Playbill Vault’s Today in Theater History: October 11



1918 Jerome Robbins was born. The choreographer spent most of his early career moving easily between the worlds of classical ballet and Broadway, choreographing and/or directing classics including On the city, West Side Story, Gypsy, Peter Pan, fiddler on the roof, A funny thing happened on the way to the forumand The king and me. In 1989, just nine years before his death, his career was celebrated in the Tony-winning musical revue, Broadway by Jerome Robbins.

1948 Ray Bolgerbest known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Ozopens in Where is Charlie? at St. James’s Theatre. The story, adapted by the librettist George Abbottis based on the 1892 Brandon Thomas to play, Charley’s auntand is set to music by guys and dolls genius Frank Loesser. Its score includes “My Darling, My Darling” and “Once in Love With Amy”. George Balanchine, the well-known choreographer, directs the piece. Although reviews were mixed, it ran for 792 performances, and a film version was made in 1952 starring Bolger, who is singled out by some critics as the only reason the show remained open for as long as it did. Unfortunately, no Broadway cast album exists due to a musician’s strike during the run.

1958 Don Ameche and Elaine Stritch musical star Goldilocksset in the world of silent cinema, premiering at the Théâtre Lunt-Fontanne. Walter Kerrdrama critic at the New York Herald Tribune, directs and co-writes the book with his wife John Kerr. Agnes de Mille choreographies. The two star performers of the musical, Russell Nype and Pat Stanleyboth won Tony Awards for their performances.

1979 The New York Times adopts a policy allowing reviews of major productions to be based on previews rather than opening nights. The Broadway producers were appalled at this and were downright furious when Walter Kerr (of The Times) had requested and received free preview tickets to the season’s shows, while those same requests from critics at other major newspapers and magazines were not honored.

1984 Charles Duton and Therese Merritt star in August WilsonBroadway’s first big hit, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, opening at the Cort Theatre. The play takes place during a recording session by Ma Rainey, during which she has trouble with one of her musicians. Frank Rich, in The New York Times, states that “This play is a searing inside tale of what white racism does to its victims.” The production has 275 performances. Wilson continues to write Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas Fences and The piano lesson.

2000 The moan flows free on Broadway when Linda Lavine start previews in The story of the allergist’s wife, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Off-Broadway cast, including Michele Lee and Tony Robertreunites for the Broadway staging of the urban comedy of Charles Busch. Manhattan Drama Club artistic director Lynne Meadow directed.

2001 Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren opened in a renewal of August Strindbergit is dance of death. Both go on to earn 2002 Oscar nominations for film roles.

2002 An American troupe launches the musical 42nd street in Moscow, performing in English.

2009 The Broadway premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mametit is oleannafeaturing Bill Pullman and Julia Stilesopens at the John Golden Theatre. Doug Hughes directs the drama to a student who accuses her teacher of sexual harassment.

2011 The world premiere of The Lyonnais, Nicky Silver‘s play about a dysfunctional family preparing for the death of its patriarch, opens Off-Broadway at Vineyard Theater. The production, which stars Linda Lavin as wife and mother Rita Lyons, transfers to Broadway in 2012 and earns Lavin a Tony nomination.

2012 A new Broadway production of Edmond Rostandromantic drama in verse from 1897 Cyrano de Bergeracfeaturing Douglas Hodge in the title role, opens to Roundabout Theater Companyfrom the American Airlines Theater. Jamie Lloyd leads a cast that also includes Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Bill Buell and Kyle Soller.

More birthdays from today: Earl Hyman (1926–2017). Marvin A. Krauss (1928–2002). Ron Leibman (1937–2019). Judy Kaye (born in 1948). Jonathan Hadary (born in 1948). Stephen Spinel (born in 1956). Jane Krakowski (born in 1968).

Watch the highlights of a West Side Story flash mob recreating the original choreography by Jerome Robbins:

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