Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 6

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 6
Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in Big Fish
Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in Big Fish Paul Kolnik

1919 Hitchy-Koo 1919 proves to be a minor success for star Raymond Hitchcock, but it produces the first song hit, "Old Fashioned Garden," for its 28-year-old composer, Cole Porter.

1921 Following his success in Sigmund Romberg's Sinbad, Al Jolson returns to Broadway today with another Romberg hit, Bombo, but the show's biggest song hits are contributed by other composers, including "Toot Toot Tootsie," "April Showers" and "My Mammy," all of which debut today.

1948 The original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke opens with Margaret Phillips as Alma Winemiller. It runs a disappointing 102 performances and is considered minor Williams — until a downtown production in the 1950s establishes the play's reputation, and that of its new star, Geraldine Page, as well as helping to ignite the Off-Broadway movement.

1969 A New York Drama Desk symposium occurs today with Edward Albee defending the intentionally altered production of his play Tiny Alice at the ANTA Theatre. The original production, directed by Alan Schneider in 1964, starring Irene Worth and John Gielgud, had taken certain creative liberties the playwright did not agree with. Director William Ball was in the audience when Albee's remark about changing the playwright's intentions in a production was made. "A fine line," Albee says, "exists between creative interpretation and usurpation."

1974 Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston give "two of the finest performances of the season," according to the Post. They opened tonight in the David Merrick produced musical about the silent film era, Mack & Mabel. Jerry Herman wrote songs and lyrics, Gower Champion staged, Michael Stewart wrote the book, and stars Peters and Preston are given rave reviews, but despite all this, the production will run only 66 performances at the Majestic Theatre.

1977 The Gin Game by D.L. Coburn opens tonight at the John Golden Theatre. The play, directed by Mike Nichols, is about a frustrated couple — Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy — in a nursing home who find themselves playing a not-too-friendly game of cards. The show will run 517 performances before Cronyn and Tandy will reprise their roles in the London production in 1979, which runs for eight weeks.

1998 Margaret Edson's drama, Wit, opens its Off-Broadway run at the Manhattan Class Company. The play, which focuses on a woman's struggle with fourth-stage ovarian cancer, will win the year's Pulitzer Prize Award for Drama. Derek Anson Jones directs star Kathleen Chalfant in the show that will run at the theatre through Dec. 13 and then move to OB's Union Square Theatre Jan. 7, 1999, for a total of 75 performances at MCC and 545 performances at the Union Square. The play will make its Broadway debut in 2012, in a production starring Cynthia Nixon.

2009 Donmar Warehouse's dark and wintry production of Hamlet — directed by Michael Grandage and starring Jude Law as the Prince of Denmark — opens on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.

2010 F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic "The Great Gatsby" is brought to life as Elevator Repair Service's Gatz opens at the Public Theater. The office-set theatrical marathon presents the entire novel – word-for-word – over the course of six and a half hours.

2013 Andrew Lippa and John August's musical Big Fish, a father-and-son tale based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the subsequent 2003 film by August, opens at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it stars Norbert Leo Butz, Bobby Steggert and Kate Baldwin. Reviews are mixed, and it will close after 98 performances.

2014 Marian Seldes, a career stage actress who was perhaps as famous for her grand and gracious off-stage manner as she was for her plentiful and expert turns on Broadway and off, dies at age 86. She appeared in two dozen Broadway productions, from her Broadway debut as Attendant to Judith Anderson's Medea in 1947, to starring opposite Angela Lansbury in Deuce in 2007. Ms. Seldes won a Tony Award for her performance in the original production of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, and was named in The Guinness Book of Records for never missing a single performance of Deathtrap's 1,793 performance Broadway run.

2015 Clive Owen and Eve Best star in a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times, opening at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre.

More of Today's Birthdays: Janet Gaynor 1906. Anna Quayle 1936. Elisabeth Shue 1963. Michael Arden 1982.

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