Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 10

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 10
Jenn Gambatese and Josh Strickland in Tarzan
Jenn Gambatese and Josh Strickland in Tarzan Joan Marcus

1838 John Wilkes Booth, perhaps the most infamous actor in American history, is born. The son of actor Junius Brutus Booth, and brother of actors Junius Brutus Booth Jr. and Edwin Booth, he appears with his brothers in a special November 1864 production of Shakespeare's assassination tragedy, Julius Caesar, with Edwin as Brutus, Junius as Cassius, and John Wilkes as Marc Anthony. Five months later, John assassinates President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. In 1991, he becomes a character in the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical, Assassins.

1899 Fred Astaire is born in Omaha, Nebraska. Along with his sister Adele Astaire, who is two years older, they become a popular vaudeville act and are later featured in such shows as Lady, Be Good and Funny Face. After Adele retires, Fred appears opposite Claire Luce in the 1932 musical Gay Divorce. This is his last Broadway appearance. Fred moves on to Hollywood.

1961 A group of unknowns—Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, and Alan Bennett—bring their comic revue Beyond the Fringe to London's Fortune Theatre. It runs for 1,184 performances. Even though the show mocks the Prime Minister, the normally censorious Lord Chamberlain attends the evening as part of the Queen's party.

1962 Peter Shaffer's double-bill The Private Ear/The Public Eye plays at London's Globe Theatre for 549 performances. Maggie Smith stars in both plays.

1964 Dancer-choreographer Carol Haney dies in New York. She is best remembered for the "Steam Heat" number from The Pajama Game. She was 40 years old.

1978 Fred Gwynne and Frances Sternhagen star in the Broadway musical Angel, based on Ketti Frings' Pulitzer Prize-winning adaptation of Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward, Angel. It closes three days later, after five performances at the Minskoff Theatre. Despite the short run, Sternhagen earns a Tony nomination for her performance.

1994 Carol Hall follows up The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public on Broadway at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. The original lasted 1,584 performances, but its sequel, about a Nevada brothel that tries to sell shares on Wall Street, doesn't fare as well, lasting only 16 performances.

2006 After a lengthy preview period that began March 24, Disney's fourth Broadway offering, Tarzan—following Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aida—opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Featuring direction and scenic design by Bob Crowley and a score by Phil Collins, the musical stars Josh Strickland in the title role opposite Jenn Gambatese as Jane. It runs 486 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Max Steiner 1888. Dimitri Tiomkin 1899. Nancy Walker 1922. Arthur Kopit 1937. Suzan-Lori Parks 1963. Josh Young 1980. Katori Hall 1981.

Watch highlights from the 2012 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring Tony nominee Josh Young as Judas:

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