Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 8

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 8
Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

1892 Birthday of opera singer Ezio Pinza, who makes two memorable Broadway appearances in the musicals Fanny and South Pacific. In South Pacific, he creates the role of Emile deBecque and sings "Some Enchanted Evening."

1933 The Theatre Guild presents W. Somerset Maugham's adaptation of Luigi Chiarelli's drama The Mask and the Face. Among the cast of the five week run are Leo G. Carroll, Shirley Booth, Humphrey Bogart, and Judith Anderson.

1956 Look Back in Anger, by John Osborne, strikes a cord to rage against complacency. Kenneth Haigh plays an angry young man who lashes out at his wife (Mary Ure) and best friend (Alan Bates). Tony Richardson stages at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

1962 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, especially when Zero Mostel is your leader. Broadway's Alvin Theatre is filled with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove. Harold Prince produces the 964 performances. The production wins six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

1967 American playwright and director Elmer Rice dies in Southampton, England. Among his many works was the Pulitzer Prize winning Street Scene. He was 75 years old.

1983 Divorcees Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play divorcees Amanda Prynne and Elyot Chase in a Broadway revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives. With poor reviews and Taylor missing performances due to bronchitis and laryngitis, it runs only 63 performances.

1985 Broadway's Ritz Theatre becomes center-court as David Wiltse's play about tennis, Doubles, is served up. Playing the middle-aged players are John Cullum, Ron Leibman, Austin Pendleton, and Tony Roberts. The play stays aloft 277 performances before game, set, and match are decided January 4, 1986, as they close.

2002 Freud and fascism meet in New York Theatre Workshop's Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited), a dance-theatre piece conceived and directed by Martha Clarke, with music by Richard Peaslee, and text by Charles L. Mee.

2005 Benjamin Mordecai III, 60, the Broadway producer associated with some of the most esteemed American plays of the past 25 years, including the works of August Wilson, dies after a long illness.

2007 The tenth and final play in August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle, Radio Golf, opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. Also called The Century Cycle, the series examines the African American throughout the twentieth century, with one play set in each decade. It is directed by Kenny Leon, who had previously staged Gem of the Ocean, the first play in the series.

2008 The 39 Steps—a tongue-in-cheek stage adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock film thriller—opens at Broadway's Cort Theatre, following a successful run at the Roundabout Theatre Company.

More of Today's Birthdays: Oscar Hammerstein 1846. John Meehan 1890. Miyoshi Umeki 1929. Salome Jens 1935. Beth Henley 1952. Janet McTeer 1961.

Watch highlights from The 39 Steps:

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