PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: NOVEMBER 15

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
November 15, 2013

1875 British comic operetta titans W. S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan make their U.S. debut today with Trial by Jury at the Eagle Variety Theatre, where it runs 8 performances.



1904 It's "Sunday" and 10 weeks more for featured actress Ethel Barrymore. Thomas Raceward's play is directed by William Seymour.

1926 Lynn Fontanne makes one of her last Broadway appearances without her partner/husband Alfred Lunt when she stars as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion at the Guild Theatre. Reginald Mason plays Henry Higgins, and the production runs 143 performances.

1932 Elia Kazan, listed in the Playbill as "E. Kazan," makes his Broadway debut in Chrysalis, a short-lived drama with Humphrey Bogart and Margaret Sullavan at the Martin Beck Theatre. As a director and advocate of the Method acting technique, Kazan will staged some of the landmark Broadway plays of midcentury, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman.

1954 Lionel Barrymore dies at age 76. He made his stage debut at the age of fifteen and appeared in productions including The Jest and Peter Ibbetson. His film career ranged from "Grand Hotel" to the perennial "It's a Wonderful Life." He also published an autobiography, titled "We Barrymores."

1956 Dogpatch comes to life as Li'l Abner is staged at the St. James Theatre. Melvin Frank and Norman Panama adapted the Al Capp comic-strip, with songs by Johnny Mercer and Gene dePaul. The cast includes Tina Louise and Stubby Kaye dancing to Michael Kidd choreography.

1972 Mourning Becomes Electra is the first production in the new uptown Circle in the Square Theatre in the Uris Building. Colleen Dewhurst and Pamela Payton-Wright are featured in this production, which will run 55 performances.

1989 The military courtroom drama A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin opens tonight at the Music Box Theatre. The cast is headed by Tom Hulce, known for his roles in the 1984 film "Amadeus" and 1990's "Parenthood." The show will be made into a movie in 1992 after its 497-performance run on Broadway. The show catapults the writing career of Sorkin, who later creates the TV series "The West Wing."

1994 Julie Harris stars as Amanda Wingfield in Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Glass Menagerie. But the reviews focus on the waiflike actress who plays Laura: Calista Flockhart, who wins a Theatre World Award for her performance. She is quickly snapped up by TV, eventually landing the title role in the "Ally McBeal" TV series.

1998 Drug-addicts in today's Edinburgh get their theatrical outing at the Players Theatre, as the stage adaptation of Trainspotting opens tonight Off-Broadway. The show, adapted from Irvine Welsh's novel as well as the play (which was previously produced in Glasgow in 1994), will run for 17 performances.

2000 The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O'Brien's camp science-fiction/horror/musical, gets a Broadway revival starring Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea DeLaria, Alice Ripley, rock star Joan Jett, and, as the Narrator, onetime talk show host Dick Cavett. It runs 437 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The British import was a 45-performance flop in its original 1975 production, but a movie adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show attracted a devoted cult. In accord with that, audiences for the Broadway revival are issued sacks with newspapers (to use as rain hats) and rice (to throw in the wedding scene), along with other wacky interactive goodies.

2004 Following her internationally-successful Vagina Monologues, playwright Eve Ensler offers an "inside look at the outside" of the female anatomy in her Broadway debut, The Good Body. It will run 40 performances at the Booth Theatre.

2009 The Kennedy Center's revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime transfers to Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. The musical based on E.L. Doctorow's novel about blacks, whites and immigrants colliding in 1906 New York, stars Christiane Noll, Robert Petkoff and Quentin Earl Darrington. The production will fail to catch on with audiences, and closes after 65 performances.

2011 A revival of James Goldman's The Lion in Winter, directed by Trevor Nunn, opens at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. The production stars Robert Lindsay as Henry II and Joanna Lumley as Eleanor of Aquitaine.

2012 Sex, drugs, religion, celebrity, music and romance are swirled together in the musical Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, written by Kathie Lee Gifford, David Friedman and David Pomeranz, opening tonight at the Neil Simon Theatre. Though the production lasts only 29 performances, Carolee Carmello earns a Tony nomination for her performance as Aimee Semple McPherson.

More of Today's Birthdays: The Fairbanks Twins (Madeleine Fairbanks and Marion Fairbanks) 1900. Tillie Losch 1903. Carol Bruce 1919. Edward Asner 1929. Petula Clark 1932. Gloria Foster 1933. Sam Waterston 1940. Bob Gunton 1945.