1930 The Gershwin Brothers, George and Ira, are at it again tonight with the opening of their new musical, Girl Crazy. The show provides an outlet for several unknown stars, both on stage and in the orchestra pit. Ethel Merman stops the show singing "I've Got Rhythm" with an incredible 16-beat hold on the "I." She is later reported as being able to "hold a note longer than Chase Manhattan." Ingenue Ginger Rogers was also in the cast, singing "Embraceable You." In the orchestra are unknown musicians Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa. The show will run more than 34 weeks, racking up 272 performances.
1958 Pre-"Star Trek" William Shatner plays an American coping with the emotional issues of having an Asian girlfriend (France Nuyen) in Paul Osborn's The World of Suzie Wong, directed by Joshua Logan.
1961 Just like its forerunner, Guys and Dolls, a musical by the same team, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, opens tonight and triumphs with a story about life in the big city. This time, Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser look not at the lowlife underground, but at the high life and the goings on within a high-rise office building. The story follows a young man's progression from window washer to CEO of a major company in New York. Although Hugh Lambert is credited with choreographing the show, Bob Fosse is on the bill as having done the "musical staging". Robert Morse co-stars with Donna McKechnie and Rudy Vallee in this musical comedy satire, which got rave reviews and ran for more than 1,400 performances.
1967 One of the largest theatrical empires in the world loses its patriarch as David Nederlander, who founded the Nederlander Organization in 1912, dies today. He founded the organization first as a small theatre in Detroit, Michigan. It grew to represent theatres, producers, and shows around the world. Today, the organization is responsible for housing such shows as Wicked and The Lion King.
1987 Lanford Wilson's Burn This opens at the Plymouth Theatre tonight after a successful run off-Broadway at the Mark Taper Forum and the Circle Rep. This play, about a dancer who finds a bully appealing, stars John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Jonathan Hogan, and Lou Liberatore. The show will run 437 performances.
1999 Steve Buscemi ("Fargo," "Reservoir Dogs") stars alongside Willem Dafoe and Kate Valk in the latest show from Wooster Group, the 15-year-old North Atlantic. The work by James Strahs that looks at the changing role of the military was first staged by the Wooster Group at its Performing Garage in January 1984 starring Spalding Gray and Dafoe.
2003 Jerry Springer — The Opera, which enjoyed a smash world premiere run at London's National Theatre, transfers to the West End's Cambridge Theatre for a commercial run. The musical centers on its title character, talk show host #Jerry Springer, and his confrontational daytime talk show.
2008 The first show to open at the newly rechristened Samuel J. Friedman Theatre is To Be or Not To Be, Nick Whitby’s adaptation of the Ernst Lubitsch film comedy about a Polish acting troupe that tries to escape the Nazis during World War II with nothing but their acting ability to help them. Casey Nicholaw directs a cast including Jan Maxwell, Peter Benson and Rocco Sisto for the Manhattan Theatre Club.
2010 Matthew Warchus' frothy staging of David Hirson's comedic escapade La Bete, which pits a princess, a playwright and a pontificating clown against one another, opens on at the Music Box Theatre. Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley star.
More of Today's Birthdays: Frank Conroy 1890. Pert Kelton 1907. Harve Presnell 1933. Carrie Nye 1936.