Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 23

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 23
The cast of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along.
The cast of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along.

1904 The Southerners, with a score by black composer Will Marion Cook, is the first time an entire black chorus is used in a show with a white cast. Lead Eddie Leonard appears in blackface in this musical about the antebellum South. The New York Times is more impressed by the fact the white members of the cast "mingled" with the black performers and that only some audience members trembled in their seats during the curtain call, than the production itself.

1921 "I'm Just Wild About Harry" is just one of the Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle songs in Shuffle Along at the 63rd Street Music Hall in New York. Blake is at the piano for the 504 performances. In 2016, George C. Wolfe will return the musical to Broadway in his show Shuffle Along Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

1932 Lady Augusta Gregory dies today in Galway, Ireland. She was an ardent supporter of the Irish Dramatic Movement and wrote several plays for the Abbey Theatre, which she helped found. She co-authored with W. B. Yeats, The Pot of Broth and Cathleen ni Houlihan. Her translation of Moliere's plays is titled The Kiltartan Moliere. She was 80 years old.

1946 A father tries to clear his son's name in Terrence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy. There will be 476 performances at London's Lyric Theatre. David Mamet would film a new version of the drama in 1999.

1993 A.R. Gurney's Later Life opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Don Scardino directs the comedy about two middle-aged individuals who meet at a Boston cocktail party. Maureen Anderman, Charles Kimbrough, Carole Shelley and Anthony Heald star.

2000 David Auburn's Proof opens tonight at Manhattan Theatre Club. Larry Bryggman, Johanna Day, Ben Shenkman and Mary-Louise Parker star in the play that will extend, then transfer to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre and win newcomer Auburn the year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

2001 Talent lives on: Five years after Rent composer Jonathan Larson died, his obscure early 1990s musical tick...tick...BOOM! gets a major Off-Broadway revival, with previews starting on this day. It is later recorded and embarks on a national tour.

Today's Birthdays: James Gleason 1882. Douglas Fairbanks 1883. Betty Garrett 1919. Barbara Barrie 1931. Joan Collins 1933. Charles Kimbrough 1936. Randy Graff 1955.