1896 Birthday of Ruth Gordon, later to star on Broadway in dozens of plays, including Ethan Frome, The Country Wife and her own Years Ago; also in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (source of Hello, Dolly!), and in many films including "Rosemary's Baby" and "Where's Poppa?". She marries playwright Garson Kanin and lives to 1985.
1940 Ethel Merman knocks 'em dead in Cole Porter's Panama Hattie, which opens today at the 46th Street Theatre for a 501-performance run that introduces the standard "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please."
1949 A new musical based on Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country opens tonight at the Music Box Theatre. Kurt Weill provides the music for tonight's Lost in the Stars, whose book and lyrics are by Maxwell Anderson. The story follows black suffering in South Africa and starred Todd Duncan, Leslie Banks, Warren Coleman, and Inez Matthews. What is interesting here is that the musical dealt with racism, but the theatre had a "no coloreds downstairs" policy, meaning blacks weren't even allowed to sit in the orchestra section of the theatre. Receiving a wide variety of reviews — with some critics loving it, and others called it "artful artlessness" — the show will run 281 performances.
1956 A revival of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara opens tonight at the Martin Beck Theatre. Charles Laughton directs this star-studded cast, which includes Glynis Johns, Eli Wallach, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Burgess Meredith. The revival will run 29 weeks, racking up 232 performances.
1963 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Edward Albee opens tonight at the Martin Beck Theatre. John Chapman, critic for the Daily News, calls the show "magnificent theatre." Colleen Dewhurst, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Michael Dunn co-star in this show that is directed by Alan Schneider. Albee's inspiration is the Carson McCullers' story of the same name. The show will run for 123 performances.
1975 Tom Stoppard's Travesties opens at the Barrymore Theatre tonight. Running 156 performances, it stars John Wood and Tim Curry. It focuses on notables like James Joyce and Lenin passing through Zurich in 1917.
2001 Also today, a Halloween Eve resurrection for Broadway's The Rocky Horror Show, which had suspended performances Sept. 23, in the wake of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. The campy musical goes to to play another two months, finally closing Jan. 6, 2002.
2003 The untold story of the witches of The Wizard of Oz lands on Broadway as Wicked opens at the Gershwin Theatre. Idina Menzel (who will win a Tony Award for her performance) and Kristin Chenoweth play the witches, with veteran Joel Grey hoofing as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The production also welcomes back to Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.
2012 Due to the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and the resulting suspension of New York City's public transportation, all Broadway shows are canceled tonight. Performances were also canceled on Oct. 28 and 29. Most Broadway shows will resume Oct. 31.
2014 Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal make their Broadway debuts in Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, opening at the American Airlines Theatre. The Sam Gold-directed production also stars Cynthia Nixon and Josh Hamilton.