1911 William Brady's Playhouse hosts the opening tonight for Bought and Paid For, a new play by George Broadhurst about a wealthy man who eventually wins the love of his wife. During the show's 431 performances, an actor in the show, Frank Craven, is elevated to stardom. Craven will go on to play the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town in 1938. Brooks Atkinson once commented that Craven was "[t]he best pipe and pants-pocket actor in the business."
1933 The first major success of the Group Theatre, Men in White, opens tonight at the Broadhurst Theatre. The show, written by Sidney Kingsley, is about a doctor who has to deal with decisions regarding love vs. duty. Issues included abortion and social reform -- the theatre style for which the Group Theatre would became known. Lee Strasberg directs a cast of what will become a group of very influential people in the theatre: Luther Adler, Robert Lewis, Clifford Odets, J. Edward Bromberg, and Ruth Nelson. Elia Kazan had only one line, "Hello, sweetheart."
1957 "It all began tonight" at the Winter Garden Theatre as West Side Story opens. The Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents classic is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but has New York teenage gangs pitted against each other instead of Verona's dueling families. It includes such classic songs as "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere." The show is choreographed and staged by Peter Gennaro and Jerome Robbins, who came up with the show's original 1949 concept: "East Side Story." The piece evolved, with new music, a new location and a new ethnicity to become what it is tonight. Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence and Chita Rivera star. A film version starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris (who was a member of the original London cast) was released in 1961.
1968 Julian Beck and Judith Malina are arrested tonight in New Haven for marching out into the street virtually undressed. The two co- founders of the Living Theatre have brought their theatre company to the Yale School of Drama for productions of Frankenstein and Paradise Now. The local police chief says, "All the rest of the world may be a stage, but not the corner of York and Chapel." The couple is later acquitted of indecent exposure charges.
1998 Matthew Bourne's newly choreographed theatrical version of the ballet Swan Lake, a hit both in London and Los Angeles, begins its run on Broadway tonight at Neil Simon Theatre. The dance/theatre show, with men dancing the swan roles usually assigned to ballerinas, is co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Katharine Dore. Bourne will win two Tony Awards for the show (for Director of a Musical and Choreographer of a Musical) despite the show's ineligibility as a musical. "I am absolutely astonished," said Bourne in his acceptance speech. "Best director of a musical that's not even a musical." --By Sam Maher and Ernio Hernandez