Playbill Vault’s Today in Theater History: July 15


1905 Birthday of the lyricist and librettist Dorothy Fields, daughter of a vaudeville star Lew Fields from Weber & Fields. Among his many credits over six decades from the 1920s to the 1970s: Robins of 1928, Let’s face it! (book), Annie take your gun (book), Red (book and lyrics), Sweet Charity (lyrics) and Seesaw (Words). She was nominated for three Tony Awards and won one, for her work on Red.

1937 Sorry, Rose. Despite being moribund for several years, Vaudeville is officially declared dead today, as Variety merges its “vaudeville” and “nite clubs” sections for the very first time. The entertainment newspaper explains that “the vaudeville department has been particularly difficult to fill lately”.

1949 IrvingBerlin tries to recreate the success of Annie take your gun bringing together the creative team for a musical about the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Despite the direction of foam deer and choreography of Jerome Robbins, Miss Liberty turns in a disappointing 308 performances, but produces a modestly successful track in “Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk”.

1982 Nathan Lane makes its Broadway debut opposite George C. Scott in a revival of Cowardly Christmasit is Laughter present. Also in the blessed cast are future stars Christine Lahti, Kate Burtonand Dana Ivey.

1998 Trevor Nunnthe staging of Henrik Ibsenit is An enemy of the people begins at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. The Royal National Theater production starring Ian McKellen tells the story of a Norwegian doctor’s attempt to expose a scandal in which the local baths are dangerously contaminated. The production script is a new version of Christopher Hampton.

2002 Five years before making their Broadway debut with the Revenge of a Blonde musical, songwriters Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin create another musical adaptation, Sarah, simple and tall, Off Broadway. The musical is adapted for the stage by playwright Julia Jordan (from the novel by Patricia MacLachlan and the TV movie starring Glenn Close), who wrote the book, with Joe Calarco directing. The Theatreworks/USA production plays a limited run at the Lucille Lortel Theater, with free tickets available for family audiences.

2003 The Public Theater presents a summer season of Shakespeare in the Park truncated à la Delacorte with a staging by Henry V, directed by Mark Wing-Davey and starring Liev Schreiber as the Young King. The role is a continuation of Schreiber’s long artistic relationship with The Public, having previously starred in Iachimo in Cymbeline in 1998, also in Central Park (for which he won an Obie Award); Hamlet in 1999; and Iago in othello in 2001. The cast of Henry V also features Colman Domingo as the Duke of Bourbon, Arie Thompson as Queen Elizabeth and Daniel Oreskes as the Duke of Exeter.

2010 Harry Connick, Jr. in concert on Broadway begins a limited run of 15 performances at the Neil Simon Theatre. The evening highlights songs from Connick, Jr.’s “Your Songs” album, including “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Close to You”, “Who Can I Turn To?” and “Smile.”

2015 The Encores! Off-center staging by Andrew Lippa the wild party, starring Sutton Foster and Steven Pasquale, begins performances at the New York City Center. Lippa revises his musical for the occasion, including adding a new song for the character of Queenie (played by Foster), entitled “A Happy Ending”.

2018 A revival of fiddler on the roof, presented in Yiddish with English and Russian surtitles, opens in New York at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Joel Gray directs the National Yiddish Theater production Folksbiene, with Steven Skybell as Tevye, Mary Illes as Golde and Jackie Hoffman as Yente. After a long, sold-out tour, it transferred to Downtown on Off-Broadway Stage 42 in February 2019.

2019 The rolling stone, a new play by Chris Urch, officially opens at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater. The family drama, set in Uganda, finds a gay man and his church pastor brother clashing over the sexuality he is forced to hide under the country’s extreme laws. Directed by Saheem Ali, the play stars Ato Blankson-Wood, Latoya Edwards, Robert Gilbert, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Adenike Thomas and James Udom.

Today’s birthdays: Joan Robert (1917-2012). Joanna Merlin (born in 1931). Ken Kercheval (1935–2019). Laura Benanti (born in 1979).

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