Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 27

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 27
Austin P. McKenzie and the company of <i>Spring Awakening</i>
Austin P. McKenzie and the company of Spring Awakening Joan Marcus

1898 Birthday of Vincent Youmans, one of the iconic Broadway composers of the 1920s. His scores include No, No, Nanette; Two Little Girls in Blue; Hit the Deck; and Wildflower. His classic showtune is "Tea for Two."

1932 Milton Berle gets his Broadway break in Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1932, which opens at the Broadway Theatre. The former Vaudeville star gets to sing the popular song "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" by Harold Arlen in the production, which is staged by Vincente Minnelli. The show runs for 11 weeks only, racking up 87 performances.

1942 It's the wedding day for two famous couples, both very significant in the theatre world. Jessica Tandy marries Hume Cronyn, starting a relationship that would blossom on stage as well as off, since they often work together. They star on Broadway in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance in 1966 and D.L. Coburn's The Gin Game in 1977, as well as the films Foxfire and Batteries Not Included. Stella Adler and Harold Clurman also marry today. Both are founders of the Group Theatre, a socially-conscious troupe that became one of the most influential theatre companies of the century.

1966 The Actors Studio announces that it will cancel its season due to a funding shortage. The Three Sisters was the last production, having taken place in 1964, and the profits left the company with just enough money to retain an infrastructure.

1972 The first graduating class of the Drama Division at the Juilliard School (referred to as "Group I") is directed by John Houseman in a production of School for Scandal. It's the first production of the City Center Acting Company and takes place at the Good Shepherd-Faith Church at Lincoln Center. Kevin Kline, playing Charles Surface, gets rave reviews from The New Yorker ("handsome," "rollicking"), but Patti LuPone's Lady Teazle does not get such great notices. She "has not yet the stage presence or dignity" for the role, but "she is appropriately merry and sly."

1977 Estelle Parsons turns a whole Broadway theatre into her classroom and the audience into her unruly students in Miss Margarida's Way, which opens at the Ambassador Theatre. Parsons' tour-de-force performance earns her a Tony nomination as Best Actress in a Play.

1999 The season at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre kicks off with Bluff, a new comedy-drama by playwright Jeffrey Sweet. Directed by Sandy Shinner, Bluff stars Jon Cryer, known for his work in films such as Pretty In Pink. The play tells of a young couple coping with family baggage.

2003 Donald O'Connor, who appeared in a few Broadway musicals late in his career but is remembered by millions for his breezy, comic footwork in films like Singin' in the Rain, dies in California at age 78. Many critics consider his slapstick masterpiece "Make 'Em Laugh" the highlight of that film and one of the most sublimely perfect moments in movie musical history. On Broadway, he was Cap'n Andy in the 1983 revival of Show Boat. Two years earlier, he toplined the very short-lived Bring Back Birdie.

2004 Val Kilmer warbles the phrase "Let my people go..." in song as Moses in The Ten Commandments: The Spectacle Musical, which opens at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

2009 Peter Sellars' contemporary take on William Shakespeare's Othello, which aims to shed new light on race and power in modern politics, opens at the NYU Skirball Center. The co-production between The Public Theater and LAByrinth Theater Company stars John Ortiz in the title role opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman as Iago.

2012 Manhattan Theatre Club's revival of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, adapted by British dramatist Rebecca Lenkiewicz and directed by Doug Hughes, opens on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Boyd Gaines plays the righteous title character, with Richard Thomas as his mayor-brother.

2015 Deaf West Theatre's re-imagined production of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's musical Spring Awakening, performed simultaneously in English and American Sign Language, opens on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

More of Today's Birthdays: Joseph McCarthy 1885. Jayne Meadows 1920. Stephen Douglass 1921. Arthur Penn 1922. Mary McCarty 1923. Sada Thompson 1929. Meat Loaf 1947.

Watch highlights from the 2015 Broadway revival of Spring Awakening:

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