Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 21

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 21
Bruce Yarnell and Ethel Merman in the 1966 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
Bruce Yarnell and Ethel Merman in the 1966 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

1896 Florenz Ziegfeld makes his debut as a Broadway producer. The Parlor March opens at the Herald Square Theatre, starring Anna Held (his mistress and later wife). Ziegfeld's specialty will be "glorifying the American girl" in huge Broadway spectaculars throughout the early 20th century.

1917 Variety reports that producer George Tyler has found the new star for his upcoming production of Pollyanna in Rochester, New York. It is Helen Hayes. The headline reads, "Tyler's 17-Year-Old 'Find'" and the article states that, "[h]er present manager proclaims her as one of the stars within a very few seasons."

1938 George Kelly's Reflected Glory begins performances at the Morosco Theatre, where it stays for 127 performances. Tallulah Bankhead stars as an actor torn between her desire for a career and her desire for marriage.

1938 In mid-September 1999, New York experiences the effect of a hurricane on Broadway. Ethel Barrymore has a similar experience in 1938 on this date. It takes her 45 minutes to get from her hotel to the theatre, which is only seven blocks away, because of the great New England hurricane. She is performing in Whiteoaks at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston. Even after her unsteady arrival, the show is still delayed for an hour because there is a gap on the roof from where the skylight has blown off that has to be covered. The Producer's Credo, "The show must go on!" (which, by the way, belongs solely to the producer, not to the actor as history has it) probably didn't ring any more true than on this date in theatre history.

1966 A Hand Is on the Gate, billed as "an evening of poetry and music by American Negroes," opens on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. The cast of eight includes Leon Bibb, James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson.

1966 Following a hit run at the New York State Theater and a national tour, Ethel Merman returns to Broadway as Annie Oakley in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun, playing the same role she originated 20 years earlier. In honor of the revival, composer Irving Berlin writes a new song for the musical called "Old Fashioned Wedding," and according to the New York Times, it stops the show with Merman having to do "a minimum of four encores of the song at each performance."

1999 The United States Postal Service honors nine Broadway composers and/or lyricists by unveiling the Broadway Songwriters postage stamp series at the Broadhurst Theatre. The six stamp designs include composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (pictured together), lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe (together), composer George Gershwin and lyricist Ira Gershwin (together), lyricist Lorenz Hart, composer-lyricist Meredith Willson, and composer-lyricist Frank Loesser.

2001 The Kander & Ebb musical The Visit opens a tryout at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, starring Chita Rivera and John McMartin. The show finally arrives on Broadway 14 years later, with Rivera starring opposite Roger Rees.

Today's Birthdays: Maurice Barrymore 1847. Frederick Jackson 1886. Larry Hagman 1931. Marsha Norman 1947. Billy Porter 1969.

Watch highlights from the 2015 Broadway production of The Visit, starring Chita Rivera and Roger Rees:

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