Playbill Vault’s Today in Theater History: November 9

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1818 The playwright and novelist Ivan Turgenev was born in Russia. His most notable piece is A month in the countrysidebut made history a bit in 2002 when his 150-year-old play The madman of fortune made its Broadway debut and, because it had never been eligible before, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.

1891 Opening night of Charles H. Hoytit is A trip to Chinatown at the Madison Square Theater. He achieved a then-phenomenal run of 657 performances, which set a Broadway record for a musical until Oklahoma! in the 1940s. The plot bears more than a passing resemblance to Act II of Hello Dolly!: An interfering widow lures several young couples from their suburban homes to a restaurant in downtown New York where she attempts to spark romance with the help of a wealthy man’s lost wallet. The show also produced one of Broadway’s first hit hits, “The Bowery”, and subsequent productions added the hit “After the Ball”. Trixie Friganza stars.

1903 red feather opens. The musical, produced by Florenz Ziegfelddeals with a soldier who pursues a bandit and is doubly surprised to discover that “she” is a countess and that he is in love.

1925 Opening night of Mrs. Cheyney’s Last featuring Ina Claire and Helen Hayes at the Fulton Theatre. It held 385 performances and the Fulton was later renamed for Mrs. Hayes.

1938 Mary Martin performs “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in Leave it to me!, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The cast includes Gene Kelly and Sophie Tucker.

1955 A rain hat opens at the Lyceum Theatre. Ben Gazzara, Anthony Franciosaand Shelley Winters star in Michael V. Gazzois a bold drug-themed piece. Frank Corsaro leads the 50-week race.

1964 Price Berkeley publishes the first-ever issue of Theatrical Index, which offers the theater industry a wealth of information on current and upcoming shows in New York and on the road.

1965 Most shows go “dark” – literally – as a power outage knocks out much of the Northeast from power. The New York Times publishes an eight-page issue, while Variety misses its deadline, having had a clean record of not having done so for 60 years. The Broadway opening of The Zulus and the Zaydas is postponed to the next day, creating a response from the producer Dore Schary of “I never thought that the Cort [where the show was playing] would get dark before the opening.” The blackout lasts until the middle of the night. Matinees are open for tomorrow, but attendance is very low.

1976 by Harold Pinter No Man’s Land made its Broadway debut at the Longacre Theatre. John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Michael Kitchen and Terence Rigby star in the Peter Hall-directed play in which two poets have a conversation in a strange domestic environment filled with hostile servants.

nineteen eighty one On his 47th birthday, Ron Harwood attends the premiere of his play The dresser opened on Broadway. The work continues to be nominated for Best Play at the Tony Awards as well as a nod to its star Tom Courtenay. Michael Elliott is directing, with Paul Rogers and Rachel Gurney also in the cast.

1989 After trials in South Florida, Prince of Central Park opens at the Belasco Theater. Based on the novel by Evan H. Rhodes (who provides the book here), the musical features a score by composer Don Sebesky and lyricist Gloria Nissenson. Tony Tanner directs and choreographs with Richard Blake and Jo Anne Worley starring.

1997 Frank Wildhorn continues its gothic jekyll and hyde success with a lighter piece, scarlet pimpernelbased on Baroness Orczyis the novel. New producers step in a year later and rework the book and choreography with a third revision that ends up airing on Broadway.

2000 A class act opens Off-Broadway after a brief delay to polish the show at Manhattan Drama Club. Lonny Price play real life lyricist Ed Kleban. Price also directs and co-writes the book for the new musical, about the life and work of the late contributor to A chorus line. The show features previously unreleased songs (music and lyrics) written by Kleban. Most have been played only rarely, so far. Kleban died of cancer before he matched the success he had contributing lyrics in the 1975s A chorus line, his most famous work. A major fund bearing his name (The Kleban Award, from The Kleban Foundation, Inc.) distributes annual cash prizes to promising lyricists and book authors. The following year, the production continued on Broadway, acclaimed but brief.

2003 1970s icon Farrah FawcettBroadway’s debut was aborted when the producer of his vehicle, Bobbi Bolandcloses the show in preview at the Cort Theatre.

2003 A revival of The Guardian by Harold Pinter opens the American Airlines Theater, starring Patrick Stewart, Kyle MacLachlan and Tony-nominated Aiden Gillen. David Jones directs.

2006 A revival of Wretched opens at the Broadhurst Theater just three years after the original Broadway production closed. With Alexander Gemignani as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Fantine, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Éponine and Ali Ewoldt as Cosette.

2010 Long story shortancient Saturday Night Live cast member Colin QuinnThe solo comedy of On the Decline of the Great Empires of the World opens on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

2011 Michael Sheen opens in the title role of Hamlet at the Young Vic in London, in a production directed by Ian Rickson.

2017 Musical by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses The group visit, based on the 2007 film of the same name, opens on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. The production reunites most of the cast from the world premiere of the Off-Broadway series in 2016, including Tony Shalhoub, John Cariani, Katrina Lenk and Ari’el Stachel. It won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and staged 556 performances.

More birthdays from today: Elizabeth Tiree (1864–1952), Mary Dressler (1868-1934), Edna May Oliver (1883-1942) Ed Wynn (1886–1966), Pauline Myers (1913–1996), Hugh Leonard (1926–2009), Louise Troy (1933–1994), Ronald Harwood (1934–2020), Rhetta Hughes (1553–2019), Ellen McLaughlin (born in 1957)

Take a look at photos from the 2001 Broadway production of A class act:

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A class act on Broadway


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