PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: MARCH 21

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and Robert Viagas, Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley
21 Mar 2014

1867 Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. is born today in Chicago, Illinois. He will go on to become one of the most powerful showmen ever. His Follies, filled with beautiful women and exciting variety acts, will become a 25-year tradition following the first Follies of 1907. He will introduce talent such as Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Marion Davies, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.

1927 Jeanne Eagels plays Simone, a married woman who hires Leslie Howard to be Her Cardboard Lover. This Jacques Deval comedy will run at the Empire Theatre in New York for 19 weeks.

1957 In Orpheus Descending, Cliff Robertson plays a drifter not welcome in a small southern town. Maureen Stapleton co stars in this Tennessee Williams drama. There will be 68 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre. Harold Clurman stages.

1968 Adding music to the bane of high school literature class, the Canterbury Tales spin at London's Phoenix Theatre. Neville Coghill writes the book with Martin Starkie, Coghill also provides the lyrics for the music composed by Richard Hill and John Hawkins. There will be 2,082 performances.

1990 Kathleen Turner is the Cat and Charles Durning the Big Daddy in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Howard Davies directs the production, which runs 149 performances and closes Aug 1.



1997 Billed as "a comedy of ancient and modern life in eight scenes," the Wooster Group's version of Eugene O'Neill's 1921 expressionist work The Hairy Ape will have a commercial Off-Broadway run at the newly reopened Selwyn Theatre. Willem Dafoe stars as Yank.

2001 A line of ticket buyers (a rare sight in the age of telephone and online ticket sales) snakes down 44th Street as previews begin for Mel Brooks' musical adaptation of The Producers.

2001 Bat Boy, a musical adaptation of the tabloid newspaper legend, opens Off-Broadway today and earns surprisingly respectful reviews.

2002 The much-lauded 1998 Trevor Nunn-Susan Stroman National Theatre production of Oklahoma! opens on Broadway, after overcoming years of union and other issues. Despite a $12 million advance, the show gets mixed reviews, loses the Best Revival Tony Award to Into the Woods, and goes on to a run of 11 months.

2003 Chita Rivera puts her stamp on a sixth decade when she plays Liliane LeFleur in a Broadway revival of Nine, co-starring Antonio Banderas, Jane Krakowski and many other female luminaries. The production, which starts previews today, will win the 2003 Tony Award as Best Musical Revival.

2005 Farewell to two old friends today. Bobby Short, 80, one of the cabaret world's most revered performers and a living symbol of a bygone brand of late-night New York style, dies of leukemia. Barney Martin, 82, the character actor with a hangdog expression who played the beleaguered Amos Hart in the original Broadway production of the musical Chicago, succumbs to cancer.

2014 Hands on a Hardbody, the cultural pulse-taking about a cross-section of Texans hoping to win a pickup truck in a grueling endurance competition, opens on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The musical's score is by Amanda Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, with a book by Doug Wright. Following mixed reviews and poor ticket sales, the production closes after only 28 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Eugenie Leontovich 1900. Mark Hellinger 1903. Peter Brook 1925. James Coco 1930. Matthew Broderick 1962. Rosie O'Donnell 1962.