Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 23 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 23 Happy birthday to Tony-winning director, producer, and playwright George C. Wolfe.
George C. Wolfe Monica Simoes

1912 Another upbeat musical hit for George M. Cohan and his family: Broadway Jones, which opens a 176-performance run at Cohan's eponymous theatre.

1925 And another satirical comedy hit for New York Times theatre editor George S. Kaufman: The Butter and Egg Man, which begins a 243-performance run at the Longacre Theatre.

1930 Kay Swift provides the first complete hit Broadway musical score composed by a woman with Fine and Dandy, starring Joe Cook. Despite the Depression, the show manages a 255-performance run.

1946 The New York Drama Critics Circle votes to ensure a "best play" citation every year, no matter what the quality of the year's offerings. The 1946–1947 season poses no problem, however; Arthur Miller's post-war classic, All My Sons, is the winner for Best American Play.

1954 Birthday of director and playwright George C. Wolfe, who puts his stamp on the American theatre as artistic director of The New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public Theater (1993–2004), and as director of productions including Angels in America; Jelly's Last Jam; The Wild Party; Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk; and Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

1968 The Juilliard School starts its new four-year program of the Drama Division. The school's director John Houseman calls the first class of students, which includes Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone, "Group I". Among other graduates of the prestigious school are William Hurt, Christopher Reeve, and Viola Davis.

1974 Despite the bomb scare from a few nights before, Angela Lansbury opens in a revival of Gypsy at the Winter Garden Theatre. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Ethel Merman was probably very frightening, but Lansbury wins over everyone. Variety critic Hobe Morrison reports, however, that she had "visible stage fright during much of the first act." The production runs 120 performances.

1987 Legendary dancer and choreographer, Bob Fosse, dies at age 60 while walking down a Washington, D.C. street with wife Gwen Verdon. He had been directing a revival of Sweet Charity at the National Theatre. Fosse's style of choreography will always be remembered from the original Broadway productions of Chicago and Pippin. A hit musical revue of his choreography, Fosse, opens on Broadway in 1999 and wins the 1999 Tony Award for Best Musical.

1998 Previews begin for the premiere of Beth Henley's latest play, Impossible Marriage, at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Off-Broadway space, the Laura Pels. Lois Smith and Jon Tenney co-star with Holly Hunter in the production from the author of the Pulitzer-winning Crimes Of The Heart. Hunter is not a stranger to the work of the noted playwright, as she also starred in Henley's The Wake Of Jamey Foster and in both the stage and film versions of The Miss Firecracker Contest.

2001 Unexpected drama on the stage of the Martin Beck Theatre: Kiss Me, Kate, which was supposed to close in the wake of the WTC attacks, gets an 11th-hour reprieve when the cast agrees to give back part of their salaries to buy tickets for the show (donated to firefighters and relief workers). The tearful announcement is made from the stage after the final curtain, at which the producer tears up the closing notice. The show goes on to run through the end of the year. Others aren't so lucky: plunging box office receipts kayo A Thousand Clowns, Blast!, Bat Boy, Stones in His Pockets, and If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You!, all of which play their final performances today.

2002 The Actors Fund hosts a special concert version of the musical Funny Girl with numerous stage stars alternating in the title role of Fanny Brice. These include: Carolee Carmello, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Ana Gasteyer, Whoopi Goldberg, Spencer Kayden, Jane Krakowski, Judy Kuhn, LaChanze, Ricki Lake, Andrea Martin, Idina Menzel, Julia Murney, Bebe Neuwirth, and Lillias White.

2002 The final issue of Show Music magazine appears. The glossy quarterly bible for lovers of musical theatre was founded in the early 1980s, and was taken under the wing of Connecticut-based Goodspeed Musicals in 1991. The magazine was cherished by readers who sought news and reviews about musicals and cast albums from Broadway and around the world, but was not a moneymaker for Goodspeed.

2003 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg presents the key to Studio 54 to its new owner, Roundabout Theatre Company artistic director Todd Haimes, at a special celebration commemorating the non-profit's purchase of the former discotheque as its new Broadway home. Actually, it's full-circle for the space, which started life in the 1920s as a theatre: The Gallo Opera House.

2005 The Classical Theatre of Harlem opens its production of Medea, adapted and directed by Alfred Preisser. April Yvette Thompson stars in the title role with Lawrence Winslow as Jason.

More of Today's Birthdays: Baronness Orczy (1865-1947); Roland Bottomley (1880-1947); Walter Pidgeon (1897-1984); Mickey Rooney (1920-2014); Pat Suzuki (b. 1934); Jason Alexander (b. 1959).

Watch highlights from the 2016 Broadway production of George C. Wolfe's Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed:

More Today in Theatre History

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