PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: MAY 5

By Anne Bradley
and Robert Viagas
May 5, 2013

1955 Baseball, ballet and Gwen Verdon provide the slugging power in Damn Yankees. Adapted from Douglass Wallop's book, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant," by Wallop and George Abbott, this musical will score 1,019 performances at Broadway's 46th Street Theatre. Songs are provided by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Bob Fosse choreographs.



1958 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne begin their last Broadway performance together in The Visit. Adapted from Friedrich Duerrenmatt's drama, The Visit of the Old Lady by Maurice Valency, this drama will run nearly six months at the newly renamed Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

1959 The World of Paul Slickey is John Osborne's first attempt at a musical. It concerns a destructive gossip columnist played by Dennis Lotis. Osborne stages and Christopher Whelan provides the score. The grapevine withers after 47 performances at London's Palace Theatre.

1966 Muriel Spark's novel about a Scottish school mistress and her charges comes to life as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Jay Presson Allen's adaptation stars Vanessa Redgrave and will run for 588 performances at Wyndham's Theater in London.

1974 Terrence McNally's Bad Habits, about some very dysfunctional people opens at Broadway Booth's Theatre after a run at the Astor Theatre. F. Murray Abraham leads the cast of actors that play in both one-act comedies, Ravenswood and Dunelawn, that comprise the production.

1994 Two-time Tony-winning director-choreographer Joe Layton who lent his talents to such productions as Once Upon a Mattress, The Sound of Music, No Strings, George M!, and Barnum, died today. Born Joseph Licthman, he also broke into films and television, choreographing "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "For the Boys" as well as the television special "My Name is Barbra."

2002 George Sidney, who directed film versions of some major Broadway musicals, dies at age 85. His movies included "Show Boat," "Kiss Me, Kate," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Ziegfeld Follies," "Pal Joey," "Bye Bye Birdie," "Half a Sixpence" and Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas."

2003 Political commentator Bill Maher brings his solo show, Victory Begins at Home to the Virginia Theatre, offering commentary on the prevailing political situation, notably President George W. Bush, and the war in Iraq. Maher had lost his TV show, "Politically Incorrect," after expressing some unpopular opinions on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2004 Mark Medoff's play Prymate, about the ethics of infecting a laboratory gorilla with the AIDS virus, scandalizes Broadway with its depiction of the primate by a black actor (Andre de Shields) and a scene showing a sexual encounter between the gorilla and a human female. Despite an ad from the producer asking audiences to see the show with an open mind, it closes after five performances.

2011 Arthur Laurents, the irascible, enduring Man of the Theatre who wrote plays and screenplays and enjoyed a significant career as a director — but who made his lasting mark as the librettist to two landmark musicals, West Side Story and Gypsy — dies at age 93.

2011 Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, a dynamic family drama studded with politics and American union fervor, opens at the Public Theater. Michael Greif, who staged the world premiere of the play at the Guthrie Theater in 2009, also directs the Off-Broadway bow of the four-hour work.

Today's Birthdays: Benny Baker 1907. Tyrone Power, Jr. 1914. Pat Carroll 1927. Roger Rees 1944.