Today In Theatre History: JANUARY 26

By Robert Viagas
and Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
26 Jan 2014

1925 Birthday of actor Paul Newman, who will star on Broadway in Picnic, The Sweet Bird of Youth and The Desperate Hours before going to Hollywood and becoming a film star. He will make a late-career return to the stage in Our Town (2002).



1927 Saturday's Children, an unlikely comedy penned by Maxwell Anderson, follows the break-up of a marriage and is produced by the Actor's Theatre. Ruth Hammond and Richard Barbee are the couple, Beulah Bondi and Ruth Gordon are also in the cast. There will be 310 performances.

1931 The Theatre Guild produces Lynn Riggs' cowboy play Green Grow the Lilacs, starring Lee Strasberg, Tex Cooper and Franchot Tone. It runs 64 performances at Guild Theatre. A decade later it will be suggested to the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II as the possible basis of a musical. They will turn it into Oklahoma!

1938 Paul Vincent Carroll's play, set in Ireland, contrasts the simple faith of a maid with the learning of a priest. Julie Haydon and Cedric Hardwicke are the Shadow and Substance at the Golden Theatre in New York.

1944 Mary Rolfe is a Wallflower and she'll be one for over six months. That's how long Reginald Denham and Mary Orr's comedy will cling to the Cort Theatre. Joel Marson is also in the cast.

1950 Paul Scofield, Claire Bloom and Margaret Rutherford Ring Round the Moon at the Globe Theatre. Peter Brook directs this Jean Anouilh comedy, adapted by Christopher Fry. There will be 682 performances. Spring 1999 saw a revival of the show on Broadway.

1975 Giant talking lizards emerge from the sea and talk philosophy with a picnicking human couple in Edward Albee's Seascape. It runs just 63 performances at the Shubert Theatre, with Frank Langella as the head lizard, but then wins the Pulitzer Prize.

1988 Watch that chandelier! Tonight's the night Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera makes Broadway's Majestic Theatre its seemingly permanent haunt. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman star in this musicalization of Gaston Leroux's forever-adaptable novel.

1989 Black and Blue opens tonight at the Minskoff Theater. The show is a musical revue, celebrating the influence of American jazz and blues. Black and Blue will receive 10 1989 Tony Award nominations and win three, including one for Ruth Brown as Best Actress in a Musical. Having his first Broadway opening is a 15-year-old tap genius named Savion Glover.

1996 The opening of the Off-Off-Broadway musical Rent proves both triumphant and tragic. Triumphant, because reviews and audience interest pushes the show to Broadway, where it becomes an award-winning smash. Tragic, because one day earlier, Jan. 25, 1996, author-composer Jonathan Larson died of an aortic aneurysm.

2003 Noel Coward's short-lived 1946 operetta Pacific 1860, gets its long-delayed U.S. premiere as part of the Musicals in Mufti series at Off-Broadway's York Theatre Company.

2012 Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway production of Margaret Edson's Wit — the Pulitzer Prize-winning title's Broadway debut — opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Cynthia Nixon stars as Vivian Bearing, a steely poetry professor facing terminal cancer.

More of Today's Birthdays: Maria Augusta Trapp 1905. Jimmy Van Heusen 1913. Jules Feiffer 1929. Christopher Hampton 1946. David Strathairn 1949.