Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 19

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 19
August Wilson's Jitney opens on Broadway on this date in 2017, later winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
Michael Potts, John Douglas Thompson, Anthony Chisholm, Keith Randolph Smith, and André Holland Joan Marcus

1887 Birthday of Alexander Woollcott, actor, author, radio personality, theatre critic of The New York Times, and one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table. He appeared as an actor in several Broadway shows, and serves as the model for the character of Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart's comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner.

1909 What is The Easiest Way? Eugene Walter's play explores the lengths women of the time went to in order to support themselves. The controversial drama is produced and directed by David Belasco.

1932 Ernest Truex and Claire Trevor are Whistling in the Dark at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The melodramatic farce by Laurence Gross and Edward Childs Carpenter deals with a novelist being held captive by bandits who want him to work out the perfect murder plot.

1942 Birthday of British musical theatre star Michael Crawford, who stars on Broadway in two gothic musicals: the blockbuster The Phantom of the Opera and the short-lived Dance of the Vampires.

1956 Tyrone Guthrie directs Anthony Quayle in Christopher Marlowe's 16th century epic Tamburlaine the Great at the Winter Garden Theatre. It runs only 20 performances, but gives one thing to posterity: It's the Broadway debut of William Shatner, later Captain Kirk on TV's Star Trek.

1965 London's Old Vic Theatre houses Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Produced by the National Theatre and directed by Laurence Olivier, the cast is led by Joyce Redman and Colin Blakely.

1978 James Earl Jones portrays Paul Robeson at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. The drama by Philip Dean plays 45 performances before moving to the Booth Theatre. At the Booth, it runs in repertory with Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

1984 Ian McKellen opens at the Ritz Theater in Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare. He receives a 1984 Tony Award nomination for his performance.

2006 Anthony Franciosa, the volatile Method actor who came to fame through his Tony-nominated work in A Hatful of Rain, and was once married to Shelley Winters, dies at age 77 following a stroke.

2016 The world premiere of Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, opens Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company. The play, centered on a makeshift family of workers at an auto plant, features Lynda Gravátt and Jason Dirden.

2017 August Wilson's 1979 drama Jitney has its Broadway debut at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play is the only work from the late two-time Pulitzer Prize winner's American Century Cycle that had never previously previously been seen on Broadway. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the production wins the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

More of Today's Birthdays: Minnie Dupree (1873-1947). Albertina Rasch (1896-1967). Jean Stapleton (1923-2013). Fritz Weaver (1926-2016). Dolly Parton (b. 1946). Veanne Cox (b. 1963). Scott Schwartz (b. 1974).

Watch highlights from the 2017 Broadway production of Jitney:

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