Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: March 31

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: March 31
The original Broadway cast of Oklahoma!
The original Broadway cast of Oklahoma! The Library of Congress

1922 Birthday of actor Richard Kiley (1922-1999), who will create memorable roles in mid-20th century musicals, including Kismet, Redhead, No Strings and his signature role, the title character in Man of La Mancha.

1939 Playwright Israel Horovitz (Line, Rats) is born today in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

1943 Inititally produced for $75,000 and titled Away We Go, the re-titled Oklahoma! comes sweeping into Broadway's St. James Theatre for 2,212 performances. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based this musical on Lynn Riggs' Green Grow the Lilacs. It will gross millions of dollars. The show is filled with memorable songs and a cast that includes Alfred Drake, Howard Da Silva, Joan Roberts and Celeste Holm. Agnes de Mille's dance sequences break new ground in choreography. Rouben Mamoulian stages.

1944 Billie Burke stars as a rich widow who thinks it might be fun to live under communism in Mrs. January and Mr. X. Zoe Akins' comedy also stars Barbara Bel Geddes and Frank Craven at the Belasco Theatre in New York.

1945 Strongly etched and delicately remembered, Tennessee Williams' memory play The Glass Menagerie plays at the Playhouse Theatre in New York. Laurette Taylor makes a powerful comeback as Amanda Wingfield, matriarch of a fragile family. Eddie Dowling plays her son Tom struggling to find a life. Julie Haydon is her delicate daughter Laura. There will be 561 performances.

1960 Opening night for Gore Vidal's The Best Man, a political drama about how far a candidate will go to be elected president. The two antagonists bear a certain resemblance to this year's two prospective presidential candidates, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The drama will be revived during the 2000 and 2012 presidential elections.

1983 Marsha Norman's drama 'night, Mother opens at the John Golden Theatre. Kathy Bates plays a daughter who announces her impending suicide to her mother, played by Anne Pitoniak.

1999 The Women's Project and Productions ends its 20th anniversary season with the world premiere of The Summer in Gossensass, a new play written and directed by Maria Irene Fornes. Off-Off-Broadway's Judith Anderson Theatre housed the production by the eight-time Obie Award winner whose work will be celebrated during the 1999-2000 Signature Theatre Company season.

2009 The Age of Aquarius dawns anew at Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre when the tribal rock musical, Hair, officially opens in a new revival directed by Diane Paulus. The production began its life at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park - first as a 40th anniversary concert in September 2007, and then as a full production as part of Shakespeare in the Park in summer 2008.

2011 Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams as the self-questioning title character who roams a haunted patch of Iraq, circa 2003, opens on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

More of Today's Birthdays: Nikolai Gogol 1809. Patrick Magee 1924. Sydney Chaplin 1926. William Daniels 1927. Shirley Jones 1934. Richard Chamberlain 1935. Christopher Walken 1943. Rhea Perlman 1948.