PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: FEBRUARY 16
By David Gewirtzman
1898 Birthday of Broadway leading lady and producer Katharine Cornell (1898-1974), who starred in and/or produced A Bill of Divorcement, The Age of Innocence, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Alien Corn, Jezebel, Saint Joan, The Wingless Victory, No Time for Comedy, Candida and Dear Liar.
1956 Eric Machwitz and Hy Kraft compose the book and Bernard Grun arranges Antonin Dvorak's music for Summer Song. The plot deals with the composer's stay in America. Charles Hickman directs the 19 week run at London's Princes Theatre.
1959 Gertrude Berg plays a Jewish mother who charms Japanese widower (Cedric Hardwicke) in A Majority of One. This comedy by Leonard Spigelgass will run at the Shubert Theatre, and later the Barrymore Theatre, for a total of 556 performances. It will return to the stage in 1999 at the Jewish Repertory Theatre.
1960 Sidney Lumet directs Caligula at the 54th Street Theatre in New York. This Albert Camus vision of the Roman emperor has music composed by David Amram. It will run for 38 performances.
1964 Comedian Bert Lahr has his final Broadway opening night in Foxy, a musical based on Ben Johnson's Volpone, but relocated to the California Gold Rush. Lyrics are by Johnny Mercer. Also in the cast are Larry Blyden and the young John Davidson. The show, which tried out in a remote Canadian mining down, manages only a 72-performance run at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
1965 Opening night for the Sherlock Holmes musical Baker Street at the Broadway Theatre, starring Fritz Weaver as the detective, Inga Swenson as the love interest, and Martin Gabel as Moriarty. It runs 311 performances.
1977 The success of three inept thieves out for a major score is the starting point for American Buffalo. Robert Duvall, Kenneth McMillan, and John Savage thrash through the drama that marks David Mamet's Broadway debut. It will run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre for 122 performances.
1989 Pauline Collins stars on Broadway at the Booth Theatre as Shirley Valentine opens. The one-character play by Willy Russell will earn a Tony nomination while its star wins the Tony, the Drama Desk, and the Outer Critics Circle Award.
2002 Edward Albee's controversial play The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? begins previews today. Telling the story of a man whose attraction for the ungulant of the title destroys his marriage, the drama goes on to win the Tony Award as Best Play.
2005 Rocco Landesman, longtime president of Jujamcyn Theaters, becomes the outright owner of the five Broadway theatres that company manages. Following the Nov. 3, 2004, death of James H. Binger, chairman and founder of Jujamcyn Theaters, Landesman revealed that he and Binger had an agreement that upon the latter's death, Landesman would buy the quintet of theatres at the net asset value of about $30 million. He now owns the St. James, the Al Hirshfeld, the August Wilson, the Walter Kerr and the Eugene O'Neill Theatres.
2007 Sheridan Morley, the larger-than-life London theatre critic, author and a long-time Playbill writer, dies in his sleep at age 65 at his home in London.
2011 Following their 2009 Broadway production of Exit the King, Australian theatre company Belvoir returns to New York with an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's The Diary of a Madman, starring Geoffrey Rush. Performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the production reunites Rush with his Exit the King director Neil Armfield.
2012 Shatner's World: We Just Live in It, featuring "Star Trek" star William Shatner, opens at Broadway's Music Box Theatre. The solo show takes audiences on a voyage through Shatner's life and career, from Shakespearean stage actor to internationally known icon and raconteur.
More of Today's Birthdays: William Le Baron 1883. Albert Hackett 1900. Vera-Ellen 1921. Gretchen Wyler 1932. Brian Bedford 1935. Maria Bjornson 1949. John Tartaglia 1978.
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