PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JANUARY 16
By Robert Viagas
1908 or 1909 or 1912 There's no birthday like Merm's birthday. Ethel Zimmermann is born in Astoria N.Y. today. In years to come she will be acting and belting all over town as Ethel Merman. She gave all three birth years.
1912 No word is ever spoken in Sumurun, billed as "a wordless play in nine tableaux" set in a sheik's harem, which opens today at the Casino Theatre, and runs 62 performances. Max Reinhardt's production is imported from Berlin's Deutsches Theatre.
1933 George M. Cohan scripts and stars in this comedy about Pigeons and People. The intermissionless production will play 70 performances at the Harris and Lyceum Theatres in New York, before heading out on tour.
1935 Actually, the opening night is September 16, but the play is Night of January 16. The Ambassador Theatre is the site of a nightly trial in Ayn Rand's drama. Members of the audience are sworn in and endings are written to suit either a guilty or innocent verdict. Walter Pidgeon and Doris Nolan are in the courtroom.
1958 Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft are Two for the Seesaw at the Booth Theatre. This comedy about a married man and the younger woman who helps him 'find' himself will run 750 performances. William Gibson penned the script.
1964 Say Hello, Dolly!. Carol Channing stars as the musical Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi at the St. James Theatre. Adapted by Michael Stewart from Thornton Wilder's play, The Matchmaker has music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Gower Champion directs and choreographs. There will be 2,844 performances, which will make it, briefly, the longest-running Broadway musical ever.
1967 Zoe Caldwell plays a teacher who instructs her students in how to have peak moments in their lives, in Jay Allen's drama, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which opens today at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, and continued for 379 performances.
2000 Smokey Joe's Cafe, the longest-running revue in Broadway history (2,036 performances), closes today. The musical features words and music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
2006 McHale's Restaurant, the unofficial watering hole for Broadway's tech folk and their friends, closes after decades at the corner of 46th Street and Eighth Avenue. It is demolished to make way for one of the new high-rises springing up across the Theatre District.
More of Today's Birthdays: Johnston Forbes-Robertson 1853. George Kelly 1887. Irene Bordoni 1895. Debbie Allen 1950. Liz Larsen 1959. Lin-Manuel Miranda 1980.
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