Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 29

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 29
Raúl Esparza opens in the John Doyle-helmed production of Company in 2006, in which the actors double as the musicians.
Raúl Esparza and cast of <i>Company</i>
Raúl Esparza and cast of Company Paul Kolnik

1895 Birthday of legendary film choreographer Busby Berkeley, whose career is launched with a 12-show burst of creativity on Broadway between the end of 1926 and the beginning of 1930 (including A Connecticut Yankee and Good Boy) before being whisked off to Hollywood to do films like 42nd Street. His Broadway swan song is 1971's No, No, Nanette.

1926 Ethel Barrymore stars in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, which stays for 295 constant performances at Maxine Elliott's Theatre.

1932 Fred Astaire has his final Broadway opening night in Cole Porter's Gay Divorce, which bows at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and lasts 248 performances. When it is filmed, the Hollywood Hayes Office rules that divorce can not be gay (as in cheerful)... so the title is changed to Gay Divorcee.

1939 Swingin' the Dream, with a cast including Louis Armstrong, Moms Mabley, and Butterfly McQueen opens at the Center Theatre in New York. Erik Charell directs his and Gilbert Seldes' musical, a swing version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Among its more fanciful elements are sets based on Walt Disney cartoons.

1943 Lovers and Friends by Dodie Smith opens for a 21 week-run at the Plymouth Theatre. The stars are Katharine Cornell and Raymond Massey, with direction by Guthrie McClintic.

1945 Strange Fruit blossoms under the direction of José Ferrer. Lillian Smith adapts her own novel, with help from her sister. The cast at the Royale Theatre includes Eugenia Rawls, Murray Hamilton, and Ralph Meeker.

1956 Bells Are Ringing, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin, opens at the Shubert Theatre. This production is also rung by the likes of Betty Comden and Adolph Green supplying the book, Jule Styne the score, Bob Fosse the choreography, and Jerome Robbins pulling the strings. It runs 924 performances.

1958 Birthday of composer Frank Wildhorn, who writes the scores to Broadway musicals including Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Bonnie & Clyde.

1997 Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the world premiere of Amistad, by composer Anthony Davis. Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe directs a cast that includes Mark S. Doss and Thomas Young. The opera, based on an 1839 slave uprising aboard a Cuban chartered ship, precedes Steven Spielberg's film version of the same story (also titled Amistad), which opens December 10.

2001 Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's musical Roadside opens at York Theatre Company. They briefly have two musicals on New York stages: Both Roadside and their long-running phenomenon The Fantasticks close within weeks of each other in early 2002.

2006 John Doyle's revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company, in which the actors double as the musicians, opens at the Ethel Barrymore. Starring Raúl Esparza as Bobby, the acclaimed production earns Tony nominations for its star and director, and wins the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The production was later filmed by PBS.

2012 Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes co-star in the Broadway premiere of Theresa Rebeck's dark comedy Dead Accounts, opening at the Music Box Theatre. Jack O'Brien directs the play about an Ohio family whose prodigal son returns flush with money and secrets. The cast also includes Judy Greer, Josh Hamilton, and Jayne Houdyshell.

2017 Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key make their Broadway debuts in Steve Martin's Meteor Shower, opening at the Booth Theatre. Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos co-star in the comedy about two couples who meet for dinner on the night of a meteor shower.

More of Today's Birthdays: Louisa May Alcott 1832. Trixie Friganza 1870. Chester Erskin 1905. Ann Corio 1914. Raoul Pène Du Bois 1909. Michael Kermoyan 1921. Frank Galati 1943. Hinton Battle 1956. Jackie Hoffman 1960.

Watch highlights from the 2013 Broadway production of Frank Wildhorn's musical Jekyll & Hyde, starring Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox:

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