PLAYBILL VAULT' S Today In Theatre History: FEBRUARY 14
By David Gewirtzman
1882 Birthday of John Barrymore (1882-1942), actor in the grand style, and scion of the Barrymore acting clan. Though he began as a light comedian, he became identified with the classics, notably Hamlet, before turning to drink.
1918 Al Jolson stars in Sigmund Romberg's musical parody Sinbad at the Winter Garden Theatre. It runs 164 performances.
1921 Laurette Taylor stars in a revival of one of the great hits of the early 1920s, Peg o' My Heart, J. Hartley Manners' play about an Irish farm lass who inherits a fortune, but must give up all she loves to get it. It runs 88 performances at the Cort Theatre.
1926 American manager George Middleton dies in South Pasadena, California today. He was one of the founders of Kohl-Middleton films and the Orpheum circuit of vaudeville theatre. He was 81 years old.
1927 Look out, it's not Cupid! Dracula wings in at the Little Theatre in London. Hamilton Deane adapts Bram Stoker's novel. Raymond Huntley dons the cape, with Deane and Dora May Patrick as neck and neck co-stars.
1930 George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin provide music and lyrics for Strike Up the Band. George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind conjure up an American war against Switzerland all in the name of chocolate. Of course, it's just a dream. Dudley Clements, Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough star. The tasty battle runs six months.
1946 Birthday of tap-dancer/actor Gregory Hines (1946-2003), featured in Eubie!, Comin' Uptown, Sophisticated Ladies and Jelly's Last Jam.
1968 George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton star in a trio of one-act comedies by Neil Simon, collectively titled Plaza Suite. It runs 1,097 performances and is followed by several other Simon "Suite" plays, California Suite, London Suite and others.
1972 What are the chances for a little rock musical about a high school summer romance that spills into the school year? Pretty good, apparently. Grease opens today, riding a wave of 50s nostalgia that will make it (briefly) the longest running show in Broadway history (3,388 performances), followed by a film version that becomes one of the most successful movie musicals (and soundtracks) ever. It's the first Broadway musical for songwriters Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey — and their last.
1975 P.G. Wodehouse, collaborator with Guy Bolton on such musical books as Miss Springtime and Oh, Boy! (with a score by Jerome Kern), died today at 93. He contributed the lyrics to The Three Musketeers for the 1928 production. Among Wodehouse's many works of fiction, books about Bertie Wooster and all-knowing servant Jeeves, have come to life on stage and film.
1988 Composer Frederick Loewe, half of the famous Lerner-Loewe musical team, dies at the age of 87. He brought us such musical classics as My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon, Camelot and Paint Your Wagon.
1995 On Valentine's Day the premiere of Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Joe Mantello directed the production, with actor Nathan Lane among the cast.
1998 Eve Ensler's award-winning play The Vagina Monologues gets a starry reading to benefit breast cancer research as part of an event called "V-Day." It's the first in an annual series of Valentine's Day readings of the play that highlight a range of women's issues, particularly violence against women. In less than a decade, the event, dubbed "Victory Against Violence Day," spreads to more than a thousand cities worldwide.
2009 John McGlinn, a conductor and musical archivist who devoted himself to finding and recording the restored scores of early works of the American musical theatre, dies at age 55.
More of Today's Birthdays: Jack Benny 1894. Nigel Bruce 1895. Thelma Ritter 1905. Florence Henderson 1934. Teller (Raymond Joseph Teller) 1948. Laurie Kennedy 1948.
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