Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: May 10

Jenn Gambatese and Josh Strickland in Tarzan.
Jenn Gambatese and Josh Strickland in Tarzan. (Joan Marcus)

1838 John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865), perhaps the most infamous actor in American history, is born today. The son of actor Junius Brutus Booth, and brother of actors Junius Brutus Booth Jr. and Edwin Booth, he appeared with his brothers in a special November 1864 production of Shakespeare's assassination tragedy, Julius Caesar with Edwin as Brutus, Junius as Cassius and John Wilkes as Marc Anthony. Five months later, John will assassinate President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. In 1991, he will become a character in the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical, Assassins.

1899 Fred Astaire is born today in Omaha, Nebraska. Along with his sister Adele Astaire, who was two years older, they became a popular vaudeville act and would later be featured in such shows as Lady, Be Good, and Funny Face. After Adele retired, Fred appeared opposite Claire Luce in Gay Divorce in 1932. This would be his last Broadway appearance. Fred moved on to Hollywood.

1961 A group of unknowns — Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett — bring their comic revue Beyond the Fringe to London's Fortune Theatre. It will run for 1,184 performances. Even though the show mocks the Prime Minister, the normally censorious Lord Chamberlain attends this evening as part of the Queen's party.

1962 Peter Shaffer's double-bill The Private Ear/The Public Eye will play at London's Globe Theatre for 549 performances. Maggie Smith stars in both plays.

1964 Dancer-choreographer Carol Haney died today in New York. She is best remembered for the "Steam Heat" number from The Pajama Game. She was 40 years old.

1994 Carol Hall follows up The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public tonight on Broadway at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. The original lasted 1,584 performances, but its sequel, about a Nevada brothel that tries to sell shares on Wall Street, doesn't fare as well, lasting only 16 performances and closing 11 days following its opening.

2006 After a lengthy preview period that began March 24, Disney's fourth Broadway offering, Tarzan — following Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aida — opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Featuring direction and scenic design by Bob Crowley and a score by Phil Collins, the musical stars Josh Strickland in the title role opposite Jenn Gambatese as Jane.

More of Today's Birthdays: Max Steiner 1888. Dimitri Tiomkin 1899. Nancy Walker 1922. Arthur Kopit 1937. Suzan-Lori Parks 1963. Josh Young 1980.