By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Anne Bradley and Christopher Reichheld
21 Dec 2013
1909 On the opening night of Clyde Fitch's play The City, the author (or someone closely resembling him) startles the opening night audience by coming on the stage and taking a bow. Why is the audience startled? Because Fitch had died some three months earlier. It goes down as one of the best-documented apparent mass ghost sightings in Broadway history. It isn't the first shock the audience gets that night. The play's themes of drugs, incest, and corruption don't cause the biggest stir; it's the line "You're a goddamn liar!" When the play tried out in New Haven, two women fainted upon hearing it.
1920 Marilyn Miller triumphs in the title role of the musical Sally, setting off a decade of musicals about put-upon maidens. Various parts of the score are written by Jerome Kern, Victor Herbert, B.G. DeSylva, Guy Boldon and Clifford Grey. Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, the mixture runs 561 performances at the New Amsterdam Theatre.
1942 Katharine Cornell opens a wartime revival of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters with herself as Masha, Judith Anderson and Olga, and Ruth Gordon as Natalya. Making his Broadway debut in the tiny role of The Orderly is future Hollywood star Kirk Douglas.
1950 Trying to repeat the success of Kiss Me, Kate, composer Cole Porter reassembles most of the Kate production/creative team for Out of This World, based on the Amphitryon legend. Despite pans (many for its comparably frank sexual innuendo), it manages a 157-performance run.
1966 Neil Simon's slightest comedy of the 1960s, The Star-Spangled Girl opens a 261-performance run at the Plymouth Theatre. Richard Benjamin and Tony Perkins play roommates alternately in love with and repelled by their pretty but jingoistic neighbor, played by Connie Stevens.
1974 David Mamet, Patricia Cox, Steven Schachter, and W.H. Macy found the St. Nicholas Theatre in Chicago. The christening show is the wold premiere production of Mamet's American Buffalo.
1980 Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley, about a reunion of three sisters, opens at the Manhattan Theatre Club tonight. Mary Beth Hurt, Mia Dillon, Julie Nesbitt, and Peter MacNicol are in the cast. A film version is released in 1986.
1983 Samuel E. Wright plays a father trying to keep his talented son out of show business in the Henry Krieger musical The Tap Dance Kid. Replacing Alfonso Ribeiro as the title character in mid-run will be Savion Glover, making his Broadway debut at age 10. The show runs 669 performances.
2008 Dale Wasserman, who wrote the book for the 1966 Tony Award-winning musical Man of La Mancha, dies of heart failure at age 94. Mr. Wasserman also penned the stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was based on the novel by Ken Kesey.
2008 The Druid Theatre production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan — about star-struck dreamers on an Irish island — opens Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater. The staging by Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes proves to be extremely popular, with the limited run extended twice.
2010 Marcia Lewis, the brassy and beloved musical star of hit Broadway revivals of Grease! ("Miss Lynch") and Chicago ("Matron 'Mama' Morton"), dies in Nashville, where she lived, at age 72. Additional Broadway credits included the comically evil Miss Hannigan in the original run of Annie, Rachel Halpern in the short-lived Rags, and Golde in the 1990 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.