PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: NOVEMBER 12

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
12 Nov 2013

1874 Birthday of pioneering African-American performer-composer Bert Williams (1874-1922), who wrote music for Broadway's In Dahomey (1903) and Abyssinia (1906), but achieved even greater fame as a singer and dancer in five editions of the Ziegfeld Follies between 1910 and 1920.



1918 David Belasco produces and directs Tiger! Tiger!, by Edward Knoblock. The play, with a cast that includes Wallace Erskine, Dorothy Cumming and Lionel Atwill, runs 183 performances.

1922 Birthday of actress Kim Hunter (1922-2002), best known for creating the role of Stella in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

1941 Guy Bolton and W. Somerset Maugham see the opening of their generically-titled play Theatre, which stars Cornelia Otis Skinner, and the ubiquitous George Spelvin (a name used in the program when the actor's real name must be kept secret for one reason or another). It stays at the Hudson Theatre for 69 performances.

1951 Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe ask all to Paint Your Wagon. The show, based on Bret Harte's "Millionaire of Rough and Ready," paints the town for nine months. Holding the brushes are James Barton and Olga San Juan, with choreography by Agnes de Mille.

1957 Birthday of Broadway dancer Karen Ziemba, a favorite of choreographer Susan Stroman and songwriters John Kander & Fred Ebb, who will be featured in The World Goes 'Round, Contact, Never Gonna Dance and Curtains, and who will star in the 1997 musical Steel Pier.

1967 Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway head a black cast in tonight's opening of a revamped version of Hello, Dolly! at the St. James Theatre. After the curtain call, Carol Channing, who has been in the audience, is invited on stage by Pearl Bailey to sing the title song. The show has been running since January 1964 and will rack up a total of 2,844 performances.

1970 Broadway opening night for Sleuth, one of the most successful stage murder mysteries ever. Keith Baxter and Anthony Quayle star in the story of a mystery writer who plots to toy with, then kill, his wife's lover. It runs 1,222 performances at the Music Box Theatre.

1971 Rudolf Friml, pianist and composer of The Firefly, Rose-Marie and The Vagabond King dies at the age of 93.

1989 Tommy Tune directs and choreographs Grand Hotel which opens tonight at the Martin Beck Theatre, based on the early thirties play and film. The score is by Robert Wright, George Forrest and Maury Yeston, but the emphasis is on staging and spectacle. The show will run 1,017 performances.

2001 Los Angeles' new Kodak Theatre makes its debut with The Ovation Awards, the Los Angeles' theatre honors. The building at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, is designed by scenic designer and architect David Rockwell.

2007 Ira Levin, 78, the playwright and novelist who wrote Deathtrap, one of the biggest non-musical hits in Broadway history, dies of a heart attack in his Manhattan apartment.

2012 Christopher Durang's Chekhov-inspired comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which whips characters from the Russian playwright's catalogue into a frothy weekend of costumes, prophesies and existential longing, opens Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The cast features Sigourney Weaver, Kristine Nielsen, David Hyde Pierce, Genevieve Angelson, Shalita Grant and Billy Magnussen. The production will transfer to Broadway in 2013, where it will win the Tony Award for Best Play.

More of Today's Birthdays: Richard A. Whiting 1891. Mary Louise Wilson 1931. Wallace Shawn 1943. Megan Mullally 1958.