Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 28

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 28
 
Gregory Jbara and Trent Kowalik in Billy Elliot: The Musical.
Gregory Jbara and Trent Kowalik in Billy Elliot: The Musical. Carol Rosegg

1892 Birthday of playwright Elmer Rice (1892 -1967), author of many dramas including Street Scene, Counsellor-at-Law, Dream Girl, The Grand Tour, and the libretto to Kurt Weill's musical based on Street Scene. He is also instrumental in the development of other playwrights' careers as co-producer of The Playwrights' Company.

1926 Anita Loos and her husband, John Emerson, adapt her novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, to the stage. June Walker stars in the comedy about a girl from Little Rock who collects wealthy men and costly gifts. It runs 199 performances at the Times Square Theatre and then opens in London in 1928. In 1949, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes returns to Broadway as a musical, starring Carol Channing.

1961 Ossie Davis's new comedy, Purlie Victorious, opens at the Cort Theatre. Davis himself stars in the production, which is the basis for the 1963 film, Gone are the Days and the 1970 musical, Purlie. The comedy focuses on a young man from a small town in Georgia and his desire for the races to worship together in churches. Among Davis' co-stars are Ruby Dee, Godfrey Cambridge, and Alan Alda. The production, which runs 261 performances, is directed by Howard Da Silva.

1961 Actor Gregory Jbara is born in Wayne, Michigan. His Broadway appearances include the original Broadway productions of Victor/Victoria and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and he wins a Tony Award for his performance in Billy Elliot: The Musical.

1977 'Tis the season to be Bram Stoker, as one of two adaptations of his novel Dracula opens in New York. The Passion of Dracula by Bob Hall and David Richmond haunts Off-Broadway's Cherry Lane Theatre, with Christopher Bernau vamping it up as the notorious Count. On October 20, Frank Langella takes on the role in a Broadway production of Dracula by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane.

1982 Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn become the new co-artistic directors of the Actor's Studio, which began its first session on October 5, 1947. Burstyn was also the president of Actor's Equity—the first woman elected to that post.

1999 Canadian theatregoers, Andrew Lloyd Webber fans, and headbangers with black-and-white painted faces unite as Paul Stanley, the frontman for the rock band KISS, dons the mask of The Phantom of the Opera at Toronto's Pantages Theatre. The singer, reprising the role he played earlier in the year, closes out the production which extends for a month.

2003 Elia Kazan, the influential and controversial stage and film director who had a critical impact on post-World War II American theatre, dies at his New York home at age 94. He created the original stagings of Arthur Miller's first two major plays, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, his efforts going a long way toward establishing Miller as a leading American playwright. He was also a force in the career of Tennessee Williams, directing A Streetcar Named Desire, Sweet Bird of Youth, Camino Real, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Kazan also directed the original productions of such important works as The Skin of Our Teeth, Tea and Sympathy, J.B., One Touch of Venus, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, but was ostracized by many of his contemporaries after he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee during the anti-communist McCarthy-era "witch hunts" of the 1950s.

2010 The Broadway premiere of Brief Encounter, Kneehigh Theatre's highly theatrical and widely acclaimed adaptation of Noël Coward's stage and film romance, opens at Studio 54. The U.K.-originated staging, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, includes puppets, songs, incidental music, dance, melodrama, film projections, and comedy to create a unique hybrid.

2014 A revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy You Can't Take It With You opens on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. The starry cast includes James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Ashley, Julie Halston, Kristine Nielsen, Mark Linn-Baker, and Annaleigh Ashford. Ashford will win a Tony Award for her performance as Essie.

2016 Judith Light stars in the world premiere of Neil LaBute's solo play All The Ways To Say I Love You, opening Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Light plays a high school English teacher and guidance counselor in a long-time, loving marriage, who finds herself looking back at pivotal choices and moments in her life.

Watch highlights from the 2010 Broadway production of Brief Encounter:

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