PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 17

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez, Robert Viagas and Sam Maher
September 17, 2013

1879 The Daly Theatre opens at Broadway and Thirtieth Street in New York.



1894 Arms and the Man opens tonight at the Herald Square Theatre. It stars Richard Mansfield, who himself describes the play as a "little satirical comedy of no great weight." This is the first American production of a George Bernard Shaw play. The New York Dramatic Mirror will proclaim that although the audience enjoyed it on press night, the language may be "too ironic for it to ever become popular with the average theatregoer."

1900 The Garden Theatre plays host tonight to the opening of Hamlet. The production stars one of the up-and-coming Shakespeare stars of the era, E. H. Sothern, in the title role. His wife, Virginia Harned, co-stars as Ophelia.

1917 Playwright George S. Kaufman becomes the newest member of the drama department at The New York Times. His beginning salary is $36 a week.

1917 Mary Hamlin's drama Hamilton opens at the Knickerbocker Theatre, starring George Arliss as founding father Alexander Hamilton.

1951 The Yiddish comedy revue Borscht Capades opens at the Royale Theatre, featuring Mickey Katz and his son Joel Kaye. Kaye, who makes his Broadway debut in the production, will later change his name to Joel Grey.

1959 John Gielgud directs and stars in Much Ado About Nothing on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, for a limited engagement of 58 performances. Having appeared as Benedick in the William Shakespeare comedy many times since his 1931 premiere in the role at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre, Gielgud announces that this production will be his last in the role. Starring opposite Gielgud is Margaret Leighton, who is nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Beatrice.

1990 Since Actors' Equity gave him the control over the casting, Cameron Mackintosh agrees today to go ahead with the auditions for Miss Saigon. He has also agreed to make an effort to cast Asian-Americans in the musical.

2000 The first Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's 1960 political drama The Best Man opens tonight at the Virginia Theatre. The production, which stars Charles Durning, Spalding Gray, Chris Noth, Elizabeth Ashley and Christine Ebersole, will play a limited run through Dec. 31, closing after 121 performances. The production is memorable for setting up a voting booth in the lobby and letting ticket holders "vote" for president. Vice President Al Gore beats Gov. George W. Bush decisively, but the November general election will have a surprise in store.

2002 Seussical, a 2000-01 Broadway flop that, in that season, became a critic's favorite target, a musical theatre fan's heartbreak and a child's dream come true, went back to the old drawing board for the national tour that launches today. Co-librettists Lynn Ahrens (also the lyricist) and Stephen Flaherty (also the composer) teamed with director Christopher Ashley for the touring version, which stars Cathy Rigby as The Cat in the Hat.

Today's Birthdays: Roddy McDowall 1928. Anne Bancroft 1931. Dorothy Loudon 1933. Ken Kesey 1935. John Ritter 1948. Rita Rudner 1955. Baz Luhrmann 1962. Constantine Maroulis 1975.