Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 4

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 4
 
Angela Lansbury and Joan Plowright in A Taste of Honey.
Angela Lansbury and Joan Plowright in A Taste of Honey.

1880 Writer Damon Runyon, whose short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" forms the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls, is born in Manhattan, Kansas.

1920 The musical Jim Jam Jems opens at the Cort Theatre, starring Harry Langdon, Virginia Clark, and Joe E. Brown.

1955 Jean Giraudoux's Iliad-based Tiger at the Gates opens, starring Michael Redgrave and Diane Cilento, both of whom earn Tony nominations, along with director Harold Clurman and the play itself.

1956 A new CBS series, Playhouse 90, premieres. Many call it the pinnacle of live drama on television. Throughout its run the series gives voice to such writers as Tad Mosel, Rod Serling, and Paddy Chayefsky, and showcases versions of such plays as The Miracle Worker and The Time of Your Life.

1960 A Taste of Honey opens on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The play, about a working class white girl who sleeps with a black man in her provincial town and becomes pregnant, features the likes of Angela Lansbury, Joan Plowright, Nigel Davenport, and Billy Dee Williams. Playwright Shelagh Delaney is only 19. The play runs 49 weeks.

1962 Every producer longs to hear the phrase, "long line at the box office." David Merrick self-actualizes it today—the day after Stop the World – I Want to Get Off opened on Broadway. Faced with mixed reviews, Merrick closes all but one of the windows at the Shubert Theatre box office, forcing ticketbuyers to stand in one long line.

1972 The songs of Noël Coward get an airing in the revue Oh, Coward! at the New Theatre. Barbara Cason, Roderick Cook, and Jamie Ross star in the show, which runs 294 performances.

1981 The Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby opens at the Plymouth Theatre. The production is historic in two ways: It's presented in two parts over two evenings—the first such show to win the Tony Award as Best Play. It's also the first to charge $100 a ticket to see the entire epic. Trevor Nunn and John Caird direct the production, which stars Roger Rees.

1990 Bill Cain's Stand-Up Tragedy opens on Broadway at the Criterion Center Stage Right. The story of a dedicated teacher who tries to save a gifted Hispanic student from the trappings of urban poverty and prejudice plays 13 performances and closes October 16.

1998 The world premiere of Evan Smith's The Uneasy Chair, starring Roger Rees and Dana Ivey, opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The play, directed by Richard Cottrell, tells of a miserly boarding house owner who sues her crotchety tenant over a breach of promise.

2009 Wishful Drinking, actor-writer Carrie Fisher's darkly comic autobiographical solo show about her adventures in Hollywood—and her experiences with substance abuse and mental illness—opens at Broadway's Studio 54.

2011 The Berliner Ensemble, the German theatre company founded by Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel in 1949, makes its New York debut with Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Robert Wilson directs the five performance run.

2012 Craig Wright's Grace, a four-person darkly comic drama set in Florida that examines the meaning of religion and life, opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. Directed by Dexter Bullard, the play stars Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington, and Edward Asner.

2016 Jennifer Holliday, who won a Tony Award in 1981 for her volcanic performance as Effie White in the original Dreamgirls, returns to Broadway in the role of the sexy cabaret singer Shug Avery in The Color Purple. Holliday replaces Heather Headley, who departed the production on October 2.

More of Today's Birthdays: Arthur Hopkins 1878. Charlton Heston 1924. Susan Sarandon 1946. Armand Assante 1949. Liev Schreiber 1967. Alicia Silverstone 1976.

Watch highlights from a 2014 concert of Guys and Dolls, starring Nathan Lane, Patrick Wilson, Sierra Boggess, and Megan Mullally:

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