Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 5 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 5 In 1955, Damn Yankees opens on Broadway starring Gwen Verdon.
Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees. The New York Public Library

1955 Baseball, ballet, and Gwen Verdon provide the slugging power in Damn Yankees. Adapted by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop from Wallop's book, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, the musical scores 1,019 performances on Broadway. Songs are provided by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Bob Fosse choreographs.

1958 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne begin their last Broadway performance together in The Visit. Maurice Valency adapts the drama from Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Visit of the Old Lady. It runs nearly six months at the newly renamed Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

1959 The World of Paul Slickey is John Osborne's first attempt at a musical. It concerns a destructive gossip columnist played by Dennis Lotis. Osborne stages and Christopher Whelan provides the score. The grapevine withers after 47 performances at London's Palace Theatre.

1966 Muriel Spark's novel about a Scottish school mistress and her charges comes to life as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Jay Presson Allen's adaptation stars Vanessa Redgrave, and runs for 588 performances at Wyndham's Theater in London.

1974 Terrence McNally's Bad Habits, about some very dysfunctional people, opens at Broadway Booth's Theatre after an Off-Broadway run at the Astor Place Theatre. F. Murray Abraham leads the cast of actors that play in the two one-act comedies, Ravenswood and Dunelawn, that comprise the production.

1994 Two-time Tony Award-winning director-choreographer Joe Layton, who lent his talents to such productions as Once Upon a Mattress, The Sound of Music, No Strings, George M!, and Barnum, dies at age 63. Born Joseph Licthman, he also broke into films and television, choreographing Thoroughly Modern Millie and For the Boys, as well as the television special My Name is Barbra.

2002 George Sidney, who directed film versions of some major Broadway musicals, dies at age 85. His movies included Show Boat; Kiss Me, Kate; Annie Get Your Gun; Ziegfeld Follies; Pal Joey; Bye Bye Birdie; Half a Sixpence; and Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas.

2003 Political commentator Bill Maher brings his solo show, Victory Begins at Home, to the Virginia Theatre, offering commentary on the prevailing political situation, notably President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Maher had lost his TV show, Politically Incorrect, after expressing some unpopular opinions on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2004 Mark Medoff's play Prymate, about the ethics of infecting a laboratory gorilla with the AIDS virus, scandalizes Broadway with its depiction of the primate by a black actor (André De Shields) and a scene showing a sexual encounter between the gorilla and a human female. Despite an ad from the producer asking audiences to see the show with an open mind, it closes after five performances.

2011 Arthur Laurents, the irascible, enduring Man of the Theatre who wrote plays and screenplays and enjoyed a significant career as a director—but who made his lasting mark as the librettist to two landmark musicals, West Side Story and Gypsy—dies at age 93.

2011 Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, a dynamic family drama studded with politics and American union fervor, opens at the Public Theater. Michael Greif, who staged the world premiere of the play at the Guthrie Theater in 2009, also directs the Off-Broadway bow of the four-hour work.

2014 The world premiere of Anthony Giardina's The City of Conversation opens Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Jan Maxwell stars as a Georgetown political hostess in the play that covers 30 years, from the waning days of the Carter administration to the beginning of the Obama presidency.

Today's Birthdays: Benny Baker (1907-1994). Tyrone Power III (1914-1958). Pat Carroll (b. 1927). Roger Rees (1944-2015). Eisa Davis (b. 1971). Jose Llana (b. 1976). Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (b. 1981)

Look Back at Roger Rees on the Stage

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