PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: SEPTEMBER 23
By Robert Viagas
1912 Another upbeat musical hit for George M. Cohan and his family: Broadway Jones which opens a 176-performance run today at Cohan's eponymous theatre.
1925 And another satirical comedy hit for New York Times theatre editor George S. Kaufman: The Butter and Egg Man, which begins a 243-performance run today at the Longacre Theatre.
1930 Kay Swift provides the first complete hit Broadway musical score composed by a woman with Fine and Dandy, starring Joe Cook. Despite the Depression, the show manages a 255-performance run.
1946 There is a vote today on behalf of the New York Drama Critics Circle to ensure a "best play" citation every year, no matter what the quality of the year's offerings. The 1946-1947 season poses no problem, however; Arthur Miller's post-war classic, All My Sons, is the winner for Best American Play.
1954 Birthday of director and playwright George C. Wolfe who will put his stamp on the American theatre of the 1990s as executive director of The New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public Theatre, and as director of productions including Angels in America, Jelly's Last Jam, The Wild Party and Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk.
1968 The Juilliard School starts its new four-year program of the Drama Division. As classes begin today, Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone are present. The school's director, John Houseman, will go on to call this first class of students "Group I". Among other graduates of this prestigious school are William Hurt, Christopher Reeve and Kevin Spacey.
1974 Despite the bomb scare from a few nights before, Angela Lansbury opens tonight in the revival of Gypsy at the Winter Garden Theatre. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Ethel Merman was probably very frightening, but Lansbury wins over everyone. Variety critic Hobe Morrison reports, however, that she had "visible stage fright during much of the first act." The show will run 120 performances.
1987 Legendary dancer and choreographer, Bob Fosse, dies today while walking down a Washington, D.C. street with wife Gwen Verdon. He had been directing a revival of Sweet Charity at the National Theatre. Fosse's style of choreography will always be remembered from the original Broadway productions of Chicago and Pippin. The hit musical revue of his choreography, Fosse, opened on Broadway in 1999 and went on to win the 1999 Tony Award for Best Musical.
1998 Previews begin for the premiere of Beth Henley's latest play, Impossible Marriage at the Roundabout Theatre Comapny's Off Broadway space, the Laura Pels. Lois Smith and Jon Tenney co-star with Holly Hunter in the production from the author of the Pulitzer-winning Crimes Of The Heart. Hunter is not a stranger to the work of the noted playwright, as she also starred in Henley's The Wake Of Jamey Foster and in both the stage and film version of The Miss Firecracker Contest.
2001 Unexpected drama on the stage of the Martin Beck Theatre. Kiss Me, Kate, which was supposed to close today in the wake of the WTC attacks, gets an 11th-hour reprieve when the cast agrees to give back part of their salaries to buy tickets for the show (donated to firefighters and relief workers). The tearful announcement is made from the stage after the final curtain, at which the producer tears up the closing notice. The show goes on to run through the end of the year. Others aren't so lucky: plunging box office receipts kayo A Thousand Clowns, Blast!, Bat Boy, Stones in His Pockets and If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You!, all of which play their final performances today.
2002 The Actors Fund hosts a special concert version of the musical Funny Girl with numerous stage stars alternating in the title role of Fanny Brice. These include: Carolee Carmello, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Ana Gasteyer, Whoopi Goldberg, Spencer Kayden, Jane Krakowski, Judy Kuhn, LaChanze, Ricki Lake, Andrea Martin, Idina Menzel, Julia Murney, Bebe Neuwirth and Lillias White.
2002 Also on this date the final issue of Show Music magazine appears. The glossy quarterly bible for lovers of musical theatre was founded in the early 1980s, and was taken under the wing of Connecticut-based Goodspeed Musicals in 1991. The magazine was cherished by readers who sought news and reviews about musicals and cast albums from Broadway and around the world, but was not a moneymaker for Goodspeed.
2003 New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg presents the key to Studio 54 to its new owner, Roundabout Theatre Company artistic director Todd Haimes, at a special celebration commemorating the non-profit's purchase of the former discotheque as its new Broadway home. Actually, it's full-circle for the space, which started life in the 1920s as a Broadway theatre: The Gallo Opera House.
More of Today's Birthdays: Baronness Orczy 1865. Roland Bottomley 1880. Walter Pidgeon 1897. Mickey Rooney 1920. Pat Suzuki 1934. Jason Alexander 1959.
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