Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 26

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 26
Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in Rent.
Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in Rent. Joan Marcus

1844 Edward Harrigan, half of the iconic 1880s writing and performing team of Harrigan and Hart, is born today. He and Tony Hart will create the popular Mulligan Guards characters reflecting New York's immigrant polyglot. He'll become the subject of a 1985 Broadway musical Harrigan 'n Hart.

1931 Opening night of Mourning Becomes Electra, Eugene O'Neill's epic nine-hour reimagining of the Greek Oresteia as a saga of the American Civil War. Starring Alla Nazimova and Earle Larimore, it runs 150 performances at the Guild Theatre.

1946 A revival of The Playboy of the Western World, by John Millington Synge, opens tonight at the Booth Theatre. Maureen Stapleton and Julie Harris are both making their Broadway debut in this production. The show has Burgess Meredith as its star, and the staging is done by Guthrie McClintic. The show will run 10 weeks.

1955 Opening night of The Chalk Garden, Enid Bagnold's comedy, starring Siobhán McKenna, Marian Seldes, Gladys Cooper and Fritz Weaver.

1965 David Carradine plays the Inca king whose country was attacked by conquistador Francisco Pizarro, played by Christopher Plummer, in Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun, which opens tonight at the American National Theatre & Academy Theatre (ANTA). John Dexter directs this show, which will run 261 performances.

1968 An investment of $130,000 by the Theatre 69 repertory theatre company is lost today as they give up after only a two week trial. The group was organized to produce a series of straight dramas at the Billy Rose Theatre (now the Nederlander), including works by Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett. Frank Rich called the project "the most adventuresome experiment Broadway has seen in years." But adventuresome doesn't always mean successful. The group just couldn't seem to find an audience in this already "economically troublesome year," as put by Otis L. Guernsey in his "The Best Plays of 1968-1969."

1971 Birthday of Anthony Rapp, who will rise to fame as the original Mark Cohen in Rent, and who later appears in the title role of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

1974 Today is the first day of rehearsals for the musical Chicago. Choreographer-director Bob Fosse will be hospitalized shortly after, though, and the opening of the show will be postponed until June 3, 1975. Original cast members Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Jerry Orbach are all present for this first rehearsal.

1993 Harold Rome dies today. A composer and lyricist, his shows include Call Me Mister, Wish You Were Here, and I Can Get it for You Wholesale, which starred a young Barbra Streisand.

2000 Opening night of David Yazbek and Terrence McNally's The Full Monty, a musical adaptation of the hit British film about a group of unemployed blue-collar workers who become male strippers in order to pay their bills. Featuring Patrick Wilson, Andre De Shields, Kathleen Freeman and Emily Skinner, it runs 770 performances at the O'Neill Theatre.

2001 Elaine Stritch begins performances on her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, at The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. Directed by George C. Wolfe, the show will earn raves, move to Broadway, and eventually win the 2002 Tony Award for Outstanding Special Event.

2003 Doris Eaton Travis, Lucille Layton, Barbara Hunter and Charles Eaton are among Ziegfeld Follies alumni who gather at Broadway's restored New Amsterdam Theatre to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the grand playhouse on 42nd Street.

2010 Musicians Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli, Steve Landes and Mark Beyer conjure the iconic British rock group the Beatles in Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles, which opens at the Neil Simon Theatre. The multi-media concert features the band's greatest hits performed live and note-for-note.

2014 The Last Ship, a folk-rock musical with music and lyrics by Sting — inspired by the songwriter's own childhood — opens on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. Directed by Joe Mantello, it stars Michael Esper, Rachel Tucker, Jimmy Nail and Sally Ann Triplett. When the musical struggles at the box office, Sting himself joins the cast for a limited engagement, but the musical still closes after only 105 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Margaret Wycherly 1881. Maureen Anderman 1946. Rondi Reed 1952. Will Swenson 1973.

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