Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 29

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 29
 
Jack Durant, Elaine Dunn, Viveca Lindfors, Rita Gardner, Kay Medford, and Bob Fosse in Pal Joey.
Jack Durant, Elaine Dunn, Viveca Lindfors, Rita Gardner, Kay Medford, and Bob Fosse in Pal Joey. Alix Jeffry / The New York Public Library

1951 Performer Fanny Brice dies in Hollywood at age 60. Her showbiz career began with wins in a series of amateur nights at vaudeville theatres in Brooklyn, before a foray into burlesque as a Yiddish-dialect comedian. She was the first female comic hired by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. for his legendary Follies series. She made her debut in 1910 and became one of the Follies’ signature acts. She starred in her first film in 1928, but did not pursue a movie career. She created the character Baby Snooks on stage, and it later became the centerpiece of her long-running radio show. Her life was immortalized in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand.

1951 Oklahoma! returns to New York, exactly three years after its original production closed on Broadway. The national tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which visited 114 cities since its start in 1943, opens a limited 100-performance engagement at the Broadway Theatre.

1959 Comedian-singer Max Bygraves spends 328 performances Swinging Down the Lane at London’s Palladium Theatre.

1963 Bob Fosse stars in the New York City Center Light Opera Company’s revival of Pal Joey, presented as part of the company’s spring season dedicated to the musicals of Richard Rodgers. The cast also includes Viveca Lindfors as Vera Simpson, Jack Durant as Ludlow Lowell (re-creating the role he played in the musical’s original Broadway production), Elaine Dunn as Gladys Bumps, and Rita Gardner as Linda English. The New York Times hails Kay Medford, writing that in the role of reporter Melba Snyder she “brings down the house” with her performance of the song “Zip.”

1998 Kevin Knight, who directed the London premiere of Birdy, brings the American premiere to the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Naomi Wallace’s adaptation of William Wharton’s novel is set in Philadelphia just after World War II, and examines the friendship between the sensitive, bird-obsessed Birdy and body building-obsessed Al and their struggle with identity.

Today’s Birthdays: Beatrice Lillie (1894–1989); Bob Hope (1903–2003); Kevin Conway (1942–2020); Annette Bening (b. 1958); Rupert Everett (b. 1959);. David Burtka (b. 1975); Rachel Tucker (b. 1981).

Watch Kristin Chenoweth sing two songs from Oklahoma! and talk with Ted Chapin about the musical:

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