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

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 19 A Chorus Line, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, opens on Broadway on this day in 1975.
A scene from the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1907 Top 'o the World, a musical extravaganza, opens on Broadway to a then-impressive 156-performance run.

1920 Opening night of the musical revue Hitchy-Koo, with music by Jerome Kern, book by Glen MacDonough, and lyrics by MacDonough and Anne Caldwell.

1938 Knickerbocker Holiday, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's take on New York's colonial mayor Pieter Stuyvesant, opens on Broadway, with Walter Huston as hizzoner. It's Weill's first Broadway hit since his fleeing to the U.S. from Nazi Germany.

1943 "The theatre—and its patrons—are increasingly assuming a tolerance that has too long been lacking," says Variety concerning the pairing of white Uta Hagen as Desdemona with Black Paul Robeson as the title character in Othello, which opens at the Shubert Theatre. José Ferrer, married offstage to Hagen, plays Iago. Burton Rascoe of the World-Telegram reports that the production is "one of the most memorable events in the history of the theatre." It still holds the record for the longest-running Shakespeare production to play Broadway.

1944 Marlon Brando makes his Broadway debut only three years before he is to win critical acclaim in 1947's A Streetcar Named Desire. He is featured in I Remember Mama, the John Van Druten comedy produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, which opens at the Music Box Theatre. Brando is reported in the Playbill as having "served his apprenticeship at the New School...Born in Calcutta, India, he came to this country when he was six months old." The truth is that Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska. According to the New York Journal-American, "Brando's Nels is, if he doesn't mind me saying so, charming." Mady Christians and Oscar Homolka are the stars in this production, which is the basis for the 1949 hit television show of the same name. This production runs 714 performances.

1945 Birth of future Tony-winning star John Lithgow, whose Broadway credits include The Columnist, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Sweet Smell of Success, M. Butterfly, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and The Changing Room.

1959 The Miracle Worker is the toast of Broadway as the story of young blind and deaf Helen Keller and her companion, Annie Sullivan, is brought to life by Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. This show, which opens at the Playhouse Theatre, wins Bancroft a Tony Award for Best Actress, and playwright William Gibson the Tony for Best Play. The 1962 film stars the same two actors, both winning Oscars for their performances.

1970 Hal Linden stars as the founder of the Rothschild banking clan in Broadway's The Rothschilds. It proves to be the final collaboration for songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who had already seen their musicals win the Pulitzer Prize (Fiorello!) and become the longest-running show in Broadway history, up to that time (Fiddler on the Roof).

1975 Almost three months after it began previews at the Shubert Theatre, A Chorus Line opens on Broadway. Opening night was originally announced for September 28, but a 28-day musician strike forced it to be postponed. Despite the extended preview period, A Chorus Line proves to be, as its lyrics say, "one singular sensation," racking up 6,137 performances to become Broadway's longest-running show up to that time. Conceived, choreographed, and directed by Michael Bennett, the original Broadway cast includes Kelly Bishop, Priscilla Lopez, Robert LuPone, and Donna McKechnie. It wins nine Tony Awards, including Best Book (James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante), Best Score (Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban), and Best Musical; and also wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

1987 Patti LuPone recreates Ethel Merman's role of Reno Sweeney in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Anything Goes, which opens at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The 1934 Cole Porter musical has been revamped, adding several of his original songs to the score. The show gains several rave reviews, especially for LuPone. Frank Rich says that "Ms. LuPone is the top. She has lips so insinuatingly protruding they could make the Pledge of Allegiance sound lewd."

1995 She keeps going, and going... Carol Channing returns to the stage in another revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 31 years after she first played the role of Dolly Levi.

2004 Len Cariou, John Guare, Gloria Reuben, Wallace Shawn, Fisher Stevens, and Debra Winger star in a reading of David Hare's controversial Bush administration drama Stuff Happens at New York Theatre Workshop.

2009 The David Bryan-Joe DiPietro rock musical Memphis, about a radio DJ who aims to change the color and sound of rock music, opens on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Chad Kimball and Montego Glover, both of whom starred in the regional bows of the musical at the La Jolla Playhouse and the 5th Avenue Theatre, repeat their performances for Broadway audiences as DJ Huey Calhoun, and his muse, Felicia Farrell, respectively. Memphis wins the Tony Award for Best Musical, and runs 1,165 performance.

2017 Second Stage Theater's 35th anniversary production of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy—newly renamed Torch Song—opens Off-Broadway. Michael Urie stars as Arnold Beckoff with Mercedes Ruehl as his mother. Second Stage transfers the production to Broadway one year later.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jean Genet (1910–1986), Edith Piaf (1915–1963), Tony Lo Bianco (b. 1935), Michael Gambon (b. 1940), Annie Golden (b. 1951), Jennifer Holliday (b. 1960), Trey Parker (b. 1969)

Watch highlights from the 2009 Broadway production of Memphis:

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