PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 21
By David Gewirtzman
1896 This day marks Florenz Ziegfeld's debut as a Broadway producer. The Parlor March opens at the Herald Square Theatre, starring Anna Held (his mistress and later wife). Ziegfeld's specialty will be "glorifying the American girl" in huge Broadway spectaculars throughout the early 20th century.
1917 Variety reports that producer George Tyler has found the new star for his upcoming production of Pollyanna in Rochester, New York. It is Helen Hayes. The headline reads, "Tyler's 17-Year-Old 'Find'" and the article itself states that, "[H]er present manager proclaims her as one of the stars within a very few seasons."
1938 George Kelly's Reflected Glory begins performances at the Morosco Theatre, where it will stay for 127 performances. Tallulah Bankhead stars as an actress torn between her desire for a career and her desire for marriage.
1938 In mid-September 1999, New York experienced the effect of a hurricane storm on Broadway. Ethel Barrymore had a similar experience in 1938 on this date. It took her 45 minutes to get from her hotel to the theatre, which was only seven blocks away, because of the great New England hurricane. She was performing in Whiteoaks at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston. Even after her unsteady arrival, the show was still delayed for an hour because the gap on the roof from which the skylight had blown off had to be covered. The Producer's Credo, "The show must go on!" (which, by the way, belongs solely to the producer, not to the actor as history has it) probably didn't ring any more true than on this date in theatre history.
1966 A Hand Is on the Gate, billed as "an evening of poetry and music by American Negroes," opens on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. The cast of eight includes Leon Bibb, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson.
1966 Following a hit run at the New York State Theatre and a national tour, Ethel Merman returns to Broadway as Annie Oakley in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun, playing the same role she originated 20 years earlier. In honor of the revival, composer Irving Berlin wrote a new song for the musical called "Old Fashioned Wedding," and according to the New York Times, the song stops the show at every performances with Merman having to do "a minimum of four encores of the song at each performance."
1999 The United States Postal Service honors nine Broadway composers and/or lyricists by unveiling the Broadway Songwriters postage stamp series today at New York City's Broadhurst Theatre. The six stamp designs include composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (pictured together), lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe (together), composer George Gershwin and lyricist Ira Gershwin (together), lyricist Lorenz Hart, composer-lyricist Meredith Willson and composer-lyricist Frank Loesser.
2001 The John Kander & Fred Ebb musical The Visit opens a tryout at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, starring Chita Rivera and John McMartin. Plans for a Broadway and then an Off-Broadway production will subsequently be put on hold.
Today's Birthdays: Maurice Barrymore 1847. Frederick Jackson 1886. Larry Hagman 1931. Marsha Norman 1947. Billy Porter 1969.
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