PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 21
By David Gewirtzman
1933 Trying to follow-up the success of their Pulitzer-winning musical Of Thee I Sing, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind bring back President John Wintergreen and VP Alexander Throttlebottom for the musical sequel Let 'Em Eat Cake, which depicts a revolution. Depression-jittery audiences stay away, and it runs just 90 performances.
1953 Onetime Algonquin Round Table wit Dorothy Parker, her star already dimmed by alcohol abuse, tries her hand at a Broadway play. The Ladies of the Corridor is panned by her onetime collegues, and runs just 45 performances.
1961 Ellen Stewart acquires the basement space on the Lower East Side that she will eventually turn into Cafe La Mama. The theatre will foster its own company, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, in 1964. The company, which still operates under this name, was founded by Tom O'Horgan, best known for his direction of the rock musical Hair. This generation-defining musical was first produced at La Mama ETC in 1967 and went on to Broadway a year later.
1975 The long-neglected 1915 Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha gets its Broadway debut at the Gershwin Theatre. It runs 64 performances.
1977 A host of future female stars make up the cast of Wendy Wasserstein's Uncommon Women and Others, which opens tonight at the Marymount Manhattan Theatre, housed within Marymount Manhattan College on the Upper East Side. Jill Eikenberry, Glenn Close and Swoosie Kurtz play a group of women recalling their college days in this production, which will run only 22 performances. Although reviews are only lukewarm, Ms. Kurtz will go on to win an Obie for her role.
1981 Playwrights Horizons opens the Christopher Durang double bill of The Actor's Nightmare and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All to You today. Elizabeth Franz plays the nun whose pupils all despise her. Clive Barnes wrote in the New York Post, "Durang takes irreverence to the point of saintliness — he not only makes a profession of it, he turns it into a religion." It runs for 947 performances.
1983 The Brooks Atkinson Theatre box office is robbed at gunpoint while the star Ben Kingsley, is napping in his dressing room between performances of Edmund Kean.
1990 Underpaid and underrated, theatre actors get a boost today when Lloyd Richards, producer and director of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, commits to sharing future profits with cast members of the show. The show had been running since May 1990 and will run for a total of 328 performances, with the cast receiving at least some share of the profits.
1999 Though the disco era is long dead, producers mount a splashy stage adaptation of the film Saturday Night Fever, starring James Carpinello and Paige Price. It boogies for 501 performances.
2002 Star-studded concerts paying tribute to the works of former collaborators Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim go to head-to-head at two famed New York venues. "A Concert Spectacular of Musical Highlights Featuring Stars from the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration" bows at Avery Fisher Hall with performances from the six musicals presented at the D.C. theatre the previous summer — Sweeney Todd, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along and A Little Night Music — as well as songs rendered by Barbara Cook. Other actors taking part: Christine Baranski, John Barrowman, Anastasia Barzee, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Matt Bogart, Blair Brown, Michael Cerveris, Natascia Diaz, John Dossett, Melissa Errico, Raúl Esparza, Thursday Farrar, Philip Goodwin, Randy Graff, Danny Gurwin, Marcy Harriell, Judy Kuhn, Rebecca Luker, Hugh Panaro, Mark Price, Alice Ripley, Miriam Shor, Douglas Sills, Emily Skinner and Linda Stephens. Meanwhile, City Center offers "Shall We Dance: A Dance Tribute to Richard Rodgers" the same night. Presented by Career Transition for Dancers, the 8th Annual "Next Step Gala" stars LaChanze, Sandy Duncan, Frederic Franklin, Dana Moore, Dirk Lumbard, Karen Ziemba, Mercedes Ellington, Wendee Lee Curtis, Karen Callaway Williams and Chicago Tony winners Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking.
2010 Lombardi, Eric Simonson's biographical sports play that takes audiences to the living room, locker room and gridiron of football coach Vince Lombardi, opens at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre. Dan Lauria stars as coach Lombardi, with Judith Light as his wife, and Keith Nobbs as a young reporter who comes to stay for a week.
More of Today's Birthdays: Louis N. Parker 1852. Georgia Brown 1933. Simon Gray 1936. Carrie Fisher 1956.
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