PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 2

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas
02 Oct 2013

1890 Julius Henry Marx is born in New York. Under the nickname "Groucho," he and his brothers form one of the most enduring comedy acts ever, The Marx Brothers, rising from Vaudeville to Broadway, and later recreating their Broadway hits on film, including The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers.



1893 Charley's Aunt opens on Broadway, becoming one of the most enduring farces ever, later serving as the basis for the 1948 musical Where's Charley?

1896 Birthday of Bud Abbott, the "straight man" half of the comedy team Abbott and Costello. They appeared together in one Broadway musical, Streets of Paris, in 1939, but the team would use Burlesque as their route to film fame.

1933 Ah, Wilderness!, a rare comedy from Eugene O'Neill, opens on Broadway at the Guild Theatre. Starring George M. Cohan as Nat Miller, it will run for 35 weeks.

1953 Comedy in Music, Victor Borge's solo revue of jokes and piano virtuosity, opens on Broadway and runs for 849 performances, still a record for a solo musical revue.

1958 Eugene O'Neill is the posthumous toast of Broadway tonight as his A Touch of the Poet opens at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The cast, directed by Harold Clurman, includes Kim Stanley and Helen Hayes, playing mother and daughter. Brooks Atkinson called the two ladies "the two finest actresses of their respective generations." The play, about a 19th century Irish family living in New England, runs 284 performances.

1981 John Raitt and Rosemary Yorba were married today. The two had been engaged in 1940, but since their families disapproved, they went on to marry others. Today they are together at last.

1994 The elaborate Harold Prince revival of Show Boat opens tonight at the Gershwin Theatre, with racial issues coming to the fore. The original production, which opened in 1927, contained the word "nigger." The word was, for the most part, retained in the revival, even though the opening lyric of "Ol' Man River" is now "Colored folks work on the Mississippi." Elaine Stritch, Rebecca Luker, and Mark Jacoby star in the revival.

1996 The Theresa Rebeck adaptation of Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros gets an Off-Broadway revival at Theater Four. The production begins tonight under the direction of Michael Murray. It is the first major revival since the original Broadway production in 1961.

2001 Richard Rodgers Production Award-winning musical The Spitfire Grill opens Off-Broadway. With music and book by James Valcq, the show's cast album is dedicated to the memory of lyricist/co-librettist Fred Alley, who died suddenly just as the show was being prepared for its initial reading.

2003 Hunter Foster and Kerry Butler star in a Broadway production of Alan Menken & Howard Ashman's musical Little Shop of Horrors, which ran for several years Off-Broadway in the 1980s, but only now makes its Broadway debut. The production will run 10 months at the Virginia Theatre.

2005 August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of an epic cycle of dramas about the African-American experience in the 20th century, dies after a battle with cancer at age 60. His plays include Fences, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Within weeks of his death, Broadway's Virginia Theatre will be renamed for him.

2007 George Grizzard, 79, the actor particularly known for his work in the plays of Edward Albee and who starred as Nick in the original Broadway production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, dies of complications of lung cancer in Manhattan.

2008 Kristin Scott Thomas stars in a Broadway revival of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Thomas recreates her performance as Arkadina that won her an Olivier Award when the show originated at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The production also features Peter Sarsgaard as Trigorin, Mackenzie Crook as Konstantin and Carey Mulligan as Nina. Ian Rickson directs Christopher Hampton’s new translation of the drama about a master actress and the writers and artists who gather at her summer home.