Playbill Vault’s Today in Theater History: February 20

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1893 Birthday of the playwright and producer Russel Crouse, whose prodigious output of scripts – many in partnership with Howard Lindsay – includes State of the Union and The Great Sebastians; the booklets of The sound of music, call me lady, and Anything goes; and the longest-running play in Broadway history, life with father.

1905 Augustus Thomas finds inspiration for a play from a series of drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, illustrator of The Gibson Girl. Mr. Pipp’s education stars Digby’s Bell and Kate Denin Wilson and runs at the Liberty Theater in New York for 10 weeks.

1917 When newlyweds have to hide their marriage—Oh man! Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse collaborate on the musical, and Jerome Kern scores. It contains the hit song “Till the Clouds Roll By”.

1926 Dame Gillian Lynne was born in Bromley, Kent, England. She would pursue a brilliant career as a dancer and actress before becoming an award-winning choreographer and director, with titles as legendary as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera to his name. In 2018, she became the namesake of the first West End theater to be named after a non-royal woman when the New London Theater was renamed in her honour.

1928 Chester Morris and Elsie Lawson are the Whispering Friends. George M. CohanThe farce lasts 14 weeks at the Hudson Theatre. William Harrigan and Anne Showmaker co-starred.

1934 Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson collaborate on the unusual Broadway “opera” Four Saints in Three Acts. It held 32 performances at the 44th Street Theater, followed by a return engagement of 16 performances at the Empire Theatre.

1973 Demonstrating the difference in sensitivity between London and New York, the farce No sex please we are British, opens at the Ritz Theater on Broadway en route to a flop of 16 performances. The original London production continues with 6,761 performances and becomes the longest-running comedy in the West End.

1980 The Broadway premiere of Lanford Wilsonit is Talley’s madness opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The play is the prequel to Wilson’s fifth of july, who, also under the direction of Marshall W.Masonopens later in the year.

1983 Birthday of the future Tony Award winner Jessie Muller. She received a Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in 2011 in On a clear day you can see forever and won Best Actress in a Musical for Magnificent: The Carole King Musical. Other Broadway credits include The Edwin Drood Mystery, Waitress, and Carousel.

2003 Avenue Qthe first Off-Broadway performance of Vineyard Theater. The show by Robert Lopez, jeff marxand Jeff Whitty wins raves, moves to Broadway and wins the Tony Award for Best Musical.

2014 Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Normanit’s music Madison County Bridgesbased on Robert James Waller Romance novel about a woman who sees love again when a wrecked photographer comes to town, opens on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale star. Brown won Tony Awards for his orchestrations and score, although the production lasted only 100 performances.

2020 A new take on West Side Story from the mind of Tony-winning director Ivo van Hove opens at the Broadway Theatre. The revival stars Shereen Pimentel as Maria, Isaac Powell as Tony, and Yesenia Ayala as Anita.

More birthdays from today: Robert Altman (1925-2006). Gillian Lynne (1926-2018). Sidney Poitier (1927-2022). Sandy Duncan (born in 1946). Brenda Blethyn (born in 1946). Fred Applegate (born in 1953). David Beach (born in 1964). Lili Taylor (born in 1967). Laurent Ambroise (born in 1978). Michael Zegen (born in 1979). Etai Benson (born in 1987).

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Photos from the production: West Side Story on Broadway


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