PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: FEBRUARY 20

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and Robert Viagas, Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley
20 Feb 2015

1893 Birthday of playwright and producer Russel Crouse (1893-1966), whose prodigious output of scripts, many in partnership with Howard Lindsay, includes State of the Union and The Great Sebastians, librettos to The Sound of Music, Call Me Madam and Anything Goes, and the play that is still the longest-running non-musical in Broadway history, Life With Father.

1905 Augustus Thomas finds inspiration for a play from a series of drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, illustrator of the Gibson Girl. The Education of Mr. Pipp, a comedy, stars Digby Bell and Kate Denin Wilson. It will run at New York's Liberty Theatre for 10 weeks.

1917 When newlyweds must hide their marriage - Oh, Boy! Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse collaborate on this musical, and Jerome Kern scores. Hit song: "Till the Clouds Roll By."

1928 Chester Morris and Elsie Lawson are the Whispering Friends. George M. Cohan's farce will run 14 weeks at the Hudson Theatre. William Harrigan and Anne Showmaker also star.

1934 Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson collaborate on an unusual Broadway "opera," Four Saints in Three Acts. It runs 32 performances at the 44th Street Theatre, followed by a 16 performance return engagement at the Empire Theatre.

1954 Augustin Duncan, the American producer-director-actor died today in Astoria, New York. In 1922 he directed and starred in Eugene O'Neill's The First Man, and in 1926 he starred in and directed Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock. He was 81 years old.

1973 Demonstrating the difference in sensibilities between London and New York, the farce No Sex Please, We're British, opens at Broadway's Ritz Theatre today en route to a 16-performance flop run. The London original will continue for a run of 6,761 performances, their longest-running comedy ever.

1980 The Broadway premiere of Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The play is the prequel to Wilson's Fifth of July which, also under the direction of Marshall W. Mason, will open later in the year.

2003 First Off-Broadway performance for the puppet/human musical Avenue Q at the Vineyard Theatre. The show by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty will earn raves, move to Broadway and win the Tony Award as Best Musical.

2002 James B. McKenzie, 41-year veteran of running the landmark Westport Country Playhouse summer theatre in Connecticut, dies at age 74.

2007 Janet Blair, 85, who began her life as singer and then turned to acting in films such as "My Sister Eileen" and major tours of shows such as South Pacific and Mame, dies from complications of pneumonia at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica.

2014 Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman's musical The Bridges of Madison County, based on the Robert James Waller romance novel about a woman who sees love anew when a rugged photographer pulls into town, opens on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale star as Italian-American housewife Francesca Johnson and National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid. Although the production only lasts 100 performances, Jason Robert Brown will win Tony Awards for his orchestrations and score.

More of Today's Birthdays: Robert Altman 1925. Sidney Poitier 1927. Sandy Duncan 1946. Brenda Blethyn 1946. Lili Taylor 1967. Lauren Ambrose 1978. Jessie Mueller 1983.