Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 29

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 29
 
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain.
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain. Joan Marcus

1921 The operetta Blossom Time opens on Broadway. With a score of Franz Schubert themes rearranged by Sigmund Romberg, the show reaches a then-epic run of 576 performances and spawns four simultaneous touring companies, becoming a perennial moneymaker for the Shubert Brothers.

1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy Merrily We Roll Along introduces the plot innovation of moving backward in time from scene to scene. It runs 155 performances at the Music Box Theatre and inspires a 1981 musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth.

1939 Danny Kaye makes his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue which runs just 75 performances despite a cast that includes Jerome Robbins (as a dancer), Alfred Drake, and Imogene Coca.

1955 Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge opens at the Coronet Theatre. The drama about Eddie, a simple longshoreman driven to acts of brutality and despair by passions he can't understand, gets mixed reviews and runs only 19 weeks. Martin Ritt is the director of this production, whose stars include Van Heflin, J. Carrol Naish, Eileen Heckart, Jack Warden, and Richard Davalos. Despite its disappointing original run, the play has since received four Broadway revivals: in 1983 with Tony Lo Bianco, in 1997 with Anthony LaPaglia, in 2010 with Liev Schreiber, and in 2015 with Mark Strong.

1960 A jealous man disguises himself to serve as his girlfriend's paramour—and thereby as his own rival—in the popular musical comedy Irma La Douce, which opens on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre. Elizabeth Seal wins a Tony Award for her performance in the title role.

1962 After six-and-a-half years, the musical hit My Fair Lady closes on Broadway. It played a record 2,717 performances, and its gross receipts were $20,257,000—a record at that time for a musical.

1962 Future Tony Award winner Roger Bart is born. The stage comedian creates memorable performances in The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Triumph of Love, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

1983 A Chorus Line becomes the longest-running musical in Broadway history. After 3,389 performances, it surpasses Grease. The show continues on for a few more years with 6,137 performances as the final total.

1985 Eugene O'Neill's classic, The Iceman Cometh, is revived at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The play, about a group of hopeless denizens in a Lower East Side bar, was originally produced in October 1946 but was overshadowed by Arthur Miller's All My Sons. It did not receive major recognition until it was produced at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 1955. The cast of that version included Jason Robards, Jr. as Hickey, the traveling salesman, and was directed by José Quintero. The same actor in the same role with the same director make up the new production.

1975 A work by a new-to-New York playwright opens Off-Off-Broadway at the St. Clement's Church, called Sexual Perversity in Chicago. The play wins the season's Obie Award for Best New American Play and playwright David Mamet goes on to become a fixture in both Off-Broadway and Broadway theatre.

1999 The Atlantic Theater Company celebrates its 15th season by honoring the work of playwright and co-founder David Mamet. The season begins today with a double bill of The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness. Productions of Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations continue the season, and the topper comes with American Buffalo starring the other Atlantic co-founder William H. Macy.

2001 Gloria Foster, the African-American actor who specialized in classical roles including Medea, Madame Ranevskaya, Mary Tyrone, Clytemnestra, and Titania, dies in New York. She had a late-career success in 1995's Having Our Say.

2003 Nearly 80 years of theatregoers' confusion come to an end when Greenwich Village's Commerce Street is officially renamed Cherry Lane after the Cherry Lane Theatre, which has stood on the short, curved thoroughfare since it was founded by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1924.

2009 Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig co-star in Keith Huff's two-character police drama, A Steady Rain, which opens on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. John Crowley directs the play about a pair of Chicago cops whose willingness to blink at corruption leads to disaster.

2016 Simon McBurney's The Encounter, based on the true story of a National Geographic photographer who was lost in the remote Javari Valley in Brazil, opens at the Golden Theatre. During the performance, the audience wears headphones and becomes immersed in a world created almost entirely by McBurney's voice and a virtual radio station full of sound effects. The production's two sound designers, Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, receive Special Tony Awards for their work.

More of Today's Birthdays: Greer Garson 1904. Madeline Kahn 1942. Debbie Shapiro (a.k.a. Debbie Gravitte) 1954. Lynette Perry 1963. Darius de Haas 1968.

Watch highlights from a 2012 revival of the musical Merrily We Roll Along, starring Colin Donnell, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Lin-Manuel Miranda:

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