PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: NOVEMBER 18

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber, Anne Bradley
November 18, 2013

1836 Birthday of satirist William S. Gilbert, later to achieve immortality as the lyricist half of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta-writing team that produced The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore and other staples of the genre.



1919 Irene, the story of a shop girl charming a wealthy young man begins its run. Edith Day and Bobbie Watson star. James Montgomery wrote the book with music by Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy. Irene ran seven months in the 1919-1920 season and an additional 428 performances in the 1920-21 season.

1930 Lili Hatvany says it's Tonight or Never. Her play about a prima donna (played by future Richard Nixon opponent Helen Gahagan) and an opera scout (Melvyn Douglas) runs almost seven months. This is David Belasco's last production before his death.

1930 Marilyn Miller, Fred Astaire, Adele Astaire and Eddie Foy, Jr., are all Smiles. This Florenz Ziegfeld production, with a score by Vincent Youmans, is based on a Noel Coward story about a French waif brought to America for a taste of the high life.

1933 Bob Hope has his first featured role on Broadway in Jerome Kern's Roberta, also starring Lyda Roberti, Fay Templeton, Tamara, George Murphy and Sydney Greenstreet.

1941 Patricia Peardon is Junior Miss in this play adapted by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields from Sally Benson's stories. Moss Hart directs this look at teenage sub-debs.

1942 An ice age, a hurricane and the possible end of the world are visited upon the Antrobus family of New Jersey in The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder's surreal parable about the survival of man against all odds. The opening night cast features Fredric March, Florence Eldridge and Tallulah Bankhead. The show will win the Pulitzer Prize and run 359 performances.

1945 Birthday of actor and director Walter Bobbie, whose 1996 staging of Chicago became the longest-running Broadway revival.

1946 Ingrid Bergman stars on Broadway as Joan of Arc in Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine. It runs 199 performances at the Alvin Theatre.

1961 Hoping to follow up her success in The Music Man, Barbara Cook takes the role of Liesl in The Gay Life: Howard Dietz & Arthur Schwartz musical version of La Ronde. It runs just 113 performances at the Shubert Theatre.

1964 Alan Alda plays a young writer having an affair with his prostitute neighbor (Diana Sands) in The Owl and the Pussycat by Bill Manhoff, which opens tonight at the ANTA Theatre and runs 428 performances. The movie is made in 1970 with George Segal and Barbra Streisand.

1999 Broadway brushed up its Shakespeare tonight, as Kiss Me, Kate opened for the first time since 1965. Starring Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell, the production will run 882 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre.

2001 Another notable day for Alan Alda: He opens on Broadway in the (nearly) solo show, QED, in which he impersonates thoughtful physicist Richard Feynman at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

2004 After attending the opening night of the drama Democracy composer Cy Coleman falls ill at the cast party and is rushed to the hospital where he dies of a heart attack at age 75. Coleman won Best Score Tony Awards for his work on The Will Rogers Follies, City of Angels and On the Twentieth Century. His other scores include Sweet Charity, The Life, Seesaw, Little Me, Wildcat and Barnum.

2008 Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show, starring Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani as the eccentric Mizner brothers, opens at the Public Theater. The musical went through several years of development (and a few different titles), before landing off-Broadway in the John Doyle-helmed production.

2010 The world premiere of John Guare's A Free Man of Color, a globe-spanning work set in New Orleans, Haiti and France at the turn of the 19th century, officially opens on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. George C. Wolfe stages the sprawling production that is centered in New Orleans following the Haitian slave revolts, when its large population of Free People of Color (or the "Gens de Couleur Libres") inhabited a city that was more European than American in the early 17th century.

More of Today's Birthdays: Imogene Coca 1908. Johnny Mercer 1909. Dorothy Collins 1926. Brenda Vaccaro 1939. Delroy Lindo 1952. Anthony Warlow 1961. Daphne Rubin-Vega 1969. Steven Pasquale 1977.