Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 23

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: May 23
 
The cast of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along.
The cast of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along.

1904 The Southerners, with a score by black composer Will Marion Cook, is the first time an entire black chorus is used in a show with a white cast. Lead Eddie Leonard appears in blackface in the musical about the antebellum South. The New York Times is more impressed that the white members of the cast “mingled” with the black performers and that only some audience members trembled in their seats during the curtain call, than with the production itself.

1921 “I’m Just Wild About Harry” is just one of the Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle songs in Shuffle Along at the 63rd Street Music Hall in New York. Blake is at the piano for the 504 performances. In 2016, George C. Wolfe returns the musical to Broadway with his show Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

1932 Lady Augusta Gregory dies in Galway, Ireland, at age 80. She was an ardent supporter of the Irish Dramatic Movement and wrote several plays for the Abbey Theatre, which she helped found. She co-authored The Pot of Broth and Cathleen ni Houlihan with W. B. Yeats. Her translation of Molière’s plays is titled The Kiltartan Moliere.

1946 A father tries to clear his son’s name in Terrence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy. The show plays 476 performances at London’s Lyric Theatre.

1950 Following a national tour, Elia Kazan’s original staging of Tennessee WilliamsA Streetcar Named Desire returns to New York for a final limited engagement at City Center. Uta Hagen stars as Blanche, opposite Anthony Quinn as Stanley.

1993 A.R. Gurney’s Later Life opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Don Scardino directs the comedy about two middle-aged individuals who meet at a Boston cocktail party. Maureen Anderman, Charles Kimbrough, Carole Shelley, and Anthony Heald star.

2000 David Auburn’s Proof opens at Manhattan Theatre Club. Larry Bryggman, Johanna Day, Ben Shenkman, and Mary-Louise Parker star in the play that extends then transfers to Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre. It wins newcomer Auburn the year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

2001 Talent lives on: Five years after Rent composer Jonathan Larson died, his obscure early 1990’s musical tick...tick...BOOM! gets a major Off-Broadway revival at the Jane Street Theatre. It is later recorded and embarks on a national tour.

2016 Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera about Orpheus’ mythical quest to overcome Hades and regain his one true love Eurydice, opens Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. Rachel Chavkin directs the immersive production, which stars Nabiyah Be, Damon Daunno, and Patrick Page. After additional runs in Canada and London, it opens on Broadway in 2019.

Today’s Birthdays: James Gleason (1882–1959); Douglas Fairbanks (1883–1939); Betty Garrett (1919–2011); Barbara Barrie (b. 1931); Joan Collins (b. 1933); Charles Kimbrough (b. 1936); Randy Graff (b. 1955).

Watch highlights from the 2016 musical Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed:

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