Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 17

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 17
 
Alan Campbell and Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard
Alan Campbell and Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. Joan Marcus

1901 Birthday of actor/director/producer/teacher/acting coach Lee Strasberg (1901-1982) in Austria-Hungary. As a founder of the Group Theatre and Artistic Director of the Actors Studio, he serves as the godfather of the "Method" acting style, and influences actors in the second half of the 20th century.

1902 American novelist Winston Churchill (no relation) turns his best-selling novel, The Crisis, into a four-act play. James K. Hackett stars, directs, and produces at Wallack's in New York City.

1903 William Gillette stars in James M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton at the Lyceum Theatre for 144 performances.

1921 In addition to his popular Follies, Florenz Ziegfeld opens the somewhat naughtier Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic at the New Amsterdam Roof Theatre, which he rechristens the Danse de Follies. It stars Leon Errol, Will Rogers, and the dance team of Carlos and Inez.

1930 Things are Sweet and Low for Fanny Brice in the revue, produced and with lyrics by her husband Billy Rose. Arthur Treacher and George Jessel are also in the cast.

1960 Advise and Consent, Allen Drury's political best seller, is adapted for the stage by Loring Mandel. Franklin Schaffner directs a cast that includes Ed Begley, Richard Kiley, Kevin McCarthy, and Barnard Hughes.

1962 Sid Caesar stars in Little Me, a parody of an ambitious poor girl's memoirs by Patrick Dennis, adapted for the stage by Neil Simon. Songs are by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. Virginia Martin and Nancy Andrews are part of the cast dancing to Bob Fosse's choreography. The show runs 257 performances. Little Me is later revived on Broadway in productions starring Victor Garber (1981) and Martin Short (1998).

1991 The wide-eyed, blue-faced madness begins as The Blue Man Group: Tubes opens at the Astor Place Theatre. The show features stunts, comic skits, and loud music of the Blue Man's own creation. Described by Variety as "Mummenschanz on acid," the show draws wide acclaim and sold-out audiences. Now with shows going on in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Orlando, they are still going strong on Astor Place.

1994 Glenn Close gets rave reviews in Sunset Boulevard, the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical opening at the Minskoff Theatre. She plays the forgotten movie star Norma Desmond as she lives her later life. Alan Campbell plays the writer who takes a very unlucky turn into her life, with George Hearn playing her manservant. The show closes in 1997 after 977 performances, owing to the expense of running the show and a lack of performers who can handle the demands of the role of Norma Desmond. In February 2017, Close returns to the role of Norma Desmond for a limited Broadway run.

2002 Mark Linn-Baker and Jay Goede play the title roles in the children's musical, A Year With Frog and Toad, opening at the New Victory Theare in Times Square. The unlikely hit goes over so well that it moves to Broadway and is nominated for a Tony Award as Best Musical in 2003.

2003 Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn stars in a solo adaptaton of Allan Gurganus's best-seller Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. Unfortunately, she gets to tell it only once, as it closes on opening night.

2004 Oskar Eustis wins one of the most influential jobs in the nonprofit theatre, that of artistic director of The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. The artistic director of Rhode Island's Trinity Rep, Eustis is only the fourth person to hold the Public Theater job since its founding in the 1950s, following founder Joseph Papp, JoAnne Akalaitis, and George C. Wolfe.

2005 Maria Friedman recreates her London performance in the leading role of the gothic musical The Woman in White, with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel. The groundbreaking computerized set projections are by William Dudley. The show runs 109 performances at the Marquis Theatre.

2008 John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer, and Haley Joel Osment star in a Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo at the Belasco Theatre. Robert Falls directs the story of a group of small-time crooks who plot to steal a valuable coin collection. The production lasts only one week, closing November 23 after 20 previews and 8 regular performances.

2011 A revival of Noël Coward's 1930 comedy Private Lives, featuring that other famous balcony scene of the theatre, opens on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross star, under the direction of Richard Eyre.

2013 Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak's musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, starring Jefferson Mays as eight different members of the doomed D'Ysquith family, opens on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Directed by Darko Tresnjak, the cast also includes Bryce Pinkham, Lisa O'Hare, Lauren Worsham. It wins four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and runs for 905 performances.

2014 Bill Condon's reimagined production of Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's short-lived 1997 musical Side Show opens on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Erin Davie and Emily Padgett star as conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. The show once again fails to attract an audience, and it closes after 56 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Frank Fay 1897. Peter Cook 1937. Martin Scorsese 1942. Brent Carver 1951. Rick Elice 1956. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio 1958.

Watch highlights from the 2014 Broadway production of Side Show:

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