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 on Broadway at the Wallack's Theatre. George Arliss stars as the British prime minister in the 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 runs 280 performances on Broadway and then in a few years (April 4, 1916), it runs in London at the Royalty Theatre for 128 performances. The London run stars Dennis Eadie.

1925 The first book show and, consequently, the first musical comedy hit by Rodgers and Hart opens at the Knickerbocker Theatre. It is Dearest Enemy, which contains 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 the musical. They are sung by the stars of the show, who are three superstars of the era: Helen Ford, Flavia Arcaro, and Charles Purcell. The production runs 286 performances.

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

1985 Song and Dance, an interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, opens at the Royale Theatre. Bernadette Peters co-stars with Christopher d'Amboise. The musical ran in London for several previous years and includes 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 runs on Broadway 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 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 in 2001, 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. It runs for only 60 performances.

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.

Watch a cast including Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Andy Mientus perform songs from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime at a 2016 concert on Ellis Island:

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