Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: March 24

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: March 24
 
Nikki M. James, Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad and ensemble in The Book of Mormon
Nikki M. James, Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad, and ensemble in The Book of Mormon Joan Marcus

1909 Irish poet and playwright John Millington Synge dies at age 38. He penned numerous plays including Riders to the Sea and The Playboy of the Western World. For the latter he traveled to the Aran Islands to capture the speech and customs of the local people.

1936 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne star in Robert E. Sherwood's Idiot's Delight, opening at the Shubert Theatre for a run of 300 performances. The play receives the 1936 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and is later turned into a film starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer.

1941 Native Son, adapted by Paul Green and Richard Wright from Wright's novel, plays at the St. James Theatre in New York. The drama, concerning the accidental killing of a white woman by a black man, stars Canada Lee and Anne Burr. It runs 114 performances.

1955 Secrets and sorrows run deep in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Tennessee Williams' drama stars Barbara Bel Geddes, Burl Ives, and Ben Gazzara. It runs for 694 performances. Future Broadway productions see Maggie played by Elizabeth Ashley, Kathleen Turner, Ashley Judd, Anika Noni Rose, and Scarlett Johansson.

1977 Lily Tomlin is Appearing Nitely at the Biltmore Theatre. The solo play runs for 84 evenings.

1992 The Neil Simon Theatre presents its namesake's 26th play, Jake's Women. Alan Alda stars as the unhappy writer, and his women include Brenda Vaccaro, Tracy Pollan, Joyce Van Patten, and Kate Burton.

1994 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Carousel takes another spin as it opens at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The production stars Sally Murphy as Julie Jordan, Michael Hayden as Billy Bigelow, and a young actor named Audra Ann McDonald as Carrie Pipperidge. The supporting cast includes future stars Taye Diggs (in his Broadway debut) and Brian d'Arcy James. Audra McDonald wins her first Tony Award for her performance, and the production also wins for Best Revival.

2002 Hillary Clinton appears Off-Broadway in a post-show panel discussion of Eve Ensler's Necessary Targets, about the treatment of women in the 1990s war in Bosnia.

2003 William Finn's musical Elegies opens at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. It stars Christian Borle, Betty Buckley, Carolee Carmello, Keith Byron-Kirk, and Michael Rupert.

2005 The King meets the Bard at the Palace. Elvis Presley makes his posthumous debut on Broadway with the musical All Shook Up, using his familiar pop hits to tell a story freely adapted from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It will run nine months at the Palace Theatre.

2009 Michael Jacobs' Impressionism, a new play about an art gallery owner and a photojournalist—Tony Award winners Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons, respectively—who swap stories at their workplace, opens at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. It runs only 56 performances.

2011 Broadway answers the door to The Book of Mormon—from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez—when the irreverent musical opens at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells star as an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries who venture from Salt Lake City to AIDS-ravaged Uganda in the hopes of converting villagers with the story of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Mormon Church. The production wins nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

2011 Lanford Wilson, a playwright who emerged out of the scrappy Off-Off-Broadway scene to compose humane, lyrical dramas of American life that played on Broadway and in theatres around the world, dies at age 73. His plays included Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore, Fifth of July, Talley's Folly, and Burn This.

2014 Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons opens on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre. Tyne Daly stars as a mother who pays a surprise visit to her late son’s ex-partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son.

2016 Carmen Cusack makes her Broadway debut in Bright Star. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell wrote the original musical about a literary editor whose relationship with a young soldier inspires her to confront her past. It runs for 109 performances at the Cort Theatre.

Today's Birthdays: Harry Houdini 1874. Gene Nelson 1920. Onna White 1922. Kenneth Nelson 1930. Bob Mackie 1940. Jim Parsons 1973.

Watch highlights from the 2016 Broadway musical Bright Star:

LOVE THEATRE? CHECK OUT PLAYBILL STORE FOR MERCHANDISE!

More Today in Theatre History