1948 Ray Bolger, best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, opens in Where's Charley? tonight at the St. James Theatre. The story, adapted by librettist George Abbott, is based on the 1892 Brandon Thomas play, Charley's Aunt, and is set to music by Guys and Dolls genius Frank Loesser. His score includes two well- known musical theatre songs, "My Darling, My Darling" and "Once in Love With Amy." George Balanchine, the well-known choreographer, stages the piece. Unfortunately, no cast album exists because of a musician's strike during the run. Although the show got mixed reviews, it ran 792 performances, and a film version was made in 1952 starring Bolger, who was singled out by some critics as the only reason the show stayed open as long as it did.
1968 George White, who was most commonly known for his productions of Scandals, the vaudevillian revues that rivaled the Ziegfeld Follies of the Jazz Age, died today. His revues, which usually starred the legendary W.C. Fields, were staples of 1920s theatre.
1979 The New York Times adopts a policy of allowing reviews of major productions to be based on preview performances rather than opening nights. Broadway producers were in dismay about this and were outright furious when Walter Kerr (of the Times) had requested, and received, free preview tickets for shows of the season, while those same requests by critics for other major newspapers and magazines weren't honored.
1984 Charles Dutton and Theresa Merrit star tonight in August Wilson's first big Broadway success, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, opening at the Cort Theatre. This play takes place at a Ma Rainey recording session, during which she is having trouble with one of her musicians. Frank Rich, in the New York Times, states that "This play is a searing inside account of what white racism does to its victims." The show will run 275 performances, and then Wilson will go on to write the 1986 hit, Fences, which starred James Earl Jones.
2000 The whine flows freely on Broadway beginning today when Linda Lavin begins previews in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Off-Broadway cast, including Michelle Lee and Tony Roberts,oct. 1 reunites for the Broadway staging of the urban comedy by Charles Busch at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow directs. -- By Sam Maher and Ernio Hernandez