Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 3

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 3
Audra McDonald in <i>Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill</i>
Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

1878 The original Yankee Doodle Dandy, George M. Cohan is born on the 3rd of July, not the 4th as family legend says. A member of the vaudeville team The Four Cohans with his parents and sister, he soon breaks out as a solo star, writer, and producer of such early 20th century hits as American Born, Billie, Dear Old Darling, Little Nellie Kelly, Pigeons and People, The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly, and The Merry Malones. His life becomes the subject of a musical in 1968, George M!, in which he is played by Joel Grey. His statue has stood at the center of Times Square at 46th Street for decades.

1937 Birthday of British playwright Tom Stoppard, four-time winner of the Tony Award for Best Play: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1968), Travesties (1976), The Real Thing (1984), and The Coast of Utopia (2007). His roster of intelligent dramas also includes Arcadia, The Invention of Love, Rock 'n' Roll, and Jumpers.

1941 Broadway producer Sam H. Harris, a longtime associate of George M. Cohan, dies in New York at age 69. Collaborations between the two included Little Johnny Jones and Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway. Among Harris' other producing credits was the Pulitzer Prize winning You Can't Take It With You.

1947 Betty Buckley, who becomes one of Broadway's leading ladies, is born in Texas. After making her debut in 1776, Buckley wins the 1983 Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Musical for her turn in Cats. Other memorable stage moments include Song and Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Carrie, Sunset Boulevard, and Triumph of Love.

1957 A young Broadway talent is lost as Judy Tyler dies in an auto accident. Tyler, age 24, had a major role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Pipe Dream. She had also recently completed shooting on the Elvis Presley film Jailhouse Rock.

1970 Happy birthday to Audra McDonald, who wins six Tony Awards for acting both in plays and musicals, including Ragtime, Carousel, Master Class, A Raisin in the Sun, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. She also receives Tony nominations for her performances in Marie Christine and a revival of 110 in the Shade.

1999 The Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Cabaret marks its 500th Broadway performance. The production that received four Tony Awards (including Best Revival of a Musical), three Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, a Theatre World Award, an Astaire Award, and a special award from the New York Drama Critics) opened on Broadway March 19, 1998.

2012 Andy Griffith, who carved out a particularly American television persona as the beloved star of the series The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, dies at age 86. Griffith appeared on Broadway in No Time for Sergeants and Destry Rides Again, and received Tony nominations for both performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Leon Errol 1881. Franz Kafka 1883. Leueen MacGrath 1914. David Shire 1937. Patrick Wilson 1973. Alexander Gemignani 1979.

Watch Audra McDonald sing "Rainbow High" from Evita at her 2015 Carnegie Hall concert:

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