Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 27

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and Robert Viagas, Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
27 Dec 2015

1920 Brock Pemberton's Miss Lulu Bett opens today at the Belmont Theatre. It will run 198 performances and win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

1924 London drama critic-playwright William Archer dies today. He contributed to Figaro,the World, Tribune, and the Nation. His translations of Henrik Ibsen were produced in the 1890s. In 1921 his melodrama, The Green Goddess, ran for 54 weeks at the Booth Theatre.

1926 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Peggy-Ann opens today at the Vanderbilt Theatre. Despite its 333-performance run, it is one of most rarely revived of the team's musicals.

1927 The intricate lives of people living on a Show Boat come to life at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Adapted by Oscar Hammerstein II from Edna Ferber's novel, with music composed by Jerome Kern including what will become classics, "Ol' Man River" and "Make Believe." The cast includes Helen Morgan, Norma Terris, Charles Winninger, and Jules Bledsoe.

1941 Clifford Odets' Clash By Night centers on a husband who comes to realize the man to whom he has opened his home is having an affair with his wife. Lee J. Cobb, Joseph Schildkraut, and Tallulah Bankhead fight it out at the Belasco Theatre.

1945 Home of the Brave manages only 69 performances but gains critical and financial recognition. Playwright Arthur Laurents wins $1,000 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for this timely war story, which receives an off-Broadway revival in 1999.

1948 U.S. premiere of Jean Giraudoux's fantasy allegory The Madwoman of Chaillot at the Belasco Theatre, starring Martita Hunt as Countess Aurelia. It will run 368 performances and later be adapted as the musical Dear World.

1961 Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green team up for their second musical in a year, Subways Are for Sleeping, which attempted to offer a humorous portrait of homeless people. When it was slammed by the critics, producer David Merrick responded with one of his most memorable p.r. stunts, hiring people with the same names as the critics, and running their (positive) comments in a quote ad. It didn't help; the show ran a comparatively brief 205 performances. However it also introduced actress Phyllis Newman, who became Mrs. Adolph Green.

1965 Broadway is mesmerized and scandalized by Peter Brook's staging of Peter Weiss' long-titled drama, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, also known as Marat/Sade, one of the first plays on the American stage to offer full frontal nudity. It will win the Tony Award as Best Play, and runs 145 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre.

1999 Soap opera diva, Susan Lucci, takes her opening night bow as a temporary replacement for Tony Award-winning Bernadette Peters in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun.

2002 The film adaptation of John Kander & Fred Ebb's Chicago opens in major markets today. Rob Marshall directed the film version of the 1975 musical, which will go on to win the 2003 Academy Award for Best Picture — the first musical to do so since "Oliver!" in 1968.

2004 Susan Sontag, 71, renowned American intellectual and essayist, and an occasional playwright and theatre director, dies today of acute myelogenous leukemia at New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

2004 Also today, Peggy Phillips, 88, a theatrical press agent during the Golden Age of Broadway, when she repped such works as Angel Street, South Pacific and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, dies of complications from a stroke, in Dana Point, CA.

2014 The world premiere of Sheryl Crow and Barry Levinson's musical Diner opens at Virginia's Signature Theatre. Kathleen Marshall directs the show, based on Levinson's 1982 film about a group of childhood friends who reunite for a wedding in 1959 Baltimore. The cast includes Whitney Bashor, Josh Grisetti, Derek Klena, Adam Kantor and Matthew James Thomas.

Today's Birthdays: Sydney Greenstreet 1879. Milton Shubert 1901. Marlene Dietrich 1901. Oscar Levant 1906. Tommy Rall 1929. Tovah Feldshuh 1952. Joe Mantello 1962.