Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 19

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 19
Laura Osnes in Cinderella.
Laura Osnes in Cinderella. Joan Marcus

1906 George Arliss and Mrs. Fiske star in The New York Idea, Langdon Mitchell's play which runs 66 performances at the Lyric Theatre.

1919 Producer-playwright David Belasco installs a 223-performance hit at the theatre that bears his name. Sexy Lenore Ulric is featured in his play about China, The Son-Daughter.

1923 Jacob Ben-Ami and Winifred Lenihan are The Failures. There are only five weeks of performances at the Garrick Theater of H. R. Lenormand's play. In the story "She," out of desperation, takes up the world's oldest profession, while "He" struggles at the second oldest (playwriting).

1936 Kurt Weill writes his first Broadway score since immigrating to the United States. Johnny Johnson, which has a book by Paul Green and direction by Lehman Engel, is an antiwar musical about a young soldier. Produced by the Group Theatre at its height, the show features an enviable cast: John Garfield, Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner, Morris Carnovsky, and Luther Adler. It runs 68 performances at the 44th Street Theatre.

1961 American playwright Dorothy Heyward dies at the age of 81. She wrote Porgy (later adapted for Porgy and Bess) and Mamba's Daughters with her husband DuBose Heyward, and Jonica with Moss Hart.

1962 Charles Boyer stars in Lord Pengo at the Royale Theater. S. N. Behrman adapted his The Days of Duveen specifically for Boyer. The cast of the comedy includes a young Brian Bedford, Agnes Moorehead, Henry Daniell, and Lee Richardson. It runs for 175 performances.

1971 Playwrights Horizons officially opens at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in New York City with a staged reading of Margaret Power's Victims Anonymous. Robert Moss is founder and producing director of the venture to support and encourage new American playwrights.

1973 Birthday of Savion Glover, tap prodigy who stars on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue, and Jelly's Last Jam before the age of 20, and win the Tony Award for Best Choreography for Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, in which he also co-stars.

1981 Katharine Hepburn makes her final Broadway appearance in Ernest Thompson's drama, The West Side Waltz, opposite Dorothy Loudon. The show runs 126 performances at the Barrymore Theatre.

1985 Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport opens at the Booth Theatre with a cast that includes Judd Hirsch and Cleavon Little. The New York Times' Frank Rich pans Rappaport, but it goes on to win the 1986 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play (Hirsch), and run 891 performances. Gardner calls this "proof that there's life after Frank Rich." The 1996 movie version, directed by Gardner himself, included Davis and Walter Matthau.

1997 Peter Riegert, Patti LuPone, and Rebecca Pidgeon star in David Mamet's new play The Old Neighborhood, which opens at the Booth Theatre. The show, which is a trio of scenes, follows a divorced, middle-aged man's emotion-generating visit to his old Chicago neighborhood. The show runs for 197 performances.

2003 Laughing Room Only, a burlesque musical starring Jackie Mason, opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and hands the comedian the shortest Broadway run of his career—14 performances.

2008 Clive Barnes, who covered the New York theatre and dance worlds for four decades, first as a critic for The New York Times and then for the New York Post, dies at age 81.

2009 Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the vibrator play opens at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. Laura Benanti and Michael Cerveris star in the seriocomic period play about a 19th century doctor whose experiments with the latest electronic invention—the vibrator—revolutionizes his practice and transforms his marriage in an unexpected way.

2012 Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul make their Broadway debuts with A Christmas Story, The Musical, opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Despite a limited holiday run, the musical is not forgotten at Tony time, earning nominations for Best Musical, as well as for Pasek and Paul's score, and Joseph Robinette's book. Pasek and Paul return to Broadway four years later with the Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.

2014 Mike Nichols, who first as a performer, and then as a successful director of stage and film, cast a long shadow over Broadway and Hollywood for more than 50 years, dies at age 83. Nichols directed more than 20 Broadway shows, including the original productions of Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Apple Tree, Plaza Suite, The Gin Game, The Real Thing, and Monty Python's Spamalot. He was the winner of nine Tony Awards, including a record six for Direction of a Play.

More of Today's Birthdays: Margaret Mayo 1882. Eleanor Powell 1912. Gene Tierney 1920. Rob Ashford 1959. Allison Janney 1959. Laura Osnes 1985.

Watch songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul perform their song "Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun" from A Christmas Story, The Musical:


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