, Glenn Close is hired to play Norma Desmond in the American premiere of the musical in Los Angeles. LuPone is subsequently let go and Close is asked to open the show at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre. Close wins 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 with Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, opening at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California. The autobiographical solo 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 actor who found an artistic home at Massachusetts' Williamstown Theatre Festival, dies at age 69 of lung cancer at her home in Manhattan.

2012 As part of its world tour, Fela! returns to Broadway for a monthlong run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The musical that explores the life of Nigerian musician and political figure Fela Anikulapo-Kuti previously played Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre for 463 performances from 2009 through 2011.

2016 The musical Motown returns to Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. The production was originally seen on Broadway in 2013, where it ran at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for 738 performances. The return engagement was originally announced to play for 18 weeks, but ticket sales are poor and it closes after 24 performances.

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

Watch Jonathan Groff and Laura Osnes sing a medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs:

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