Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 21

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 21
Ethel Merman (center) in Gypsy.
Ethel Merman (center) in Gypsy. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

1929 Some of the highlights of A Night in Venice are Ted Healy wrestling bears and the choreography of Busby Berkeley. This revue will run at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway for 22 weeks.

1952 Stage and screen actor John Garfield died today in New York. Lee Strasberg directed him in the 1949 production of The Big Knife by Clifford Odets. He was 39 years old.

1959 Ethel Merman is indomitable stage mother Rose in the original Broadway production of Gypsy. Arthur Laurents based his book on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, with a score by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Jerome Robbins stages what will be a 702-performance run. Future mountings will feature Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone.

1977 Are you a Gemini? Albert Innaurato's play about a Harvard student unsure of his sexuality and his relationship with his family, will run at Broadway's Little Theatre for 1,789 performances. Robert Picardo stars.

1998 British playwright Jonathan Harvey sees the American premiere of his potent drama, Beautiful Thing, at Chicago's Famous Door Theatre. The play, which first saw the stage at London's Bush Theatre, will go on to run at Off Broadway's Cherry Lane Theatre for 13 previews and 152 performances.

1998 Former Chicago improv rivals Elaine May and Alan Arkin star in Power Plays, a trio of one-act plays (with two works by May and one by Arkin) which previews today at Off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre. Two years later, Arkin would direct May's Taller Than a Dwarf on Broadway.

2001 The inaugural National Broadway Theatre Awards, a new brace of theatre prizes honoring national touring productions across the United States, went to Ragtime (Best Musical), Dame Edna (Best Play), Barry Humphries (Best Actor in a Play), and Louise Pitre (Best Actress in a Musical), among others.

2011 A revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies, featuring some of the biggest talents on both sides of the Atlantic, opens at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The starry company is headed by Bernadette Peters as Sally Durant Plummer, Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone, Danny Burstein as Buddy Plummer, Ron Raines as Benjamin Stone and Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion. The production will transfer to Broadway less than three months later.

2014 Miss Saigon, which premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1989 — where it ran for a record-breaking run of over ten years — returns to the West End in a new 25th anniversary production. Opening tonight at the Prince Edward Theatre, it stars Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris.

Today's Birthdays: Mabel Taliaferro 1887. Thomas "Fats" Waller 1904. Peggy Cass 1924. Alice Drummond 1928. Mark Jacoby 1947. Da'Vine Joy Randolph 1986.