PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: NOVEMBER 29

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and Robert Viagas, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
29 Nov 2014

1895 Birthday of legendary film choreographer Busby Berkeley (1895-1976), whose career will be launched with a 12-show burst of creativity on Broadway between the end of 1926 and the beginning of 1930 (including A Connecticut Yankee and Good Boy) before being whisked off to Hollywood to do films like "42nd Street". His Broadway swan song was 1971's No, No, Nanette.

1926 Ethel Barrymore stars in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, which stays for 295 constant performances at Maxine Elliott's Theatre.

1932 Fred Astaire has his final Broadway opening night in Cole Porter's Gay Divorce, which bows at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and lasts 248 performances. When it is filmed, the Hollywood Hayes Office rules that divorce can not be gay (as in cheerful)... so the title is changed to "Gay Divorcee".

1939 Swingin' the Dream, with a cast including Louis Armstrong, Moms Mabley, and Butterfly McQueen opens at the Center Theatre in New York. Erik Charell directs his and Gilbert Seldes' musical, a swing version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Among its more fanciful elements are sets based on Walt Disney cartoons.

1943 Lovers and Friends by Dodie Smith opens for a 21 week-run at the Plymouth Theatre. The stars are Katharine Cornell and Raymond Massey, with direction by Guthrie McClintic.



1945, Strange Fruit blossoms under the direction of Jose Ferrer. Lillian Smith adapts her own novel, with help from her sister. The cast at the Royale Theatre includes Eugenia Rawls, Murray Hamilton and Ralph Meeker.

1956 Bells Are Ringing, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin, opens at the Shubert Theatre. This production is also rung by the likes of Betty Comden and Adolph Green supplying the book, Jule Styne the score, Bob Fosse the choreography, and Jerome Robbins pulling the strings. It will run 924 performances.

1997 Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the world premiere of Amistad, by composer Anthony Davis, opening tonight. George C. Wolfe, producer of The Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival and famed director, will direct the opera; the cast includes Mark S. Doss and Thomas Young. The opera, based on an 1839 slave uprising aboard a Cuban chartered ship, will precede Steven Spielberg's film version of the same story (also titled "Amistad"), which will open Dec. 10.

2001 Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's musical Roadside opens at York Theatre Company. They briefly have two musicals on New York stages: Both Roadside and their long-running phenomenon The Fantasticks will close within weeks of each other in early 2002.

2012 Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes co-star in the Broadway premiere of Theresa Rebeck's dark comedy Dead Accounts, opening at the Music Box Theatre. Jack O'Brien directs the play about an Ohio family whose prodigal son returns flush with money and secrets. The cast also includes Judy Greer, Josh Hamilton and Jayne Houdyshell.

More of Today's Birthdays: Louisa May Alcott 1832. Trixie Friganza 1870. Chester Erskin 1905. Ann Corio 1914. Raoul Pène Du Bois 1909. Michael Kermoyan 1921. Frank Galati 1943. Hinton Battle 1956.