Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 11

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 11
Carol Burnett in Once Upon a Mattress.
Carol Burnett in Once Upon a Mattress.

1903 In The Runaways with a book by Addison Brukhardt and a score by Raymond Hubbell, the hero is transported to a tropical island and will be made a king. The catch? He must marry the queen. The show will run nearly 21 weeks at Broadway's Casino Theater.

1920 American author, critic and playwright William Dean Howells dies today in New York City. In his criticism he championed the work of James A. Herne and Clyde Fitch. His plays include Yorick's Love, The Garroters and The Mouse Trap (not to be confused with Agatha Christie's play of the same name). He was 83 years old.

1938 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart contribute music and lyrics for I Married an Angel at the Shubert Theater on Broadway. George Balanchine choreographs this story of a banker who looks for Ms. Right from above. Dennis King and Vera Zorina are featured for this 42-week run.

1959 Carol Burnett begins the path to her Broadway debut as Once Upon a Mattress premieres Off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre. George Abbott directs, and Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer provide the songs. Following a six month run at the Phoenix, the production will transfer to Broadway's Alvin Theatre, earning Tony nominations for Burnett's performance and for Best Musical.

1994 A revival of the musical Grease opens on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Featured in director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun's cast are Megan Mullally and Rosie O'Donnell.

1999 Singer Gladys Knight joins the cast of the Leiber and Stoller revue, Smokey Joe's Cafe. She will end her stint in the stageshow May 22 but will return for another go at it Aug. 17-29.

2002 The original London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and T.S. Eliot's Cats closes after a record run of 21 years, on the anniversary of its opening night.

2005 West End opening night for smash musical Billy Elliot. With a score by Elton John, the production will go on to win four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.

2010 Doris Eaton Travis, the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who inspired 21st century audiences with her pluck, good will — and fancy footwork — at 12 of 13 annual Easter Bonnet Competition performances for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, dies at age 106.

2012 Paul Gross heads the cast of the world premiere of John Guare's Are You There, McPhee? at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey. Sam Buntrock directs the play about a playwright who is sucked into the tangle of the lives of a pair of abandoned children.

Today's Birthdays: Irving Berlin 1888. Martha Graham 1894. Phil Silvers 1911. Mort Sahl 1927. Boyd Gaines 1953. George Dvorsky 1959. Natasha Richardson 1963. Charlotte d'Amboise 1964.