PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 31

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

1896 Birthday of Ethel Waters (1896-1977), Broadway star of musicals and plays including The Member of the Wedding, As Thousands Cheer, Cabin in the Sky and Lew Leslie's Blackbirds.

1949 Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein's opera Regina, based on Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. It runs 56 performances at the 46th Street Theatre.

1956 Rosalind Russell stars in the title role of Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame, which opens tonight at the Broadhurst Theatre and runs for 639 performances. The saga of a boy sent to live with his devil-may-care aunt will later serve as the basis for the musical Mame.

1957 Ricardo Montalban and Lena Horne play sultry lovers in the musical Jamaica by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen. It runs 555 performances at the Imperial Theatre.

1957 Birthday of Brian Stokes Mitchell, Broadway's top romantic leading man in musicals of the late 1990s onward. Starring roles will include Ragtime; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Kiss Me, Kate; Jelly's Last Jam; Man of La Mancha and August Wilson's drama, King Hedley II. He will be named one of the "Sexiest Men Alive" by People magazine.



1967 Although Eugene O'Neill never wanted his 1939 play, More Stately Mansions, to be produced, it opened tonight on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. The cast, which included Colleen Dewhurst, Ingrid Bergman and Arthur Hill, was directed by José Quintero. The show will run 142 performances. A controversial revival of this show was done in October 1997 at New York Theatre Workshop by Dutch director Ivo van Hove.

1972 Simon Gray's play about a professor losing his wife, homosexual male lover, and sobriety, Butley, opens tonight at the Morosco Theatre. Alan Bates wins a Tony Award for his starring role in this James Hammerstein-directed production, which ran 135 performances. A 2006 Broadway revival of the play will star Nathan Lane.

1982 An announcement is made today by the League of New York Theatres and Producers that at least 14 shows produced on Broadway this season are financed by movie companies.

1988 John Houseman, star of theatre, radio, film and television, dies today at age 86. One of the founders of the Voice of America in World War II, and, with Orson Welles, the Mercury Theatre of the Air, best remembered for its 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast, a mock documentary about a Martian invasion which some listeners mistook for a real news broadcast. Houseman is also remembered for the Academy Award he won for playing Professor Kingsfield in the film "The Paper Chase" in 1973, a role he repeated in the TV series.

1991 Joseph Papp dies after a battle with cancer today. A producer and activist, Papp started The Public Theater (now the Joseph Papp Public Theater), through which he nurtured unknowns such as David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Thomas Babe, David Hare, George C. Wolfe, Elizabeth Swados, Andrei Serban, Robert Alan Ackerman, Wallace Shawn and Carson Kievman. Major productions include Hair and A Chorus Line. He was 70.

1991 Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan opens tonight at London's Wyndham Theatre. It is the first time a Miller play has debuted outside of the U.S. Tom Conti is a man with two wives who, when convalescing after an auto accident, is forced to confront his selfishness and his choices. A production of the comedy-drama, starring Patrick Stewart and Frances Conroy, would come to Off-Broadway's Public Theater in 1999 and then reach Broadway's Ambassador Theatre the following year.

2002 Comedian Carol Burnett makes her Broadway debut as a playwright with her autobiographical Hollywood Arms, co-written with her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, who dies during the show's tryout. Michele Pawk wins a Tony Award playing the role based on Burnett's mother, but the show runs just 76 performances at the Cort Theatre.

2010 The Scottsboro Boys, the John Kander & Fred Ebb musical that takes the racially insensitive "minstrel show" of yore and reimagines it to tell the true story of a case of racial injustice, opens at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. Directed by Susan Stroman and with a libretto by David Thompson, the musical tells the tale of a group of young men who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, AL, in 1931.

2012 After three days of canceled performances due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, most Broadway shows resume today. With New York's public transportation system still largely crippled by the storm, some actors are reported to have walked for hours to reach their theatres.

More of Today's Birthdays: Barbara Bel Geddes 1922. Lee Grant 1927. Ron Rifkin 1939. David Ogden Stiers 1942.