1921 Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, starring Pauline Lord and George Marion, opens tonight at the Vanderbilt Theatre. Critics check their high praise for the show with reservations about the play's "happy ending," suggesting that O'Neill is making concessions to commercial theatre. O'Neill considers the show "a failure," but it will run for 177 performances and will win the author his second Pulitzer Prize.
1937 George M. Cohan stars in the Rodgers and Hart musical I'd Rather Be Right, which opens tonight at the Alvin Theatre. Cohan stars as a man he hates, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The book, written by Hart and George S. Kaufman, follows President Roosevelt's attempts to balance the budget in order to finance a young couple's wedding. The show will run for nine months, with the first of those having Cohan in a leg cast.
1949 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary by starring in S.N. Behrman's comedy. I Know, My Love, which opens tonight at the Shubert Theatre. Oddly enough, the show focuses on a couple looking back over 50 years of marriage. The Lunts will also appear on the cover of Life next week in honor of the event.
1950 George Bernard Shaw dies today. The Irish born playwright and critic was 94 years old. Shaw will be remembered for his contributions to the theatre through his plays Pygmalion, Major Barbara and Saint Joan.
1997 Tonight is the first of many elaborate cast changes in the Broadway hit Rent. Adam Pascal, as the struggling songwriter Roger, and Fredi Walker, playing the successful lawyer Joanne, give their last performances. Gwen Stewart and Norbert Leo Butz, ensemble members, are also giving their last performances in their original roles, as they will take over the roles left behind by Ms. Walker and Mr. Pascal, respectively, at the next performance. With cast members from international and national tour companies coming to the Broadway production constantly, it's hard to keep up with the changes. However, Rent is still going strong on Broadway, having surpassed 1,700 performances in mid-June 2000. ? By Sam Maher and Steve Luber