PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 23

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and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher and Steve Luber
23 Oct 2014

1844 Actress Sarah Bernhardt born today. "The Divine Sarah" will create many memorable roles in French and English, notably in Alexandre Dumas, fils' classic La Dame aux Camelias, better known as Camille.

1905 Broadway debut of George Bernard Shaw's "scandalous" drama, Mrs. Warren's Profession, starring Mary Shaw as the woman who defends her prostitution as a business like any other.

1928 The Marx Brothers roar onto Broadway with their rowdy musical comedy Animal Crackers by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. It runs 191 performances, and is made into a landmark film comedy with most of the score deleted.

1942 A stage adaptation of Richard Wright's novel Native Son opens on Broadway. Orson Welles directs Canada Lee as Bigger Thomas, a black man whose accidental murder of a white girl awakens a storm of racist fury in a small town. It runs 84 performances.

1958 Make a Million, Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore's comedy about a quiz show winner, opens tonight at the Playhouse Theatre. Sam Levene is the lead, playing a television producer in this production, staged by Jerome Chodorov. The show runs 308 performances.



1963 Mike Nichols collaborates with Neil Simon for the first time, directing Barefoot in the Park, which opens tonight at the Biltmore Theatre. Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley co-star in this comedy, which will be made into a movie in 1967. The Broadway production will run 1,532 performances.

1972 The cast of Pippin has "magic to do" tonight as it opens at the Imperial Theatre. Ben Vereen, John Rubinstein, Irene Ryan, Jill Clayburgh and Leland Palmer head the cast of this show about accepting oneself for who you are. The story follows Pippin, son of Holy Roman Empire patriarch Charlemagne, as he realizes he is just not the hero he is or wants to be. Instead he learns to settle down and live life with a hearth and home. The legendary Bob Fosse directs and choreographs this show, which won him rave reviews and a Tony Award. The show will have a very successful run of 1,944 performances.

1975 Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leah Napolin turned Singer's short story "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy" into Yentl, which opened tonight at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The show, which ran 223 performances, starred Tovah Feldshuh as an orthodox Jewish girl who wishes to defy tradition and be educated like the boys. Barbra Streisand would play the role in the 1983 film, which turns the story into a musical.

1997 A musical adaptation of Marivaux's Triumph of Love opens on Broadway. It runs just 85 performances despite a cast packed with current and future stars: Betty Buckley, F. Murray Abraham, Susan Egan, Kevin Chamberlin, Roger Bart and Nancy Opel.

2002 Chechen rebels wielding guns and explosives seize a large Moscow theatre during a performance of the musical Nord-Ost, taking the audience hostage. After a three-day stand-off, Russian government forces will reclaim the building, but not until after the death of 129 hostages from an anesthetic gas pumped into the theatre by the would-be rescuers. No theatregoers are actually executed by the terrorists.

2008 A Broadway revival of Speed-the-Plow, co-starring Jeremy Piven, Raúl Esparza and Elisabeth Moss, officially opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. David Mamet’s comedy shows two Hollywood sharks whose movie pitch is interrupted by a pretty temp worker. When Piven withdraws just a few weeks into the run, claiming mercury poisoning, his role is assumed, in turn, by Jordan Lage, Norbert Leo Butz and William H. Macy.

2013 John Kander and Greg Pierce's The Landing, starring David Hyde Pierce and Julia Murney, opens Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. Walter Bobbie directs the show, which is comprised of three mini-musicals tied together by the themes of desire, love and loss.

More of Today's Birthdays: Maury Yeston 1945. Michael Rupert 1951. Linzi Hateley 1970.