Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 18

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 18
Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance.
Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance. Kenn Duncan / The New York Public Library

1911 Disraeli, a new drama, opens tonight on Broadway at the Wallack's Theatre. It stars George Arliss as the British prime minister in this play by Louis N. Parker. Arliss' memorable performance gains him so much credit, he is asked to reprise his role in the film version. This stage production ran 280 performances on Broadway and then in a few years (April 4, 1916), it will run in London at the Royalty Theatre for 128 performances. The London run starred Dennis Eadie.

1925 The first book show and, consequently, the first musical comedy hit of Rodgers and Hart opens tonight at the Knickerbocker Theatre. It is Dearest Enemy, which contained Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's music and lyrics and Herbert Fields' words. The story is about an American girl who falls in love with a British soldier during the American Revolution. "Here in My Arms" and "By and Bye" are two popular songs that come from this musical. They were sung by the stars of the show, who were three superstars of the era: Helen Ford, Flavia Arcaro and Charles Purcell. The show will run 286 performances.

1975 Nine Broadway musicals are closed down today as musicians go on strike to demand a raise in their basic salaries ($290 a week). The musicians picketed for at least $380 a week. Other unions deem this unfair and do not respect the picket lines. A general consensus was that there should have been more consultations.

1985 Song and Dance, an interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, opens tonight at the Royale Theatre. Bernadette Peters co-stars with Christopher d'Amboise. The musical had run in London for several previous years and included the music of Lloyd Webber's album "Variations" and the songs from a cycle by Webber and Don Black called Tell Me on a Sunday. It will run for 474 performances.

1998 Craig Lucas' The Dying Gaul, which recently received high critical praise but a short life at the Vineyard Theatre, returns to that Off-Broadway theatre tonight for a five-week engagement. The drama examines a struggling screenwriter who becomes professionally and emotionally compromised by his relationship to a studio boss and his wife.

2001 Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren star in a Broadway revival of Dance of Death. Both go on to be nominated for Academy Awards in 2002. Also on this date, Reefer Madness, a musical based on the campy anti-drug film, opens Off-Broadway.

2008 Nearly two decades of writing, workshops and rewriting come to a climax with the opening of Jill Santoriello’s musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. James Barbour plays drunken lawyer Sydney Carton who is redeemed by his love for a good woman in the musical set in London and Paris during the French Revolution. Also featured in the cast are Gregg Edelman, Brandi Burkhardt and Aaron Lazar.

2012 John Cullum, Darren Pettie, Sarah Sokolovic, Amy Ryan and David Schwimmer star in the New York City premiere of Lisa D'Amour's Detroit, opening Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons' Mainstage Theater. The play about two couples who bond and then see their lives unravel during a backyard barbecue, was a finalist for the 2011 Pulizer Prize.

2014 A Broadway revival of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, featuring a rotating company of stars, opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow are the first to appear, with Carol Burnett, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen joining later in the run. Although Anjelica Huston, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg and Martin Sheen are announced to join the production in its later weeks, poor ticket sales force it to close before their planned start dates.

Today's Birthdays: Harold Clurman 1901. Agnes De Mille 1905. Jack Warden 1920. Anna Deavere Smith 1950. Stephen Flaherty 1960. James Gandolfini 1961.

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