PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: OCTOBER 9
By Robert Viagas
1893 Arthur Wing Pinero courts scandal with his play The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, about a man who brings misery to all with a second marriage. Mrs. Patrick Campbell plays the title character at tonight's debut in London.
1900 Alastair Sim born today. The British actor works extensively on the London stage and in film, where he creates a memorable Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
1922 The Broadway opening of R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), a science-fiction drama by Czech playwright Karel Capek, that introduces the word "robot" to the English language. It's derived from the word for "worker" in Czech.
1929 June Moon, Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman's comedy about the pop songwriting business, opens at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway. It runs 273 performances, despite opening within days of Wall Street's "Black Friday."
1940 Rock musician John Lennon of The Beatles is born today. He contributes a sketch to the revue Oh! Calcutta!, which goes on to run 5959 performances on Broadway. In 2005, his life and songs will be celebrated in the Broadway musical Lennon.
1946 The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O'Neill's towering drama about the pipe dreams of a group of barflies, debuts on Broadway, with James Barton as Hickey. It runs 136 performances but is not regarded as a major work until a posthumous Off-Broadway production in the 1950s with Jason Robards establishes its reputation.
1947 High Button Shoes, Stephen Longstreet's semi-autobiographical musical based on his book, "The Sisters Liked Them Handsome," opens tonight at the Century Theatre. The music and lyrics are provided by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn for this show, which gets mixed reviews and runs 727 performances on Broadway. Choreographer Jerome Robbins' famous ballet scene wins him a Tony Award. The cast includes Phil Silvers and Nanette Fabray, who sing, "Papa, Won't You Dance With Me?" The musical would a have a nine month-long run in London beginning in 1948.
1963 Two one-act plays in one bill by Peter Shaffer, The Private Ear and The Public Eye, are on Broadway tonight at the Morosco Theatre. The plays, which deal with shyness, love and infidelity, star Brian Bedford, Geraldine McEwan and Moray Watson and have been transferred from a 1962 London production. Shaffer will go on to write the hit plays Equus and Amadeus.
1967 Tom Stoppard makes a splash in his Broadway debut, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet entirely from the point of view of two of the most minor characters. Brian Murray and John Wood play the two would-be assassins who try to figure out what's going on around them before they themselves are killed. It wins the Tony Award as Best Play.
1972 Dude, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot's musical follow-up to megahit Hair, opens on Broadway — and falls flat on its face, getting roasted by critics and running just 16 performances.
1997 With one musical theatre piece, New York Rock, already under her belt, musician-artist Yoko Ono is returning to the theatre world in a collaboration with writer/director Ron Destro. Hiroshima, an epic play with music about Japanese families hit by the 1945 atomic bomb, opens at New York's Theatre For The New City today.
2003 It took 43 years, but playwrights Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee join forces in New York once again as Beckett/Albee—an evening of three selections by Sam and one by Ed—officially opens at the Century Center for the Performing Arts. Albee made his first major splash when his Zoo Story was paired with Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape in 1960.
2004 Christopher Reeve, the actor whose work on soaps and on stage (A Matter of Gravity, Fifth of July) was eclipsed when he played the Man of Steel in the motion picture "Superman," and its sequels before becoming paralyzed in a horse-riding accident, dies of heart failure at age 52.
More of Today's Birthdays: Fyvush Finkel 1923. Tony Shalhoub 1953. Scott Bakula 1954. Marin Mazzie 1960.
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