PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: JULY 15

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas and Doug Nevin
July 15, 2014

1856 Birthday of prolific producer Charles Frohman (1856-1915) who, often in collaboration with his brothers Daniel and Gustave, produced dozens of Broadway shows including Sherlock Holmes, The Czarina, Pasteur, The Texas Nightingale and Zander the Great. In one busy stretch, September and October 1902, he opened 12 plays on Broadway.



1905 Birthday of lyricist and librettist Dorothy Fields (1905-1974), daughter of vaudeville star Lew Fields of Weber & Fields. Among her numerous credits over six decades from the 1920s to the 1970s: Blackbirds of 1928, Let's Face It! (book), Annie Get Your Gun (book), Redhead (book and lyrics), Sweet Charity (lyrics) and Seesaw (lyrics). She was nominated for three Tony Awards and won one, for her work on Redhead.

1937 Though it has been moribund for several years, Vaudeville is officially declared dead today, as Variety merges its "vaudeville" and "nite clubs" sections for the first time ever. The entertainment newspaper explains that "the vaudeville department has lately been particularly difficult to fill up."

1949 Irving Berlin tries to recreate the success of Annie Get Your Gun by reassembling the creative team for a musical about the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Despite direction by Moss Hart and choreography by Jerome Robbins, Miss Liberty will run a disappointing 308 performances, but will produce a modest hit tune in "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk."

1981 News stories around the world today state that businessman and sometimes-theatrical producer Claus Von Bulow has been accused of attempting to murder his wife. Reads the Variety headline about the incident: "Von Bulow, B'way Angel, Accused of Attempting to Murder His Wife." Von Bulow was a major investor in the Broadway productions of Deathtrap and Wings. Almost a decade later, Jeremy Irons will win an Academy Award for his portrayal of Von Bulow in Barbet Schroeder's film based on the case, titled "Reversal of Fortune."

1982 Nathan Lane makes his Broadway debut today opposite George C. Scott in a revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter. Also in the blessed cast are other future stars Christine Lahti, Kate Burton and Dana Ivey.

1998 Trevor Nunn's staging of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People begins tonight at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre. The Royal National Theatre production starring Ian McKellen tells the story of a Norwegian doctor's attempt to expose a scandal in which the local baths are dangerously contaminated. The production used the new version by Christopher Hampton.

2010 Harry Connick, Jr. In Concert on Broadway begins a limited 15-performance run at the Neil Simon Theatre. The evening highlights songs from Connick, Jr.'s album "Your Songs," including "The Way You Look Tonight," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Close to You," "Who Can I Turn To?" and "Smile."

2012 Celeste Holm, a theatre and film actress who, through a small but select collection of indelible mid-20th century stage and cinema performances, achieved the somewhat legendary status in show business circles, dies at age 95. Perhaps best known for creating the role of Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, Holm appeared in over twenty Broadway productions including performances as Anna in The King and I, Mame in #Mame, Evalina in Bloomer Girl, and Anna Christopherson in Anna Christie.

Today's Birthdays: Joan Roberts 1918. Joanna Merlin 1931. Ken Kercheval 1935. Laura Benanti 1979.