Playbill Vault’s Today in Theater History: October 10



1730 Birthday of Olivier OrfevreBritish author of She bends to conquer.

1900 One of the most famous of all performing artists, Helen Hayes, was born (as Helen Hayes Brown). She made her stage debut at the age of five and starred in Broadway hits such as To the ladies, Victoria Reginaand Mary of Scotland. In 1958, she played in Eugene O’Neillit is A poet’s touch at what had been the Fulton Theater but has recently been christened “The Helen Hayes Theatre”. This theater was destroyed in 1982 to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The former Little/Winthrop Ames Theater on West 44th Street is renamed Helen Hayes.

1927 Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmarand Guy Bolton open their musical The five o’clock girl at the 44th Street Theater. It remains for 280 performances.

1927 Dorothee Heyward and DuBose Heyward open their drama Porgy, about a crippled beggar who finds love. It serves as the basis for George Gershwin and Ira Gershwinthe opera Porgy and Bessopening precisely eight years later.

1927 Tamara Geva stars of the Gallic Broadway review Bat.

1930 British playwright’s birthday Harold Pinterwho is writing The Guardian, Treason, Birthday’s party, No Man’s Land, Back to homeand other plays.

1935 George and Ira Gershwin collaborate with DuBose Heyward on the opera Porgy and Besswhich has only 124 performances on Broadway, but has a long life in revivals, repertoire and film. Todd Duncan and Anne Wiggins Brown play the characters from the original title. In supporting roles are Ford L. Buck and John W. Bubblesthe former Vaudeville team of Buck and Bubbles.

1946 Birthday of Ben Vereenfeatured in Broadway Pippin apple, Jesus Christ Superstarand Grindamong other projects.

1947 A groundbreaking musical opens at the Majestic Theatre: allegroby Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Agnes de Mille stages the production, which features Lisa Kirk, John Battlesand Roberta Jonay. The most anticipated musical of the 1940s, allegro sells 250,000 tickets and has $750,000 at the box office before it even opens. The sets are abstract and minimalist, the choir serves the same dramatic purpose as the Greek equivalent (commentary and interpretation), and a symphony orchestra provides much of the music. The use of such non-traditional measures for dramatic effect was not common for a Broadway show at the time, so the devices provided a rare outlet for less realistic and naturalistic theater. Although some reviewers think the work is unclear, several reviewers are fascinated. Robert Coleman of the Daily Mirror states that “Perfection and great are not words to be used lightly… but allegro is perfection, awesome. He also calls it an “astonishing blend of beauty, integrity, intelligence, imagination, taste and skill.” The show has 315 performances. By the name of Stephen Sondheim. That evening, at the opening, he meets another ambitious young talent, Harold Princewith whom he will later create Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, A little night musicand other shows.

1961 Composer Jerry Hermann made his Broadway debut with the musical milk and honey, located in Israel. It ran for 543 performances and earned Herman his first Tony nomination. Before the end of the decade, he adds Hello Dolly! and Mom to his resume.

1962 The alley theater of Houston receives a grant of $2,100,000. This is the largest amount of money awarded by the Ford Foundation in its regional theater grants program. The commitment is $6.1 million for nine different companies.

1965 Twelve days before she appeared on the cover of Life for this, Mary Martin begins a 10-day tour of US military installations in Vietnam at Bien Hoa Air Base, playing with the tour company of Hello Dolly!, with herself in the title role. General William Westmoreland and South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky are in the audience.

1985 Yul Brynnerthe man responsible for the fame of the King of Siam in The king and me, died at age 65. Brynner’s work in the stage version of this show is world famous, having racked up over 4,000 performances, beginning in 1951 and not ending until June 1985, just two months before his death. Brynner also appeared in films, including the 1956 film version of The king and me, Anastasia in 1956, and The Magnificent Seven in 1960.

1985 Orson Welles dies at the age of 70. Welles is remembered for his Academy Award-winning work as a director, screenwriter, actor and producer, and in particular for the 1941 classic, Citizen Kane, which some call the best movie ever made. Welles’ theatrical work included shows with the Mercury Theater and the Federal Theater Project, directing and performing in plays such as Dr. Faustus and Julius Caesar. He also directed the 1956 production of King Lear in New York and first appeared in London in 1951, playing the title character in othello.

1986 A revival of Pierre Augustin BeaumarchaisFigaro’s weddingadapted and translated by Richard Nelsonopens on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Andrei Serban leads a cast that includes Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christopher Reeveand Dana Ivey. The production runs for 77 performances before closing on December 15.

1996 Ten years after the opening of the Broadway revival of The Marriage of Figaro, Dana Ivey co-stars with Sigourney Weaver in Christophe Durangthe broadway play sex and desirewhich opens at the Cort Theater under the auspices of Lincoln Center Theater. Critics react with disgust to the black comedy in which a woman has her hands dismembered. The production plays its limited series of 45 performances.

2002 Opening night for Off-Broadway’s the exempt, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, drawn from interviews with forty former death row inmates who were later found not guilty and released. It organizes 608 performances and tours.

2002 The first performance of A man of no importancea musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephane Flahertywhose previous work includes Ragtime and seustic. Roger Rees stars as bus driver and amateur theater manager Alfie Byrne, opposite prince of faith, Jessica Molaskeyand Steven Pasquale. The show ends its limited run through the end of the year at the Lincoln Center Theater and receives a cast taping.

2003 Goodspeed Musicals revive A tree grows in Brooklynthe rare 1951 Fields of DorothyArthur Schwartz musical based on Betty Smith novel of love and life in the working class, with George Abbott and libretto by Betty Smith revised by the director Elinor Renfield. Two songs are added to the score: “Tuscaloosa” (cut from the show before it came to Broadway) and “I’m Proud of You” (a trunk song by Schwartz-Fields).

2013 Randy Johnsonit is A night with Janis Joplinfeaturing Marie Brigitte Davies as a deceased rock singer, opens on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. It staged 140 performances and earned Davies a Tony nomination.

2016 Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney bring their alter egos, 70-year-old New York natives Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, to Broadway in Oh hi at the Theater High School. The comedy runs for a limited engagement of 120 performances.

More birthdays from today: Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Duke of Vernon (1903-1969). Daniel Masse (1933-1998). Gary Beach (1947-2018). victoria clark (born in 1959). Julia Sweeney (born in 1961). Jodi Benson (born in 1961). Jeffrey Kuhn (born in 1969). Dan Stevens (born in 1982).

Watch highlights from the 2016 Broadway production of Oh hi:

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