PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: NOVEMBER 1

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and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher and Steve Luber
01 Nov 2013

1920 Opening night for Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, starring Charles S. Gilpin as a onetime railway porter who goes to Africa and rises to become the corrupt head of a new empire there. It runs 204 performances – first at the Provincetown Players' theatre on Macdougal Street, and later uptown at the Selwyn and Princess Theatres.



1922 Birthday of character actor George S. Irving, who will make his Broadway debut in the original cast of Oklahoma!, and use his booming voice and blustery presence to good effect in dozens of shows, notably Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Me and My Girl, Can-Can, Me and Juliet, Bells Are Ringing, The Happy Time and Irene (Tony Award).

1930 Playwright Albert Ramsdell Gurney is born. A.R. Gurney will go on to write such plays as The Cocktail Hour, Sylvia, and Love Letters.

1937 Opening night of Amphitryon 38, S. N. Behrman's adaptation of Jean Giradoux's play, based on the Amphitryon legend, and starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne as Jupiter and Alkmena. It runs 153 performances at the Shubert Theatre.

1944 Elwood P. Dowd sees a large white rabbit tonight as Mary Chase's Harvey opens tonight at the 48th Street Theatre. The illustrious Dowd is played by Frank Fay, with his sister, Veta Louise Simmons, being portrayed by Josephine Hull. Staging was done by Antoinette Perry in this original production that ran for a whopping 1,775 performances on Broadway before transferring to London, where it would play only 610 performances with its star Sid Field. A movie version would be released in 1950 with screen legend James Stewart as Dowd. The comedy would win the 1944 Pulitzer Prize, but the New York Drama Critics Circle Award went to The Glass Menagerie.

1951 Opening night of Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers in a raucous Johnny Mercer musical set in the world of Burlesque. It runs 350 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre, earning Silvers the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical.

1961 The New York City Transit Authority commands producer David Merrick to remove 2,800 posters for his musical Subways Are for Sleeping from subway cars, fearing they might give some people the wrong idea about housing.

1984 The Astor Place theater hosts the opening tonight of The Foreigner by Larry Shue. The story follows a young Englishman's visit to rural Georgia for holiday and his trials and tribulations with the locals. The show will run for 686 performances. Shue, a cast member of this original production, will die in a tragic plane crash in 1985.

1990 A revival of the 1926 musical Oh, Kay! opens tonight at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but the locale has been changed from Long Island to Harlem, with an all-black cast led by Brian Stokes Mitchell. Clive Barnes calls it "surprisingly terrific" in the Post, but the David Merrick-produced revival will run for only 77 performances.

1994 Eight gay men examine their lives as they take weekend holidays in the country in Love! Valor! Compassion!. This play, by Terrence McNally, uses humor on the surface but forces viewers to see that AIDS has become a shadow on the lives of contemporary human beings. Joe Mantello directs this production, opening tonight at the Manhattan Theatre Club. It will move to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre in 1995.

2001 Patti LuPone stars in a Broadway revival of Michael Frayn's Noises Off, which earns a Tony Award for comic actress Kate Finneran, and a run of nearly a year.

2008 Yma Sumac, the improbable singing star of the 1950s who claimed to possess a five-octave vocal range and ancestors who could be traced back to the Incas, dies at age 86. Ms. Sumac appeared in the 1951 Broadway musical Flahooley as a foreign princess who brought Aladdin's lamp to an American toy factory to have it repaired.

2010 Shannon Tavarez, an 11-year-old who appeared on Broadway in The Lion King and whose battle with leukemia moved many on Broadway and in the pop world, passes away. During her final months, her fellow child performers from Broadway shows were seen selling bracelets and key chains that read, “Shine for Shannon,” to help her family pay the medical bills. Broadway theatres dim their lights in her memory the following night.

2012 A new Broadway production of Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz's period drama The Heiress opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Jessica Chastain plays the awkward Catherine Sloper, with Dan Stevens as handsome suitor Morris Townsend. Also in the cast are David Strathairn as Catherine's widower father, Dr. Austin Sloper, and Judith Ivey as romantic-at-the-core Aunt Lavinia Penniman.

More of Today's Birthdays: George Cotton 1903. Beth Fowler 1940. Beth Leavel 1955. Toni Collette 1972.