By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
20 Nov 2013
1934 Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour opens tonight at Maxine Elliot's Theatre. It's lesbian theme causes a stire, but Brooks Atkinson calls the play "venomously tragic." The stars are Anne Revere, Katherine Emery, and Florence McGee in this show that will run for 691 performances.
1943 An interesting wartime artifact, Winged Victory, opens a 212-performance run at the 44th Street Theatre. Moss Hart writes the script and Sgt. David Rose writes the music for this military-themed play with music, the only Broadway show ever produced by The U.S. Army Air Forces.
1946 Lillian Hellman has another show on Broadway on this day in theatre history. This time, she directs her play, Another Part of the Forest, which opens tonight at the Fulton Theatre. It revisits some of the characters from The Little Foxes earlier in their lives. The cast includes Patricia Neal, Mildred Dunnock, and Leo Genn in the 23-week run.
1952 George Axelrod's comedy The Seven Year Itch, about a married man longing to stray with a beautiful neighbor, opens tonight at the Fulton Theatre. The cast includes Tom Ewell and Vanessa Brown in the role that Marilyn Monroe would immortalize in the 1955 movie (which also starred Ewell). This Broadway production would run for an incredible 1,141 performances and win Ewell a Tony Award for Best Dramatic Actor.
1957 The Rope Dancers, directed by Peter Hall, with a cast including Siobhán McKenna, Art Carney, Joan Blondell and Theodore Bikel begins a 24-week run. This drama by Morton Wishengrad deals with the lives of a New York tenement family at the turn of the century.
1966 "Life is beautiful" inside the Broadhurst Theatre tonight as Cabaret opens. Adapted by Joe Masteroff from Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the show will run for 1,165 performances. It will go on to win seven Tony Awards including Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Joel Grey. The 1997 Roundabout Theatre Company revival will star Alan Cumming and win a Tony Award for Best Revival.
1983 Opening night for Marilyn: An American Fable, a rock opera about the life of movie star Marilyn Monroe. Despite a team of ten songwriters working on the score, the show manages just 17 performances at the Minskoff Theatre. Alyson Reed played Norma Jean/Marilyn.
1990 James Clavell's best-selling novel Shogun, the Musical becomes an unsuccessful musical, debuting tonight at the Marquis Theatre. The Paul Chihara-John Driver show, with elaborate costumes and sets, stars Philip Casnoff. "Pillowing" is the only song in a Broadway musical this season in praise of sexual toys: "It never tires of women like a lazy, jaded man."
2001 A memorably starry benefit concert of Dreamgirls features performances by Audra McDonald, Heather Headley and Lillias White as the title characters, along with Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patrick Wilson, Adam Pascal, Tamara Tunie, Darius de Haas, Norm Lewis and Billy Porter.
2002 Without an understudy and up a creek due to the illness of the lead actress (Misty Cotton) in its staging of The Spitfire Grill, the Laguna Playhouse in California puts out an all-points bulletin to find a replacement to star in its three week-old production. New York composer James Valcq gets a frantic request from California: Are any Percys from recent regional productions willing and able to jump into the production? Valcq has the answer: New York actress Kathryn Blake, who was nominated for a 2002 Carbonell Award for her performance in the Florida Stage production. She jets to California and jumps back into the role for the rest of the run.
2008 The Lincoln Center Theater production of Horton Foote’s Dividing the Estate, starring Elizabeth Ashley, Hallie Foote, Penny Fuller and Gerald McRaney, opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. Michael Wilson directs the comedy-drama about the battling Gordon clan of Harrison, Texas, who must decide whether to sell the family mansion to developers.
2011 Seminar, Theresa Rebeck's play about the creative and personal tensions of four young novelists who are taking a private writing class with a potentially damaging teacher, opens on Broadway at the Golden Theatre. The production stars Alan Rickman as the acid-tongued teacher, with Lily Rabe, Jerry O'Connell, Hamish Linklater and Hettienne Park as his students.