PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: NOVEMBER 19

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
November 19, 2013

1906 George Arliss and Mrs. Fiske star in The New York Idea, Langdon Mitchell's play which runs 66 performances at the Lyric Theatre.



1919 Producer-playwright David Belasco installs a 223-performance hit at the theatre that bears his name. Sexy Lenore Ulric is featured in his play about China, The Son-Daughter.

1923 Jacob Ben-Ami and Winifred Lenihan are The Failures. There will be only five weeks of performances at the Garrick Theater of H. R. Lenormand's play. In the story "She," out of desperation, takes up the world's oldest profession, while "He" struggles at the second oldest (playwriting).

1936 Kurt Weill writes his first Broadway score since immigrating to the U.S. Johnny Johnson, which has a book by Paul Green and direction by Lehman Engel, is an antiwar musical about a young soldier. Produced by the Group Theatre at its height, the show features an enviable cast: John Garfield, Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner, Morris Carnovsky and Luther Adler. It runs 68 performances at the 44th Street Theatre.

1961 American playwright Dorothy Heyward is dead at the age of 81. She wrote Porgy, that would later be adapted for Porgy and Bess and Mamba's Daughters with her husband DuBose Heyward, and Jonica with Moss Hart.

1962 Charles Boyer stars in Lord Pengo at the Royale Theater. S. N. Behrman adapted his "The Days of Duveen" specifically for Boyer. The cast of this comedy included a young Brian Bedford, Agnes Moorehead, Henry Daniell and Lee Richardson. It will run for 175 performances.

1971 Today marks the official opening in New York City of Playwrights Horizons, at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, with a staged reading of Margaret Power's Victims Anonymous. Robert Moss is founder and producing director of this venture to support and encourage new American playwrights.

1973 Birthday of Savion Glover, tap prodigy who starred on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue and Jelly's Last Jam before he was 20, and won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, in which he also co-starred.

1981 Katharine Hepburn makes her final Broadway appearance in Ernest Thompson's drama, The West Side Waltz, opposite Dorothy Loudon. The show runs 126 performances at the Barrymore Theatre.

1985 Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport opens tonight at the Booth Theatre with a cast that includes Judd Hirsch and Cleavon Little. The replacements later on in this show, which runs for 891 performances, are Ossie Davis and Hal Linden. The New York Times' Frank Rich pans Rappaport, although it goes on to win the 1986 Tony Award for Best Play, and Hirsch will win for Best Actor. Gardner calls this "proof that there's life after Frank Rich." The 1996 movie version, directed by Gardner himself, included Davis and Walter Matthau.

1997 Peter Riegert, Patti LuPone, and Rebecca Pidgeon star in David Mamet's new play The Old Neighborhood, which opens tonight at the Booth Theatre. The show, which is a trio of scenes, follows a divorced, middle-aged man's emotion-generating visit to his old Chicago neighborhood. The show ran for 197 performances.

2003 Laughing Room Only, a burlesque musical starring Jackie Mason, opens today at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and hands the comedian the shortest Broadway run of his career 14 performances.

2008 Clive Barnes, who covered the New York theatre and dance worlds for four decades, first as a critic for The New York Times and then for the New York Post, dies at age 81.

2009 Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the vibrator play opens at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. Laura Benanti and Michael Cerveris star in the seriocomic period play about a 19th century doctor whose experiments with the latest electronic invention — the vibrator — revolutionizes his practice and transforms his marriage in an unexpected way.

2012 Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul re-wrap Jean Shepherd's nostalgic and comedic 1983 film "A Christmas Story" as a Broadway musical, as A Christmas Story, The Musical opens at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Despite a limited holiday run, the musical is not forgotten at Tony time, earning nominations for Best Musical, as well as for Pasek and Paul's score, and Joseph Robinette's book.

More of Today's Birthdays: Margaret Mayo 1882. Eleanor Powell 1912. Gene Tierney 1920. Rob Ashford 1959. Allison Janney 1959. Laura Osnes 1985.