Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 1

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 1
 
Tamara Tunie Bouqett, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Angela Teek in Oh, Kay!
Tamara Tunie Bouqett, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Angela Teek in Oh, Kay! Carol Rosegg, Martha Swope Associates

1920 Opening night for Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, starring Charles S. Gilpin as a onetime railway porter who goes to Africa and rises to become the corrupt head of a new empire there. It runs 204 performances—first at the Provincetown Players' theatre on Macdougal Street, and later uptown at the Selwyn and Princess Theatres.

1922 Birthday of character actor George S. Irving, who makes his Broadway debut in the original cast of Oklahoma!, and uses his booming voice and blustery presence to good effect in dozens of shows, notably Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Me and My Girl, Can-Can, Me and Juliet, Bells Are Ringing, The Happy Time, and Irene (Tony Award).

1930 Playwright Albert Ramsdell Gurney is born. A.R. Gurney goes on to write such plays as The Cocktail Hour, Sylvia, and Love Letters.

1937 Opening night of Amphitryon 38, S. N. Behrman's adaptation of Jean Giradoux's play, based on the Amphitryon legend, and starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne as Jupiter and Alkmena. It runs 153 performances at the Shubert Theatre.

1944 Elwood P. Dowd sees a large white rabbit as Mary Chase's Harvey opens at the 48th Street Theatre. The illustrious Dowd is played by Frank Fay, with his sister, Veta Louise Simmons, being portrayed by Josephine Hull. Antoinette Perry stages the production that runs for a whopping 1,775 performances on Broadway before transferring to London, where it plays 610 performances with its star Sid Field. A movie version is released in 1950 with screen legend James Stewart as Dowd. The comedy wins the 1944 Pulitzer Prize, but the New York Drama Critics Circle Award goes to The Glass Menagerie.

1951 Opening night of Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers in the raucous Johnny Mercer musical set in the world of Burlesque. It runs 350 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre, earning Silvers the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

1961 The New York City Transit Authority commands producer David Merrick to remove 2,800 posters for his musical Subways Are for Sleeping from subway cars, fearing they might give some people the wrong idea about housing.

1984 The Astor Place Theatre hosts the opening of The Foreigner by Larry Shue. The story follows a young Englishman's visit to rural Georgia for holiday and his trials and tribulations with the locals. The show runs for 686 performances. Shue, also a cast member in the production, dies in a tragic plane crash in 1985.

1990 A revival of the 1926 musical Oh, Kay! opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but the locale has been changed from Long Island to Harlem, with an all-black cast led by Brian Stokes Mitchell. Clive Barnes calls it "surprisingly terrific" in the Post, but the David Merrick-produced revival runs for only 77 performances.

1994 Eight gay men examine their lives as they take weekend holidays in the country in Love! Valor! Compassion! The play, by Terrence McNally, uses humor on the surface but forces viewers to see that AIDS has become a shadow on the lives of contemporary human beings. Joe Mantello directs the production, opening Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. It moves to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre in 1995.

2001 Patti LuPone and Peter Gallagher star in a Broadway revival of Michael Frayn's Noises Off, which earns a Tony Award for comic actor Katie Finneran, and runs nearly a year.

2008 Yma Sumac, the improbable singing star of the 1950s who claimed to possess a five-octave vocal range and ancestors who could be traced back to the Incas, dies at age 86. Ms. Sumac appeared in the 1951 Broadway musical Flahooley as a foreign princess who brought Aladdin's lamp to an American toy factory to have it repaired.

2010 Shannon Tavarez, an 11-year-old who appeared on Broadway in The Lion King and whose battle with leukemia moved many on Broadway and in the pop world, passes away. During her final months, her fellow child performers from Broadway shows were seen selling bracelets and key chains that read, “Shine for Shannon,” to help her family pay the medical bills. Broadway theatres dim their lights in her memory the following night.

2012 A new Broadway production of Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz's period drama The Heiress opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Jessica Chastain plays the awkward Catherine Sloper, with Dan Stevens as handsome suitor Morris Townsend. Also in the cast are David Strathairn as Catherine's widower father, Dr. Austin Sloper, and Judith Ivey as romantic-at-the-core Aunt Lavinia Penniman.

2015 King Charles III, Mike Bartlett's Olivier Award-winning play that imagines a future in which Britain's current Queen Elizabeth II has passed away and her son, the current Prince Charles, has assumed the throne, opens on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. Tim Pigott-Smith stars in the title role.

More of Today's Birthdays: George Cotton 1903. Beth Fowler 1940. Beth Leavel 1955. Toni Collette 1972.

Watch highlights from the 2012 Broadway revival of Mary Chase's Harvey, starring Jim Parsons:

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