PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 29
By Ernio Hernandez
1921 The operetta Blossom Time opens on Broadway. With a score of Franz Schubert themes rearranged by Sigmund Romberg, the show will go on to reach a then-epic run of 576 performances and spawn four simultaneous touring companies, and become a perennial moneymaker for the Shubert Brothers.
1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy Merrily We Roll Along introduces the plot innovation of moving backward in time from scene to scene. It will run 155 performances at the Music Box Theatre and inspire a 1981 musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth.
1939 Danny Kaye makes his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue which runs just 75 performances depite a cast that includes Jerome Robbins (as a dancer), Alfred Drake and Imogene Coca.
1955 Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge opens tonight at the Coronet Theatre. The drama about Eddie, a simple longshoreman driven to acts of brutality and despair by passions he can't understand gets mixed reviews and will run only 19 weeks. Martin Ritt is the director of this production, whose stars include Van Heflin, J. Carrol Naish, Eileen Heckart, Jack Warden and Richard Davalos. The play was revived on Broadway in 1997 with Anthony LaPaglia (later, Tony Danza), playing the role of Eddie, and again in 2009 with Liev Schreiber in the role.
1960 A jealous man disguises himself to serve as his girlfriend's paramour -- and thereby as his own rival -- in the popular musical comedy Irma La Douce, which opens tonight on Broadway.
1962 After six-and-a-half years, the musical hit My Fair Lady will close on Broadway tonight. It played a record 2,717 performances, and its gross receipts were $20,257,000 — a record at that time for a musical.
1962 Also today, future Tony Award winner Roger Bart is born. The stage comedian creates memorable performances in The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Triumph of Love and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
1983 A Chorus Line becomes the longest-running musical in Broadway history today. After 3,389 performances, it has surpassed Grease. The show continued on for a few more years with 6,137 performances as the final total.
1985 Eugene O'Neill's classic, The Iceman Cometh, is revived at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre tonight. This play, about a group of hopeless denizens in a Lower East Side bar, was originally produced in October 1946 but was overshadowed by Arthur Miller's All My Sons. It did not receive major recognition until it was produced at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 1955. The cast of that version included Jason Robards, Jr. as Hickey, the traveling salesman, and was directed by Jose Quintero. The same actor in the same role with the same director make up the production tonight. The play was revived again on Broadway in 1999 with Kevin Spacey as Hickey and Tony Danza as Rocky, the bartender.
1975 A work by a new-to-New York playwright opens Off-Off Broadway at the St. Clement's Church called Sexual Perversity in Chicago. The play will win the season's Obie Award for Best New American Play and playwright David Mamet will go on to become a fixture in both Off-Broadway and Broadway theatre.
1999 The Atlantic Theater Company celebrates its 15th season by honoring the work of playwright and co-founder David Mamet. The season begins today with a double bill of The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness. Productions of Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations continue the season, and the topper comes with American Buffalo starring the other Atlantic co-founder William H. Macy.
2001 Non-traditional casting pioneer Gloria Foster, the African-American actress who specialized in classical roles including Medea, Madame Ranevskaya, Mary Tyrone, Clytemnestra and Titania, dies in New York. She had a late-career success in 1995's Having Our Say.
2003 Nearly 80 years of theatregoers' confusion come to an end when Greenwich Village's Commerce Street is officially renamed Cherry Lane after the Cherry Lane Theatre, which has stood on the short, curved thoroughfare since it was founded by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1924.
2009 Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig co-star in Keith Huff's two-character police drama, A Steady Rain, which opens on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. John Crowley directs the play about a pair of Chicago cops whose willingness to blink at corruption leads to disaster.
More of Today's Birthdays: Greer Garson 1904. Madeline Kahn 1942. Debbie Shapiro (a.k.a. Debbie Gravitte) 1954. Lynette Perry 1963. Darius de Haas 1968.
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