PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 7
By David Gewirtzman
1907 The Gay White Way, a musical revue whose title meant something quite different in that innocent era, opens at the Casino Theatre for a then-healthy run of 105 performances. Blanche Ring and Katherine Bell are featured.
1914 Sturdy Broadway leading man Alfred Drake (1914-1992) is born today. Among classic roles he will create: Curly in Oklahoma!, Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate and Hajj in Kismet.
1943 The unlikely collaboration of Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash and S. J. Perelman results in a hit musical, One Touch of Venus, about a man who brings a statue of the Roman goddess of love to live. The show runs 567 performances, partly owing to the appeal of its Venus, Mary Martin, in her first starring role.
1948 Love Life, one of the more interesting musical experiments of the postwar years, opens at the 46th Street Theatre. Billed as "A Vaudeville," it contains sketches about love stretching from the 18th century to the present. Lots of talent involved: music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, directed by Elia Kazan, choreography by Michael Kidd, starring Nanette Fabray and Ray Middleton. It runs 252 performances.
1960 Judy Holliday's first attempt at a straight dramatic role is smashed today as Laurette closes in Philadelphia, which is where it was being tried out for Broadway. The play, about actress Laurette Taylor, was closed by the producer, who declared Holliday as having "to undergo corrective surgery for a throat condition." The truth is that Holliday has breast cancer and will die June 7, 1965.
1975 Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone, both members of the first graduating class of the drama department at the Juilliard School, star tonight in The Acting Company's production of The Robber Bridegroom at the Harkness Theatre. This production was based on the 1942 novella of the same name by Eudora Welty. Although the production will run only 14 performances, it will transfer to Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre merely a year and two days later for a run of 145 performances. Steven Suskin says this show belongs in the category of "good shows that unhappily fail."
1982 The Winter Garden Theatre hosts the opening of what will become the most successful musical in the history of Broadway, Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber's rendition of the T.S. Eliot collection of poems, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," boasts advance sales of $6.2 million before it even opens. The show has sound and special effects galore, no dialogue, and a diva in the making, Betty Buckley, singing its most memorable tune, "Memory." Cats wins seven Tony awards and plays in more than 250 cities around the world. By the time it closes on Sept. 10, 2000, Cats plays 7485 performances, far outpacing previous long-run champ, A Chorus Line.
1993 Choreographer Agnes de Mille, 88, dies today. The niece of Cecil B. DeMille, she spent much of her life as a self-characterized "storyteller", choreographing such Broadway classics as Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Paint Your Wagon.
1996 The Circle Repertory Company, having lived out its 28-year life to great success, folds, owing the IRS more than $700,000. The company will be remembered for showcasing the work of such distinguished American playwrights as Albert Innaurato, Edward J. Moore, and Lanford Wilson, who was also a co-founder.
1999 Susan Stroman and John Weidman premiere their propulsive new "dance play" Contact at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre. The show, which will break new ground as a hybrid theatrical genre, stars Karen Ziemba, Boyd Gaines and newcomer Deborah Yates. It will transfer to LCT's Vivian Beaumont Theatre for a Broadway run the following year.
2001 The "bong and dance" musical Reefer Madness, based on the cult anti-marijuana film of 1936, opens Off-Broadway, starring Christian Campbell, Gregg Edelman and Michele Pawk.
2004 Hildy Parks, 78, the producer, writer, actress and model who collaborated with husband Alexander H. Cohen to produce The Tony Awards for two decades, dies today due to complications from a recent stroke.
2008 In the first Broadway revival of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, three-time Tony Award winner Frank Langella plays the 16th century statesman Sir Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII in his conflicts with the church. Doug Hughes directs the production at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre.
2010 Donald Margulies' Tony Award-nominated drama Time Stands Still transfers to the Cort Theatre, following a spring 2010 run at Manhattan Theatre Club. Christina Ricci joins original cast members Laura Linney, Brian d'Arcy James and Eric Bogosian.
More of Today’s Birthdays: June Allyson 1917. Reid Shelton 1924. Abe Jacob 1944. William Parry 1947. Toni Braxton 1967. Tim Minchin 1975.
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