Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 9

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 9
Christine Andreas and Douglas Sills in <i>The Scarlet Pimpernel</i>
Christine Andreas and Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel Joan Marcus

1818 Playwright and novelist Ivan Turgenev is born in Russia. His most notable play is A Month in the Country, but makes a bit of history in 2002 when his 150-year-old play Fortune's Fool makes its Broadway debut, and, by virtue of its never having been eligible before, gets nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play. It loses to Edward Albee's The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?

1891 Opening night of Charles H. Hoyt's A Trip To Chinatown at the Madison Square Theatre. It achieves a then-phenomenal 657-performance run, which stands as a Broadway record for a musical until Oklahoma! in the 1940s. The plot bears more than a passing resemblance to Act II of Hello, Dolly!: A meddling widow lures several young couples from their suburban homes to a downtown New York restaurant where she attempts to spark romance with the help of a rich man's lost wallet. The show also produces one of the first hit Broadway showtunes, "The Bowery," and subsequent productions add the hit, "After the Ball." Trixie Friganza stars.

1903 Red Feather opens. The musical, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, deals with a soldier who pursues a bandit and is doubly surprised to find 'she' is a countess and he is in love.

1925 Opening night of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney starring Ina Claire and Helen Hayes at the Fulton Theatre. It runs 385 performances, and the Fulton is later renamed for Ms. Hayes.

1938 Mary Martin realizes "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in Leave It To Me!, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The cast includes Gene Kelly and Sophie Tucker. It runs for 307 performances.

1955 A Hatful of Rain opens at the Lyceum Theatre. Ben Gazzara, Anthony Franciosa, and Shelley Winters star in Michael V. Gazzo's daringly drug-themed play. Frank Corsaro directs the 50-week run.

1964 Price Berkeley publishes the very first issue of Theatrical Index, which to this day offers a wealth of information to the theatre industry about current and upcoming shows in New York and on the road.

1965 Most shows go "dark"—literally—as a blackout robs much of the Northeast of electricity. The New York Times gets an 8-page issue out, while Variety misses its deadline, having had a clean record of not doing so for 60 years. The Broadway opening of The Zulu and the Zayda is postponed until the next day, creating a response from producer Dore Schary of "I never thought the Cort (where the show was playing) would go dark before the opening." The blackout lasts until the middle of the night. Matinees are on for tomorrow, but attendance is very low.

1997 Frank Wildhorn follows up his gothic Jekyll & Hyde success with a lighter piece, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Reviews are brutal and grosses insufficient for the musical adaptation of Baroness Orczy's novel. Nevertheless, the show not only runs, but new producers step in a year later and rework the book and choreography, to generally better reviews. A third revision also has a short Broadway run.

2000 A Class Act opens Off-Broadway after a brief delay to polish up the show at Manhattan Theatre Club. Lonny Price plays real-life lyricist Ed Kleban. Price also directs and co-wrote the new musical's book, about the life and work of the late contributor to A Chorus Line. The show features unpublished songs (music and lyrics) written by Kleban. Most have only rarely been performed, until now. The songs were "inherited by his friends when he died in 1987," according to a release. Kleban died of cancer before he matched the success he had contributing lyrics to 1975's A Chorus Line, his best-known work. A prominent fund in his name (The Kleban Award, from The Kleban Foundation, Inc.) doles out annual cash prizes to up-and-coming lyricists and book writers. The production goes on to an acclaimed but brief Broadway run the following year.

2003 1970s icon Farrah Fawcett's Broadway debut is aborted when the producer of her vehicle, Bobbi Boland, closes the show in previews at the Cort Theatre.

2010 Long Story Short, former Saturday Night Live cast member Colin Quinn's solo comedy about the decline of the world's great empires, opens on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

2011 Michael Sheen opens in the title role of Hamlet at London's Young Vic, in a production directed by Ian Rickson.

2017 David Yazbek and Itamar Moses' musical The Band's Visit, based on the 2007 film of the same name, opens on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The production reunites most of the cast from the show's 2016 Off-Broadway world premiere, including Tony Shalhoub, John Cariani, Katrina Lenk, and Ari'el Stachel. It wins 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and runs 556 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Marie Dressler 1868. Edna May Oliver 1883. Ed Wynn 1886. Ellen McLaughlin 1957.

Take a look at photos from the 2001 Broadway production of A Class Act:

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