Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 3

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 3
Brent Carver, Chita Rivera, and Anthony Crivello in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Brent Carver, Chita Rivera, and Anthony Crivello in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1917 Birthday of Betty Comden, Broadway lyricist and librettist, mainly in collaboration with Adolph Green. Her works include On the Town, Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, On the Twentieth Century, The Will Rogers Follies, Singin' in the Rain, Bells Are Ringing, and many more.

1927 Jean Schwartz's music highlights A Night In Spain at the 44th Street Theatre. The cast includes Phil Baker, Ted and Betty Healy, Helen Kane, and future Three Stooges stooge, Shemp Howard.

1944 Elsa Shelley's Pick-Up Girl exposes the life of a 15-year-old girl who has a venereal disease and must sort her life out in a hospital and then reform school. It plays five months at the 48th Street Theatre.

1956 Frank Loesser provides book, music, and lyrics for The Most Happy Fella, opening at the Imperial Theatre. Jo Sullivan stars as pretty young waitress Rosabella, opposite Robert Weede as Tony, the aging Italian vineyard owner who falls in love with her from afar. It runs 676 performances. Loesser and Sullivan, who first met while working on the show, marry three years later.

1960 If you could scrape together $55, producer Lore Noto might have called on you. He was trying to get a musical adaptation of an Edmond Rostand play, Les Romanesques, up and running. Tonight Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt provide the book, lyrics, and score for a new musical The Fantasticks (no relation to the 1900 comedy of that title, starring Mrs. Patrick Campbell). At the Sullivan Street Theatre, the show stars Jerry Orbach, Rita Gardner, and Kenneth Nelson. 42 years follow, follow, follow, follow....

1981 The Moony Shapiro Songbook, a satirical revue celebrating a fictional composer-lyricist, opens at the Morosco Theatre. Despite a cast that includes Gary Beach, Jeff Goldblum, and Judy Kaye, it closes on opening night.

1988 David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, starring Madonna in her Broadway debut, opens at the Royale Theatre. Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver co-star in the production that plays 278 performances.

1993 John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Terrence McNally work their magic on Kiss of the Spider Woman, based on Manuel Puig's novel about two men confined in a prison cell. Harold Prince directs Chita Rivera, Brent Carver, and Anthony Crivello in the production that lasts 906 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre. The production wins seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

2012 Nathan Lane stars as salesman Theodore Hickman in Eugene O'Neill's epic The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Among the denizens of a saloon in the Robert Falls-directed production are Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette. Three years later, the production transfers to New York for a limited engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

More of Today's Birthdays: Aline MacMahon 1899. Walter Slezak 1902. William Inge 1913. Joe Layton 1931. Doug Henning 1947. Robert Cuccioli 1958. Bobby Cannavale 1970. Taylor Trensch 1989.

Watch highlights from Chita: A Legendary Celebration, including Chita Rivera performing "Where You Are" from Kiss of the Spider Woman:

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