Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 19 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 19 In 1957, The Music Man opens on Broadway.
Robert Preston and Barbara Cook in The Music Man. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

1865 Birthday of Mary Augusta Davey, who acts under the names Minnie Maddern, Minnie Maddern Fiske, and Mrs. Fiske. Performer, director, and producer of many dramas before and after the turn of the 20th century, most notably Becky Sharp, Tess of d'Urbervilles, Hedda Gabler, The Light from St. Agnes, and The Eyes of the Heart.

1902 Actor Ralph Richardson is born in Gloucestershire, England. He makes his stage debut in 1921 as Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice, and goes on to become one of the major actors of Great Britain in the post-World War II period.

1910 Jean Genet, who chronicles society's outcasts, is born in Paris, France. His works include The Maids, The Balcony, The Screens, and The Blacks, the last of which has a long Off-Broadway run in the 1960s.

1919 For the Defense details the shooting of a sinister hypnotist, the trial of an innocent girl, and the lawyer who loves her. The Elmer Rice melodrama stars Winifred Lenihan and Richard Bennett.

1933 Owen Davis' Jezebel, about a high-spirited Southern belle whose decision to wear a scarlet dress destroys her life, opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and stays for just 32 performances. It becomes a major hit, however, when Bette Davis wins an Oscar for the 1938 film adaptation.

1951 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh open a limited engagement of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra at the Ziegfeld Theatre, in repertory with William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The production sells out more than half of its 67 performances before opening night.

1957 Robert Preston and Barbara Cook make musical theatre history in The Music Man which opens at the Majestic Theatre. Meredith Willson takes on the writing solo, penning the book, lyrics, and score from a story he and Franklin Lacey devised. It wins the Tony Award for Best Musical, and marches on for 1,375 performances.

1985 A musical version of the children's classic Wind in the Willows opens a disappointing 4-performance run at the Nederlander Theatre, but boasts a cast that features Nathan Lane as Toad, David Carroll as Rat, Vicki Lewis as Mole, P.J. Benjamin as Chief Weasel, and a supporting cast that includes Nora Mae Lyng, John Jellison, Donna Drake, and Scott Waara.

1989 Dustin Hoffman plays Shylock in a major revival of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Notable moment: one of Shylock's tormentors spits on him full in the face.

1991 Patrick Stewart introduces his solo holiday reading/performance of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in which Stewart plays all the parts. Stewart later repeats his performance in three Broadway revivals, in 1992, 1994, and 2001.

1996 Sarah Jessica Parker plays gawky Princess Winifred in a Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress. It runs 188 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1997 Marie Osmond makes her Broadway debut as Anna in The King and I. Osmond replaces Faith Prince, who was the first replacement after the production's original Anna, the Tony Award-winning Donna Murphy.

2001 Barely three months after the 9/11 attacks, Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner opens his play about Afghani politics and terrorism, Homebody/Kabul, Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop.

2011 The world premiere of Molly Smith Metzler's comedy Close Up Space, starring Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce as a harried book editor, opens at Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway home at New York City Center Stage I.

2013 The world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Hampton, and Don Black's musical Stephen Ward opens at the West End's Aldwych Theatre. Alexander Hanson stars in the title role, opposite Charlotte Spencer and Joanna Riding. The show charts the rise and fall of society osteopath Stephen Ward, whose affair with the young and beautiful Christine Keeler led to one of the biggest political scandals and trials of the 20th century. It receives mixed reviews, and closes after a run of less than four months.

More of Today's Birthdays: Cicely Tyson (b. 1924). Robert B. Sherman (1925-2012). Mark "Moose" Charlap (1928-1974). Mel Gussow (1933-2005). Elaine Joyce (b. 1945). Scott Cohen (b. 1961). Mary Catherine Garrison (b. 1973). Jake Gyllenhaal (b. 1980).

Once Upon a Mattress on Broadway

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