1920 Opening night of the starry Ziegfeld Follies of 1920 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, featuring performances by Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, and Moran & Mack; and music by Irving Berlin, Harry Tierney, and Victor Herbert. It runs 123 performances.
1921 Birthday of Joseph Papp (1921-1991), founder and longtime executive director of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater. Aside from the annual free productions of Shakespeare in New York's Central Park, Papp's NYSF presents annual subscription seasons of works by two generations of theatre artists, with a special emphasis on work by and about minorities. Productions under his auspices include A Chorus Line, Hair, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Pirates of Penzance, and That Championship Season.
1965 A musical classic returns to the New York stage as the Music Theatre of Lincoln Center revives Kismet at the New York State Theatre. Alfred Drake returns to the role he originated in the Broadway production of the musical for the length of its six-week run.
1976 Godspell opens at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre following a 2,124 performance Off-Broadway run. The Stephen Schwartz musical directed and conceived by John-Michael Tebelak is based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. It closes on September 4, 1977, after 527 performances.
1978 The gay-themed revue, Crimes Against Nature, begins a 10-week engagement at the Actors Playhouse in New York. Created by the Gay Men's Theatre Collective of San Francisco, the show deals with both current events and more personal homosexual concerns.
1987 Fred Astaire, one half of Hollywood's Astaire-Ginger Rogers dancing duo, dies at age 88. As a Broadway dancer, Astaire appeared on Broadway in such musicals as The Band Wagon, opposite his sister Adele Astaire, and Gay Divorce. Among the many Hollywood musicals in which he danced opposite Rogers was 1935's Top Hat.
1998 Seven playwrights, commissioned by the New York-based The Acting Company, see their Love's Fire open at Off-Broadway's Joseph Papp Public Theater. John Guare, Marsha Norman, Eric Bogosian, William Finn, Tony Kushner, Ntozake Shange, and Wendy Wasserstein were all asked to contribute one-act plays inspired by William Shakespeare's sonnets. The result, directed by Mark Lamos, plays a limited run through July 5.
2006 The north half of Times Square becomes a construction zone as the building at the corner of 46th Street and Seventh Avenue, which for decades housed a Howard Johnson’s restaurant and the Off-Broadway Duffy Theatre, is torn down and the 1974-vintage TKTS discount ticket booth in Father Duffy Square is dismantled. TKTS moves to a temporary space in the ground floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The landmark statue of George M. Cohan is encased in plywood for the duration.
More of Today's Birthdays: Jack Whiting 1901. David Burns 1902. Billy Wilder 1906. Katherine Dunham 1909. Michael Todd 1909. Gower Champion 1919. Ralph Waite 1928. John Cunningham 1932. Meryl Streep 1949. Cyndi Lauper 1953.
Watch highlights from the 2011 Broadway revival of Godspell: