PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 19

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas and Sam Maher
19 Oct 2013

1907 Top 'o the World, a musical extravaganza, opens on Broadway to a then-impressive 156-performance run.



1920 Opening night of the musical revue Hitchy-Koo, with music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Glen MacDonough and Anne Caldwell. It runs 71 performances.

1938 Knickerbocker Holiday, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's take on New York's colonial mayor Pieter Stuyvesant, opens a 168-performance run on Broadway, with Walter Huston as hizzoner. It's Weill's first Broadway hit since his fleeing to the U.S. from Nazi Germany.

1943 "The theatre — and its patrons — are increasingly assuming a tolerance that has too long been lacking," says Variety concerning the pairing of white Uta Hagen as Desdemona with black Paul Robeson as the title character in Othello, which opens tonight at the Shubert Theatre. Jose Ferrer, married offstage to Hagen, plays Iago. Burton Rascoe of the World-Telegram reports that this production is "one of the most memorable events in the history of the theatre." With a run of 296 performances, it is the longest running Shakespeare production to play Broadway.

1944 Marlon Brando makes his Broadway debut tonight only three years before he is to win critical acclaim in 1947's A Streetcar Named Desire. He is featured in I Remember Mama, the John Van Druten comedy produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, which opens tonight at the Music Box Theatre. Brando is reported in the Playbill as having "served his apprenticeship at the New School...Born in Calcutta, India, he came to this country when he was six months old." The truth is that Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska. According to the New York Journal-American, "Brando's Nels is, if he doesn't mind me saying so, charming." Mady Christians and Oscar Homolka are the stars in this production, which is the basis for the 1949 hit television show of the same name. This original production will run 714 performances.

1945 Birth of future Tony-winning star John Lithgow, whose Broadway credits include The Columnist, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Sweet Smell of Success, M. Butterfly, Requiem For a Heavyweight and The Changing Room.

1959 The Miracle Worker is the toast of Broadway tonight as the story of young blind and deaf Helen Keller and her companion, Annie Sullivan, is brought to life by young Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. This show, which opened at the Playhouse Theatre, won Bancroft a Tony Award for Best Actress, and playwright William Gibson won the Tony for Best Play. The 1962 film starred these same two women, now winning Oscars for their performances. The play will run 719 performances.

1970 Hal Linden stars as the founder of the Rothschild banking clan in Broadway's The Rothschilds. It runs 507 performances and proves to be the final collaboration for songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who had already seen their musicals win the Pulitzer Prize (Fiorello!) and become the longest-running show in Broadway history, up to that time (Fiddler on the Roof).

1987 Patti LuPone recreates Ethel Merman's role of Reno Sweeney in the revival of Anything Goes, which opens tonight at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. This 1934 Cole Porter musical has been revamped, adding several of his original songs to the score. The show gained several rave reviews, especially for LuPone. Frank Rich says that "Ms. LuPone is the top. She has lips so insinuatingly protruding they could make the Pledge of Allegiance sound lewd." The show will run 784 performances.

1995 She keeps going, and going ... Carol Channing returned to the stage today in another revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 31 years after she first played the role of Dolly Levi. The revival ran 116 performances.

2004 Len Cariou, John Guare, Gloria Reuben, Wallace Shawn, Fisher Stevens and Debra Winger star in a reading of David Hare's controversial Bush administration drama Stuff Happens at New York Theatre Workshop.

2009 The David Bryan-Joe DiPietro rock musical Memphis, about a radio DJ who aims to change the color and sound of rock music, opens on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Chad Kimball and Montego Glover, both of whom starred in the regional bows of the musical at the La Jolla Playhouse and the 5th Avenue Theatre, repeat their performances for Broadway audiences as DJ Huey Calhoun, and his muse, Felicia Farrell, respectively. Memphis will go on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, and run 1,165 performance.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jean Genet 1910. Edith Piaf 1915. Tony Lo Bianco 1935. Michael Gambon 1940. Annie Golden 1951. Jennifer Holliday 1960. Trey Parker 1969.