1926 The Ladder, J. Frank Davis' drama about reincarnation, opens today for a 789-performance run. Among its stars is Antoinette Perry, later namesake of the Broadway awards. The show is unusual in that its producer will keep it running long after it begins to lose money — often allowing people in for free — because he thinks the world needs to hear its message. When the production finally closes, it will be Broadway's biggest failure to date, losing over a million pre-Depression dollars.
1932 George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Dinner at Eight opens on Broadway tonight for a 232-performance run. The Depression-era story follows a group of invitees to a swanky dinner party, each of whom is suffering from financial desperation, but trying to hide the fact from the others, dreaming that the others will help them. The ironic story leads to a film version and numerous revivals.
1942 Candle in the Wind — the Maxwell Anderson play, not the Elton John song — opens tonight on Broadway with Helen Hayes and Lotte Lenya. It runs 95 performances.
1951 Carnegie Hall hosts a one-night-only reading of George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan in Hell. This is the first time it has been staged in New York, although tonight's performance has its stars in evening clothes holding their scripts in front of them. Charles Laughton directs and also stars, alongside Charles Boyer, Cedric Hardwicke and Agnes Moorehead, of "Bewitched" fame. This very limited engagement is followed by a short tour.
1956 Judy Blazer, silky, wide-eyed star of Lucky Stiff, Hello Again, Me and My Girl, Titanic and 45 Seconds From Broadway, is born today.
1958 The Pleasure of His Company by Samuel Taylor and Cornelia Otis Skinner, opens on Broadway today. This comedy of manners stars Skinner, Cyril Ritchard, Charlie Ruggles, Dolores Hart and George Peppard, and continues for 474 performances.
1959 Jackie Gleason stars in Bob Merrill's musical Take Me Along, based on an unlikely source: Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!. It has a 448-performance run, and introduces a young actor destined for greatness: Robert Morse.
1964 "The playwright's name is Sam Shepard, and I know nothing about him," says Michael Smith in today's Village Voice, "except that he has written a pair of provocative and genuinely original plays." This is the response to the opening of Shepard's first-ever produced works: Cowboy and The Rock Garden at the St. Marks, produced by Theatre Genesis in the Bouwerie Church in the East Village. Shepard will go on to become a well known name in American drama for his plays, True West, Curse of the Starving Class and Pulitzer-winner Buried Child.
1974 Linda Hopkins stars tonight as Bessie Smith in the solo, Me and Bessie, which opens at the Ambassador Theatre. She has co written the show with Will Holt. The show will run 453 performances.
1992 Having had productions all over New York City, Wendy Wasserstein allows the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre to be host for her new play, The Sisters Rosenweig, which opens tonight for a run of 149 performances. Among the stars are Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein and Frances McDormand. This sisterly show will move to the Barrymore Theatre, March 18, 1993, where it will run 556 performances.
2002 Garth Drabinsky, the Canadian theatrical impresario who mounted lavish Broadway musical productions including Ragtime and Show Boat in the last decade, is one of four former executives of the former Livent, Inc. producing organization arrested and charged today with "fraud affecting the public market," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced. After a four-year criminal investigation into the financial activities of the entertainment company, the charges pertaining to "accounting irregularities within Livent Inc." between 1989-98 were finally made. Drabinsky and three of his Livent colleagues, Myron I. Gottlieb, Gordon Eckstein and Robert Topol are all taken into police custody this morning, and later granted bail. Drabinsky had retired to his native Canada after similar charges were brought in the U.S. in 1998.
2003 Broadway star Liza Minnelli files for divorce from her husband, David Gest, a week after he files suit against her for $10 million.
2006 Arthur Hill, who played George to Uta Hagen's Martha in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, dies at age 84.
2009 Patrick Marber's three-character After Miss Julie, a new take on August Strindberg's famous 1888 play about class and relationships, opens at the American Airlines Theatre. Marin Ireland, Sienna Miller and Jonny Lee Miller star in the Roundabout Theatre Company production.
2012 The New York premiere of Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, starring Aasif Mandvi and Heidi Armbruster, opens Off-Broadway at LCT3's Claire Tow Theater. The play about a Pakistani-American lawyer who distances himself from his cultural roots as he climbs the corporate ladder, will be awarded the 2013 Pultizer Prize for Drama.
More of Today's Birthdays: Cecilia Loftus 1876. Joan Fontaine 1917. Derek Jacobi 1938. Christopher Lloyd 1938. Tony Roberts 1939. Jeff Goldblum 1952.