PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JUNE 29

By Ernio Hernandez
and Robert Viagas and Doug Nevins
29 Jun 2013

1954 A star is born as Carol Haney's understudy in The Pajama Game goes on in place of the ailing actress and is discovered by theatre critic George Freedly. Writes Freedly in his review of the musical: "The night I saw the show, Miss Haney was sick and her understudy Shirley MacLaine took over. It was one of the most accomplished and completely professional performances I have had the pleasure of enjoying." It will not be long at all before the future Academy Award winner MacLaine will come to Hollywood's attention.



1983 Broadway's Alvin Theatre, home of the original Broadway production of Annie, is renamed in honor of celebrated American playwright Neil Simon. The Neil Simon Theatre will go on to house many Broadway smashes, including revivals of The King and I and The Music Man, and the original production of Hairspray.

1993 Howard Crabtree's Whoop-Dee-Doo!, the musical revue conceived, created and developed by Charles Catanese, Phillip George, Peter Morris, Dick Gallagher, Mark Waldrop and its namesake, Howard Crabtree, opens at the Actors' Playhouse. The latter three would later collaborate on When Pigs Fly, but Crabtree will fall ill due to complications of AIDS and die June 28, 1996 before the show opened on Aug. 14.

2000 Thrice extended at Chicago's Goodman Studio Theatre, Rebecca Gilman's comedy Spinning Into Butter now gets to melt the hearts of New Yorkers. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show arrives at Lincoln Center Theater's Off- Broadway venue, the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre.

2003 Katharine Hepburn, the legendary Oscar-winning actress whose heart always remained close to the live theatre, dies at age 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a few miles from the Ivoryton Playhouse where she played early stage roles. Among her stage roles was Coco Chanel in a 1970 musical, Coco, and in Broadway's The West Side Waltz, by Ernest Thompson, author of "On Golden Pond" (one of Hepburn's film hits). Her early Broadway triumphs included the original production of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story. She won four Leading Actress Academy Awards in her lifetime and was nominated 12 times in the category.

2006 Lloyd Richards dies at 87. The groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning, African-American director shepherded the work of black playwrights Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson and served as the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference — the O'Neill Center's founding program — for 32 years. He also served throughout the 1980s as dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre.

Today's Birthdays: H. H. Frazee 1880. Frank Loesser 1910. Ruth Warrick 1915. Ralph Burns 1922. Arthur Storch 1925. James Patterson 1932. Brian d'Arcy James 1968. Emily Skinner 1970.