Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: January 4

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and Robert Viagas, Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
04 Jan 2016

1905 Quivery-voiced actor Sterling Holloway (1905-1992) is born today in Cedartown, GA. He will become a fixture of Broadway's The Garrick Gaieties revues of the 1920s and '30s, and will achieve a kind of immortality providing the voice for Disney's Winnie the Pooh in cartoons starting in the 1960s.

1924 Future director George Abbott and actress Clara Blandick are featured in Hatcher Hughes' hillbilly feud drama, Hell Bent fer Heaven, which opens today at the Klaw Theatre and goes on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

1934 Billie Burke produces the first Ziegfeld Follies after the death of founder Florenz Ziegfeld. The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 features Fanny Brice, Eve Arden, Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen, Jane Froman, Eugene Howard, Willie Howard, and the music of Vernon Duke. It runs 182 performances at the Winter Garden.

1956 The Great Sebastians are Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a pair of fraudulent performers with a mind-reading act. This comedy by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse is staged by Bretaigne Windust at ANTA.

1961 Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald dies today at 73 in Dublin. His first appearance with the Abbey Players was in the role of Capt. Jack Boyle in Juno and the Paycock. His film career began in 1937.

1965 T.S. Eliot is dead in London at the age of 77. He is credited with the revival of poetic drama after penning Murder in the Cathedral in 1935. He also wrote The Cocktail Party, The Family Reunion, and The Confidential Clerk. His book of poems, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," will be the inspiration for the musical Cats opening in 1982.

1969 Adrienne Kennedy scripts two one-acts titled Cities in Bezique at the Public Theater. Joan Harris and Cynthia Belgrave are members of the cast, directed by Gerald Freedman.

1976 Yul Brynner stars in the first and only performance of Home Sweet Homer, a musical based on final chapters of "The Odyssey," from Mitch Leigh, composer of Man of La Mancha. Despite the presence of La Mancha star Joan Diener, the show closes on opening night.

1981 Another one-performance flop opens and closes tonight: Frankenstein, by Victor Gialanella.

1998 Broadway's Tony Award-winning revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum closes tonight after 36 previews and 715 regular performances. Featured in the cast during the course of the show's run have been Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, and David Alan Grier.

2004 Director Sam Mendes, choreographer Rob Marshall and former cast members attend the 2,378th and final performance of the 1998 Tony-winning Cabaret revival, which closes at Studio 54.

2007 Vincent Sardi Jr., 91, the owner (and son of the founder) of the most famous Broadway restaurant in history, dies of complications of a urinary-tract infection in Berlin, VT.

2014 Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, the high-flying, multimillion dollar musical with music by Bono and The Edge, ends its Broadway run at the Foxwoods Theatre after 1066 performances. The production broke Broadway records for longest preview period (182 performances) and for most expensive musical (it cost $75 million). Over the course of its extended preview period, original director Julie Taymor was fired, and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and director Philip Wm. McKinley were brought on to try to fix the show. Members of the production suffered numerous injuries during the run, including cast members Christopher Tierney and Daniel Curry.

More of Today's Birthdays: William Bendix 1906. Sorrell Booke 1930. Dyan Cannon 1937. Patrick Cassidy 1962. Natascia Diaz 1970.