PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 29

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher and Steve Luber
October 29, 2013

1882 Birth of French playwright Jean Giraudoux, author of The Madwoman of Chaillot, Ondine, Intermezzo, Tiger at the Gates and Amphitryon 38. He lives to 1944.



1891 Birth of comedian Fanny Borach, better known as Fanny Brice, star of the Ziegfeld Follies, whose shtick will consist mainly of making fun of her own looks. Her enduring "Baby Snooks" persona carries over to a radio career in the 1930s. Her signature tune will be the wistful "My Man." Her life will serve as the basis for the musical Funny Girl. She lives to 1951.

1894 Opening night for Reginald De Koven's popular operetta, Rob Roy.

1932 Mildred Natwick makes her Broadway debut in Frank McGrath's Carry Nation at the Biltmore Theatre.

1936 Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman (or is that Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante?) star in the Cole Porter musical Red, Hot and Blue!, memorable mainly for the PR battle in which both stars demand top billing. Management eventually compromises by criscrossing their names on the marquee of the Alvin Theatre. It runs 183 performances (with Bob Hope settling for third billing).

1941 Cole Porter's musical Let's Face It! opens tonight at the Imperial Theatre. It is the first chance that Danny Kaye has to prove himself as a leading man, because tonight is his first starring role on Broadway. His co-stars for the evening include Eve Arden, Vivian Vance and Nanette Fabray. Jose Ferrer takes over for Danny Kaye during the run of the show, which was 547 performances. The film version is released in 1943.

1952 Audiences are kept on the edge of their seats as a husband hires a man to kill his wife in Dial "M" for Murder, which opens tonight.

1958 Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer star in Leslie Stevens' The Marriage-Go-Round, which opens tonight at the Plymouth Theatre. The subject of the play is sex and marriage. Julie Newmar is also in the cast.

1967 Although without the famous nude scene that will be inserted into the Broadway run, Hair opens tonight at the Astor Library, the new home for Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. This is the first time the company have charged admission for one of their shows, although the ticket price is only $2.50. The show will transfer to Broadway in 1968, stopping off first at a discotheque on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Broadway run will rack up 1,742 performances.

1977 After a calamitous tryout tour, the John Kander & Fred Ebb musical The Act opens at the Majestic Theatre. Liza Minnelli is in the lead role, which will win her the 1978 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical. The story of a nightclub singer recalling her rocky romantic and professional life will come to look more like autobiography as the years roll on. The show will run 233 performances.

1984 The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego suffers its second arson fire in six years today. This one will cost the theatre $500,000.

2002 Sherie Rene Scott plays the title role in Debbie Does Dallas, a musical based on the pornographic film of the same name. Following a sold-out engagement at the summer 2002 New York International Fringe Festival, the naughty tuner begins a regular Off-Broadway run today. It will continue through February 2003.

2003 After many other acting teams competed for the role, Mark Hamill and Polly Bergen open on Broadway in Richard Alfieri's two-person comedy, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, playing an elderly woman whose life in renewed when she begins taking dance lessons. Unfortunately the show is panned and fails to run even as long as the title, closing after just 30 performances.

2009 Finian's Rainbow, the 1947 show-tune-packed musical about an Irishman and his daughter who come to America on a magical quest, opens in a Broadway revival starring Jim Norton, Chuck Cooper, Kate Baldwin, Christopher Fitzgerald, Cheyenne Jackson and Terri White. The production at the St. James Theatre is the first Broadway revival of the classic Burton Lane/Fred Saidy/E.Y. Harburg show since 1960.

2012 Due to Hurricane Sandy and the suspension of the New York City mass transit system, all Broadway shows are canceled this evening. Performances were also canceled on Oct. 28, and will not resume until Oct. 31.

More of Today's Birthdays: Akim Tamiroff 1899. Robert Nemiroff 1929. Melba Moore 1945. Ken Billington 1946. Richard Dreyfuss 1947. Rufus Sewell 1967.