Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 20 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 20

In 2005, Harvey Fierstein begins performances as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.

Harvey Fierstein in Fiddler on the Roof. Carol Rosegg

1896 Say good morning, George. Actually it was "Nathan" then—Nathan Birnbaum is born. As George Burns, he and Gracie Allen become headliners of vaudeville. Together they appear in films and their own television show. On his own, Burns also has a successful film career.

1914 John Barrymore stars in The Yellow Ticket at the Eltinge Theatre in New York. The drama written by Michael Morton and staged by Hugh Ford, runs 183 performances.

1926 Actor Patricia Neal is born in Packard, Kentucky. Among other productions, she appears in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. For her performance in that show she has the distinction of being the very first person to be handed a Tony Award at the inaugural ceremony.

1954 The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is tried at the Plymouth Theatre. Herman Wouk adapted his novel which stars Lloyd Nolan, Henry Fonda, and John Hodiak. Charles Laughton directs.

1975 A gay bathhouse is the setting of Terrence McNally's high-energy farce The Ritz, which stars Jack Weston as a bewildered straight man forced to hide out there, and Rita Moreno as spirited entertainer Googie Gomez. It runs 398 performances at the Longacre Theatre, and wins Moreno the Tony for Best Supporting Actress. She's the last person to win it, however: Her speech about supporting "nothing but my beads," leads the Tonys to change the name of the category to Best Featured Actress.

1989 British comedian Beatrice Lillie dies at age 94. Lillie first performed in New York in Andre Charlot's Revue of 1924. Her film credits include 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie.

2003 Iconic Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld dies at age 99. Having captured the spirit of New York life, particularly actors in performance, since the 1920s, he was known for hiding his daughter's name, "Nina," in his sketches. At least one Broadway show, My Fair Lady, used a Hirschfeld drawing as its logo. Within months of his death, the Martin Beck Theatre is renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in his honor.

2004 Bernard Punsly, the last surviving member of the quintet of young Broadway and Hollywood actors known as "The Dead End Kids," for their first appearance in the Broadway drama Dead End, dies in Torrence, California, at age 80.

2005 Harvey Fierstein takes over the role of Tevye in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

2005 Dick Gallagher, 49, a trusted accompanist, musical director, and Off-Broadway composer (for What Not, Whoop-Dee-Doo! and—his greatest hit—When Pigs Fly), dies in Manhattan after a long illness.

2016 Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway production of Our Mother's Brief Affair opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Linda Lavin heads the cast as matriarch Anna in Richard Greenberg's family drama about love and secrets.

2019 Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock—The Musical closes on Broadway after 1,309 performances. Dozens of the show's former young cast members return to the stage for a final jam session at the curtain call.

More of Today's Birthdays: Joseph Jefferson, III (1829-1905). Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968). Bretaigne Windust (1906-1960). Rainn Wilson (b. 1966).

Look at the Art of Your Favorite Shows as Imagined by Al Hirschfeld

More Today in Theatre History

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