PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 21

By Ernio Hernandez
and Robert Viagas
August 21, 2014

1944 Robert Wright and George Forrest put words to classical themes by Edvard Grieg to create the operetta Song of Norway, based on Grieg's life. It opens an 860-performance run today at the Imperial Theatre, helped by George Balanchine's choreography, and the success of the song "Strange Music."



1983 The Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musical La Cage Aux Folles opens tonight at Broadway's Palace Theatre. George Hearn and Gene Barry star in this adaptation of the classic French play and film about a middle-aged homosexual couple who are forced to hide their sexual orientation in order to meet the fiancee of one of the men's sons, and her family. In pure musical comedy fashion, mayhem pursues. In a time when homosexuality had yet to become the basis of a big Broadway musical, La Cage proved to be a raging success, winning the Tony Award for best musical, and racking up 1,761 performances. Over the course of the run other actors who would play either Albin or George were Larry Kert, Jamie Ross, Walter Charles and Keith Michell. A 1996 non-musical film version of the same story called "The Birdcage" will star Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Calista Flockhart and Nathan Lane.

1986 A lot of major Broadway talent converges on the musical Rags, an original musical about immigrants on New York's lower east side, which opens a 4-performance flop run today. Music is by Charles Strouse, lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz (returning to Broadway for the first time since Working), libretto is by Joseph Stein. Opera star Teresa Stratas leads a cast that includes Larry Kert, Judy Kuhn, Dick Latessa and Lonny Price.

1990 A revival of Moss Hart's Light Up the Sky opens Off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Elaine Bromka, Charles Keating, and Betsy Joslyn are featured in the cast under the direction of Larry Carpenter. The original production of the show was produced on Broadway in 1948 for 214 performances. A week following the opening, Jason Alexander replaces cast member Bruce Weitz.

1999 Off-Off-Broadway's Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre begins its 2000 season with On the Razzle, Tom Stoppard's take on Viennese playwright Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen. The play is the same source that inspired Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, which in turn inspired Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!. Cocteau Rep is no stranger to Stoppard works, as they have previously produced Travesties, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Rough Crossing.

2001 Signature Theatre's "environmental" staging of the musical Grand Hotel — spilling from the stage to the seating and out into the lobby — begins previews in Arlington, VA.

2002 Master dancer-choreographer Savion Glover and director George C. Wolfe's Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk song-and-dance revue begins a revival tour with original cast members Glover and Lynette DuPree at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Company. After the Atlanta run ends Sept. 29, a new national tour will kick off, stopping in major US cities including Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles, as well as short runs on college campuses throughout the U.S.

Today's Birthdays: Jack Weston 1924. Carolyn Leigh 1926. Melvin Van Peebles 1932. Loretta Devine 1949. Kim Cattrall 1956. Robin De Jesus 1984.