PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: MAY 17

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas
17 May 2014

1907 The new Hippodrome Theatre opens in Portsmouth, England.



1920 Future composer-lyricist Bob Merrill is born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He will write Take Me Along, New Girl in Town and Carnival!, as well as the timeless lyrics to Funny Girl with Jule Styne.

1937 In protest of cuts in the Federal Theatre budget, the Federal Theatre Project's Dance Unit currently performing a double-bill of Candide and How Long Brethern urges the audience to join them in a sit-down strike. The audience acquiesces.

1956 Peter Ustinov writes and is featured in Romanoff and Juliet. This comedy will play at London's Piccadilly Theatre for 47 weeks.

1971 Stephen Schwartz's musical Godspell opens Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre tonight. Three months later, it moves to the Promenade Theatre. All told, the show, which stars Lamar Alford as the up-to-date son of God, plays 2,124 performances. Godspell will make its Broadway debut in 1976.

1985 Librettist and director Abram Solman Borowitz, better known as Abe Burrows, dies today at the age of 74. Best known for his work with composer-lyricist Frank Loesser on Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he also penned the books for Silk Stockings and Can-Can.

2005 Frank Gorshin, 72, the actor, comedian and impressionist known for playing the frisky Riddler in the 1960s TV series "Batman," and George Burns in the solo play Say Goodnight, Gracie (for which he won the Outer Critics Circle Award), dies after a battle with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia. He also starred on Broadway in the short-lived musical Jimmy, about NY Mayor Jimmy Walker.

2006 Cy Feuer, the legendary Broadway producer and director whose credits, with late partner Ernest H. Martin, included Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying dies at home in Manhattan at age 95.

2012 A West End production of Neil Simon's 1972 comedy The Sunshine Boys, starring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths, opens at London's Savoy Theatre. Thea Sharrock directs the play about two vaudeville stars who reunite after not having spoken in years.