1922 Hamlet opens tonight at the Sam Harris Theatre. John Barrymore in the title role is "the new and lasting Hamlet," says the New York Times. This show, which was produced and directed by Arthur Hopkins with sets by Robert Edmond Jones, ran 101 performances.
1935 Jumbo lumbers into the transformed Hippodrome. Billy Rose paid $340,000 for a circus motif and live acts to fill the stage. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur write the book, Rodgers and Hart the lyrics and music, Jimmy Durante stars, yet the 233 performances pay back only half the investment.
1940 Theatre manager, owner, and impressario Martin Beck dies at age 71. In addition to the New York City theatre that bears his name, he also built the Palace and State Lake Theatres in Chicago.
1959 The hills of the theatre district are alive with The Sound of Music tonight, as the musical opens at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel star in this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, with book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The story follows the Von Trapp family and the appearance of their new governess, who helps the family gain courage in a time of insurmountable challenges. The show will run a whopping 1,443 performances and include the classics "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "Edelweiss." This original production ties for the 1960 Best Musical Tony Award (with Fiorello!. A movie would be made in 1965 starring Julie Andrews and a 1998 mounting will again get nominated for the Tony Award, this time for Best Revival.
1964 A musical version of the 19th century melodrama The Drunkard, retitled The Wayward Way, opens at the New Lyric, Hammersmith. Jim Dale is in the cast. 1990 A revival of Gypsy, starring Tyne Daly as Mama Rose, opens at the St. James Theatre. The show, which co-starred Crista Moore, was Frank Rich of the New York Times' favorite musical, so a review from him included the words "goose bump-raising torrents of laughter and tears." Other critics were lukewarm, but the show ran for 476 performances, plus 105 more in a return engagement at the Marquis Theatre.
2000 British actress Janie Dee makes her New York stage debut in the role that won her London's Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards, playing a futuristic robot-actor in Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, opening tonight at Manhattan Theatre Club. The play, set in the future, offers a world where actors and "actoids" are indistinguishable. An aspiring screenwriter gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself smitten with his almost-human leading lady.
-- By Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley