PLAYBILL ARCHIVES: The Miracle Worker — 1959

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03 Mar 2010


(This is one in a series of Playbill.com features offering a periodic look back at Broadway and Playbill history, timed to accompany a new production of or an event related to a show from theatre's past. A Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker starring Abigail Breslin and Alison Pill opens March 3 at Circle in the Square Theatre. Here's a glimpse at the 1959 Playbill of the original production, with some perspective on the period.)

[flipbook]Alaska became the 49th state of the union. Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Mattel debuted a new doll named Barbie. The music world suffered the loss of jazz great Billie Holiday. And a new television series by Rod Serling called "The Twilight Zone" just premiered on CBS. It was 1959.

The new season on the Great White Way began with Billy Barnes Revue. John Gielgud starred in a production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Harold Clurman directed George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House. Lorraine Hansberry's ground-breaking A Raisin in the Sun was still playing when William Gibson's new play, The Miracle Worker, arrived at the Playhouse Theatre.

Anne Bancroft, Patricia Neal and Torin Thatcher claimed above-the-title status for Gibson's The Miracle Worker, which also featured a ten-year-old Broadway newcomer named Patty Duke. Arthur Penn directed the production, centering on the story of Helen Keller, which opened Oct. 19.

In the Playbill, among advertisements for cars (the "superlative '60 Chevrolet" Impala or the "Rocket Engine" of Oldsmobile), perfumes, the Roosevelt Raceway and the Aqueduct, cigarettes and plenty of alcohol were full-pagers for Columbia Records' original cast recordings and the RCA Victor "two-record album" of An Evening with Lerner & Loewe.



Editorial featured in the Playbill included a look at John Gassner's "Library of Best American Plays" five-volume set featuring the series of collection from 1916-29, 1930-39, 1939-46, 1945-51 and 1951-57. There was also a photo feature from the opening night of The Gang's All Here along with the signature "At This Theatre" and "Who's Who in the Cast."

The Miracle Worker earned three Tony Awards — for actress Bancroft, director Arthur Penn and for Best Play. It would play 719 performances before closing July 1, 1961. Bancroft and Duke reprised their roles for Gibson's 1962 screen adaptation directed again by Penn. (Duke also starred in a 1979 television version taking on the older role of Annie Sullivan with Melissa Gilbert as Helen Keller.)


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The cover of the original 1959 Playbill.