PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 24

By David Gewirtzman
and Ernio Hernandez, Robert Viagas and Sam Maher
September 24, 2013

1902 Cheryl Crawford (1902-1986), one of the most powerful and influential women in Broadway history, is born today. As producer and/or director, she will have a decisive hand in productions as diverse as Brigadoon, Golden Boy, Awake and Sing!, Men in White, One Touch of Venus, The Rose Tattoo and Sweet Bird of Youth.



1906 Debut of one of the most successful operettas of the early 20th century, The Red Mill by Victor Herbert and Henry Blossom. It features the hit song, "In Old New York."

1931 Anthony Newley, star of stage and screen, is born today. Newley will go on to be a legend in the theatre world by creating two new musicals. Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, a collaboration with Leslie Bricusse, opened in 1962 and was not only directed by Newley, but also featured him as a performer. Newley went on to work with Bricusse again in 1965 for The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd. Newley is also remembered for his performance as the inevitable Matthew Mugg in the movie, "Doctor Dolittle," starring Rex Harrison.

1953 Take a Giant Step, starring the young Louis Gossett, Jr., opens today at the Lyceum Theatre. The Playbill for the production states that young Gossett is a high school student in Brooklyn who aspires to be a pharmacist.

1958 The Gate Theatre on Second Avenue hosts the opening of a new play by James Forsythe, Heloise, tonight. Twenty-four year old Alan Arkin is in the production.

1974 A revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens tonight at the ANTA Theatre. The play has been updated since its 1956 Broadway production, now including profanity in the script. Elizabeth Ashley stars as Maggie. Her co-stars include Keir Dullea, Fred Gwynne and Kate Reid. Michael Kahn, now director of the drama division at the Juilliard School, directs. The revival will run 160 performances.

1976 The long-running revival of Oh! Calcutta! opens today at the Edison Theatre, where it will stay for 5959 performances, briefly becoming the second-longest-running show in Broadway history.

1998 The Savion Glover-George C. Wolfe production of Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk which opened April 25, 1996, celebrates its 1000th performance today. The tap-rap spectacle with book by Reg E. Gaines and music by Ann Duquesnay, Zane Mark and Daryl Waters will go on for 130 more to carve its niche into theatre history.

2001 Some of Broadway's top stars, including Audra McDonald, Heather Headley and Lillias White, star in a special Actors Fund benefit performance of Dreamgirls at the Ford Center. Also in the cast: Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patrick Wilson, Adam Pascal, Darius de Haas and Norm Lewis.

2003 Herb Gardner, the Broadway dramatist who wrote few plays but had many productions, dies at age 68 after a long illness. Gardner's plays—mostly comedies with heartwarming messages at their core—could be counted on one hand. Yet, his batting average was good. Three of the titles—A Thousand Clowns, I'm Not Rappaport and Conversations with My Father—had long runs on Broadway. A Thousand Clowns was Tony Award-nominated for Best Play and Rappaport won the Best Play prize, and both have been revived on Broadway and in countless stagings across the U.S. However, his play, The Goodbye People flopped spectacularly twice, in seven performances with Milton Berle in 1968, and in just one performance with Herschel Bernardi in 1979. Gardner's preeminent interpreter was actor Judd Hirsch, who starred in the original productions of Rappaport and Conversations, winning Tonys for both performances.

2006 Patrick Quinn, the Broadway actor and Actors' Equity official who had been newly appointed executive director of the union, dies at his country home at the age of 55.

2012 A new production of Tennessee Williams' steamy Southern-set Sweet Bird of Youth, directed by David Cromer, opens at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Diane Lane stars as aging Hollywood screen star Alexandra del Lago, opposite Finn Wittrock as young drifter Chance Wayne.

More of Today's Birthdays: F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896. Larry Gates 1915. David Brooks 1917. Theresa Merritt 1924. Harriet Walter 1950.