PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 14
By David Gewirtzman
1910 Birthday of Lehman Engel (1910-1982), the Tony-winning Broadway conductor who will found the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. Among the shows he will conduct are original productions of Wonderful Town, Fanny, Li'l Abner, Do Re Mi, Call Me Mister and The Consul. He will win the Tony in 1953 as outstanding musical director, an award that was later discontinued.
1916 The Longacre Theatre is the host tonight for the opening of a new comedy by James Montgomery, Nothing But The Truth. William Collier stars in this play that follows a stock broker trying not to tell a lie for 24 hours in order to win a $10,000 bet.
1925 The Jazz Singer by Samson Raphaelson opens tonight at the Fulton. George Jessel stars as the cantor's son, Jackie Rabinowitz, who is tempted away from religious music by jazz. The melodrama runs 303 performance, and will make history in 1927 as the first commercially-released sound film.
1936 The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 opens today, featuring songs by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin, and performances by Fanny Brice, Gypsy Rose Lee and Bobby Clark.
1949 Treasure Hunt, a comedy by M. J. Farrell and John Perry, opens at the Apollo Theater in London and tells of an aristocratic pair who decide to take in paying guests to maintain their almost bankrupt estate. The play was directed by John Gielgud and starred Sybil Thorndike, Alan Webb, and Marie Lohr. The play would run 11 months.
1960 Bette Davis, Clark Allen and Leif Erickson take part in staged readings of The World of Carl Sandburg. The poetry-based piece runs at Henry Miller's Theatre until October 8.
1972 Opening night of Jason Miller's drama, That Championship Season, about the reunion of a high school basketball team at which a lot of long-buried truths are revealed. The cast features Charles Durning, Paul Sorvino, Richard A. Dysart and Walter McGinn. It runs 700 performances and wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
1980 Charles Strouse provides music for the musical Charlie and Algernon which opens tonight at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The show is based on the same source material as the 1968 film "Charly," about a mentally retarded man who is temporarily transformed into a genius. The tuner lasts only 17 performances before closing Sept. 28. The composer will suffer another blow to his ego later in the season when his Bring Back Birdie — a sequel to his successful Bye Bye Birdie — will fall after only 4 performances.
2000 Writer-performer Pamela Gien takes on 28 roles spanning four generations of South Africans, from apartheid to freedom in The Syringa Tree. The one-woman show opens tonight at Off-Broadway's Playhouse 91. The play will win the 2001 Obie Award for Best Play and garner Gien a 2001 Drama Desk Award in the category of Solo Performance. Gien is replaced by Kate Blumberg on Aug. 1, 2001 as she exits to work on a film adaptation of the play.
2005 Robert Wise, 91, Academy Award-winning producer-director who brought the musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music to the big screen, dies of heart failure.
2008 Following an award-winning run at Los Angeles' El Portal Theatre, The Marvelous Wonderettes opens at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre Upstairs. Written and directed by Roger Bean, the musical features classic songs of the fifties and sixties in a journey back to the 1958 Springfield High School prom.
2009 Patrick Swayze, who boasted Broadway and West End theatrical credits but was best known for his work in several hit Hollywood films, dies at age 57, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Mr. Swayze made his Broadway debut in the original Broadway run of Grease as a replacement Danny Zuko and later appeared in the short-lived musical Goodtime Charley, and as Billy Flynn in the Broadway revival of Chicago. Mr. Swayze earned Golden Globe nominations for his roles in "Dirty Dancing," "Ghost" and "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar."
More of Today's Birthdays: A. E. Anson 1879. Kay Medford 1920. Zoe Caldwell 1933. Nicol Williamson 1938.
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