PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 11

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and Robert Viagas and Ernio Hernandez
11 Oct 2014

1918 Jerome Robbins born today. The choreographer spent most of his early career moving easily between the worlds of classical ballet and Broadway, choreographing and/or directing classics including On the Town, West Side Story, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The King and I. In 1989, just nine years before his death, his career was celebrated in the Tony-winning musical revue, Jerome Robbins' Broadway.



1948 Ray Bolger, best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in the 1939 classic film "The Wizard of Oz," opens in Where's Charley? tonight at the St. James Theatre. The story, adapted by librettist George Abbott, is based on the 1892 Brandon Thomas play, Charley's Aunt, and is set to music by Guys and Dolls genius Frank Loesser. His score includes two well- known musical theatre songs, "My Darling, My Darling" and "Once in Love With Amy." George Balanchine, the well-known choreographer, stages the piece. Unfortunately, no Broadway cast album exists because of a musician's strike during the run. Although the show got mixed reviews, it ran 792 performances, and a film version was made in 1952 starring Bolger, who was singled out by some critics as the only reason the show stayed open as long as it did.

1968 George White, who was most commonly known for his productions of Scandals, the vaudevillian revues that rivaled the Ziegfeld Follies of the Jazz Age, dies today. His revues, which usually starred the legendary W.C. Fields, were staples of 1920s theatre.

1979 The New York Times adopts a policy of allowing reviews of major productions to be based on preview performances rather than opening nights. Broadway producers were in dismay about this and were outright furious when Walter Kerr (of the Times) had requested, and received, free preview tickets for shows of the season, while those same requests by critics for other major newspapers and magazines weren't honored.

1984 Charles Dutton and Theresa Merritt star tonight in August Wilson's first big Broadway success, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, opening at the Cort Theatre. This play takes place at a Ma Rainey recording session, during which she is having trouble with one of her musicians. Frank Rich, in the New York Times, states that "This play is a searing inside account of what white racism does to its victims." The show will run 275 performances, and then Wilson will go on to write the 1986 hit, Fences, which starred James Earl Jones, and The Piano Lesson. Both the latter win Pulitzer Prizes.

2000 The whine flows freely on Broadway beginning today when Linda Lavin begins previews in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Off-Broadway cast, including Michele Lee and Tony Roberts, reunites for the Broadway staging of the urban comedy by Charles Busch. Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow directs.

2001 Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren star in a revival of August Strindberg's Dance of Death. Both will go on to earn 2002 Oscar nominations for movie roles.

2002 An American troupe debuts the musical 42nd Street in Moscow, performing in English.

2009 The Broadway premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet's Oleanna, starring Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, opens at the John Golden Theatre. Doug Hughes directs the drama about a female college student who accuses her professor of sexual harassment.

2011 The world premiere of The Lyons, Nicky Silver's play about a dysfunctional family preparing for the death of its patriarch, opens Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. The production, which stars Linda Lavin as wife and mother Rita Lyons, will transfer to Broadway in 2012 and earn Lavin a Tony nomination.

2012 A new Broadway production of Edmond Rostand's 1897 romantic verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Douglas Hodge in the title role, opens at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre. Jamie Lloyd directs a cast that also includes Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Bill Buell and Kyle Soller.

More of Today's Birthdays: Earle Hyman 1926. Marvin A. Krauss 1928. Ron Leibman 1937. Judy Kaye 1948. Jonathan Hadary 1948. Stephen Spinella 1956. Jane Krakowski 1968.