Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 14

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 14
Nancy Franklin, Loida Santos, Patrick Jude, and P.J. Benjamin in Charlie and Algernon.
Nancy Franklin, Loida Santos, Patrick Jude, and P.J. Benjamin in Charlie and Algernon.

1910 Birthday of Lehman Engel, the Tony-winning Broadway conductor who founds the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. Among the shows he conducts are the original productions of Wonderful Town, Fanny, Li'l Abner, Do Re Mi, Call Me Mister, and The Consul. He wins the Tony in 1953 as outstanding musical director, an award that is later discontinued.

1916 The Longacre Theatre is the host for the opening of a new comedy by James Montgomery, Nothing But The Truth. William Collier stars in the play that follows a stock broker trying not to tell a lie for 24 hours in order to win a $10,000 bet.

1925 The Jazz Singer by Samson Raphaelson opens at the Fulton Theatre. George Jessel stars as the cantor's son, Jackie Rabinowitz, who is tempted away from religious music by jazz. The melodrama runs 303 performances, and makes history in 1927 as the first commercially released sound film.

1936 Following a summer hiatus, the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 re-opens at the Winter Garden Theatre. It features songs by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin, and performances by Fanny Brice, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Bob Hope.

1949 Treasure Hunt, a comedy by M. J. Farrell and John Perry, opens at the Apollo Theatre in London and tells of an aristocratic pair who decide to take in paying guests to maintain their almost bankrupt estate. The play is directed by John Gielgud and stars Sybil Thorndike, Alan Webb, and Marie Lohr. It runs for 11 months.

1960 Bette Davis, Clark Allen, and Leif Erickson take part in staged readings of The World of Carl Sandburg. The poetry-based piece runs at Henry Miller's Theatre until October 8.

1972 Opening night of Jason Miller's drama, That Championship Season, about the reunion of a high school basketball team at which many long-buried truths are revealed. The cast features Charles Durning, Paul Sorvino, Richard A. Dysart, and Walter McGinn. It runs 700 performances and wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

1980 Charles Strouse provides music for Charlie and Algernon which opens at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The musical is based on the same source material as the 1968 film Charly, about a mentally disabled man who is temporarily transformed into a genius. It lasts only 17 performances before closing September 28. The composer suffers another blow later in the season when his Bring Back Birdie—a sequel to his successful Bye Bye Birdie—runs only 4 performances.

1989 The first Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical Sweeney Todd opens at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Beth Fowler and Bob Gunton star in the production, which previously played a sold-out Off-Broadway engagement at the York Theatre Company. It runs 188 performances.

2000 Writer-performer Pamela Gien takes on 28 roles spanning four generations of South Africans, from apartheid to freedom, in The Syringa Tree at Off-Broadway's Playhouse 91. The play wins the 2001 Obie Award for Best Play and earns Gien a 2001 Drama Desk Award in the category of Solo Performance. Gien is replaced by Kate Blumberg on August 1, 2001 as she exits to work on a film adaptation of the play.

2005 Robert Wise, the Academy Award-winning producer-director who brought the musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music to the big screen, dies at age 91.

2008 Following an award-winning run at Los Angeles' El Portal Theatre, The Marvelous Wonderettes opens at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre Upstairs. Written and directed by Roger Bean, the musical features classic songs of the fifties and sixties in a journey back to the 1958 Springfield High School prom.

2009 Patrick Swayze, who boasted Broadway and West End theatrical credits but was best known for his work in several hit Hollywood films, dies at age 57, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Swayze made his Broadway debut in the original Broadway run of Grease as a replacement Danny Zuko and later appeared in the short-lived musical Goodtime Charley, and as Billy Flynn in the Broadway revival of Chicago. He earned Golden Globe nominations for his roles in the films Dirty Dancing, Ghost, and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

2015 Nicole Kidman returns to the London stage for the first time since 1998's The Blue Room in Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, opening at the Noël Coward Theatre.

More of Today's Birthdays: A. E. Anson 1879. Kay Medford 1920. Zoe Caldwell 1933. Nicol Williamson 1938.

Flip through photos from the three Broadway productions of Sweeney Todd:

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