Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 22

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 22
 
Laurence Olivier in Hamlet
Laurence Olivier in Hamlet

1907 Laurence Olivier is born. The preeminent British actor of his generation, his dozens of notable performances included Romeo and Juliet, The Entertainer, Becket, Private Lives, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Uncle Vanya.

1909 The Midnight Sons, with a score by Raymond Hubbell and a book by Glen MacDonough, runs at the Broadway Theatre for nearly eight months. Director Ned Wayburn opens the show with an audience on stage watching the real audience. Dancer Vernon Castle is a highlight of the cast.

1909 J. J. Shubert tells the New York Dramatic Mirror that the Shubert Organization is now in position to play 40 weeks, coast-to-coast, due to the number of theatres it owns outright or controls. In the coming season, the Shuberts control 100 attractions.

1920 American playwright Hal Reid dies at the age of 60. Among his plays are From Broadway to Bowery and The Kentuckian. In 1912, he was appointed censor to the Universal Film Corporation.

1945 Paul Robeson returns to New York as Othello for a limited engagement at City Center. Co-starring José Ferrer as Iago and Uta Hagen as Desdemona, the production had been on tour following its 296-performance Broadway run at the Shubert Theatre.

1956 The Littlest Revue, “conceived, cast, and assembled” by Ben Bagley, opens Off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre. A cast including Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, and Charlotte Rae perform songs by Ogden Nash and Vernon Duke. Additional material is contributed by John La Touche, Sheldon Harnick, Lee Adams, Charles Strouse, and Eudora Welty.

1967 American poet and playwright Langston Hughes dies in New York City at the age of 65. He wrote two full-length plays, Mulatto, which was turned into a musical titled The Barrier in 1950, and Troubled Island. His autobiography, The Big Sea, was published in 1940.

1994 Youth has gone awry in Eric Bogosian’s subUrbia at Lincoln Center Theater’s Off-Broadway Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The play, set at a suburban 7-Eleven, stars Tim Guinee, Steve Zahn, Josh Hamilton, Wendy Hoopes, and Martha Plimpton.

1998 Jackie Mason gears up for his latest stand-up show Much Ado About Everything at New York’s Catch a Rising Star. The show opens at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre on December 30, 1999, and runs 182 performances.

2001 The Full Monty launches its national tour in Toronto.

2002 Broadway loses a champion today when The Rosie O’Donnell Show, the TV talk show that made a point of showcasing stage musicals over the course of six years starting in 1996, broadcasts its final segment. O’Donnell, who hosted three Tony Awards shows along the way, ends with a salute to the Great White Way that features cast members from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, 42nd Street, and The Producers.

2011 Joseph Brooks, the Hollywood composer of “You Light Up My Life” and the musicals In My Life and Metropolis, commits suicide in his Upper East Side apartment at age 73.

2012 February House, Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley’s musical that centers around the bohemian Brooklyn Heights residents at 7 Middagh Street, opens Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. The production stars Julian Fleisher as George Davis, Stanley Bahorek as Benjamin Britten, Kacie Sheik as Gypsy Rose Lee, Erik Lochtefeld as W.H. Auden, and Kristen Sieh as Carson McCullers.

Today’s Birthdays: Linda Emond (b. 1959).

Watch highlights from Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley’s 2012 musical February House:

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