PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: DECEMBER 20

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
December 20, 2013

1912 Laurette Taylor stars in Peg O' My Heart, written and directed by her husband, J. Hartley Manners. This story of a winsome orphan becomes a vehicle for Taylor, and she will revive it often over the years.



1922 Actor Morris Carnovsky makes his New York debut in The God of Vengeance at the Provincetown Playhouse. The play was written by Sholom Asch. The cast includes Sam Jaffe, Lillian Taiz and Rudolph Schildkraut, who also directed. When the production moves uptown to the Apollo Theatre the following year, producer Harry Weinberger and the cast will become the first in New York City to be convicted by a jury of giving an immoral performance.

1926 Sidney Howard's Mama's Boy tale, The Silver Cord opens on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, starring Margalo Gillmore. It runs 112 performances as part of The Theatre Guild's repertory.

1928 Ethel Barrymore gets a theatre named for her, and it drives her to a convent on stage, that is. The Kingdom of God, Gregorio Martinez Sierra's play, inaugurates the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York. Sister Gracia shuns her luxurious upbringing and the love of a young doctor to care for the abandoned. This production will be forced to close after three months when Barrymore is confined to her home with influenza.

1934 Katharine Cornell produces a starry Romeo and Juliet at the Martin Beck Theatre. She stars alongside Basil Rathbone, Orson Welles, Brian Aherne and Edith Evans. It runs 77 performances.

1951 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh play William Shakespeare's voluptuary tragic lovers in Antony and Cleopatra at the Ziegfeld Theatre. It stays for 66 performances, running in repertory with George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra.

1968 Bernadette Peters and Tamara Long are Dames at Sea at the Bouwerie Lane Theatre. George Haimsohn and Robin Miller's book and lyrics spoof old musical films. Jim Wise provides the score.

1972 Jack Albertson and Sam Levene play feuding old vaudevillians in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. It opens a 538-performance run today at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1979 Gregory Hines plays a Harlem Ebenezer Scrooge in the musical Comin' Uptown!. It runs 45 performances at the Winter Garden.

1981 Michael Bennett's Dreamgirls opens on this date. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the production will serve as a star vehicle for Jennifer Holliday, whose legendary performance of Effie won her a Tony Award. The musical will run more than 1500 performances.

2005 New York transit workers begin a three-day strike, shutting down subways and buses--but not theatres--at the height of the holiday rush. The shows go on, with many Broadway actors seen walking or roller-blading to work.

2009 Actress Brittany Murphy, who starred in "Clueless" on the silver screen and A View From the Bridge on Broadway, dies at age 32.

Today's Birthdays: Elsie DeWolfe 1865. Irene Dunne 1898. George Roy Hill 1921. John Spencer 1946.