Bye Bye Birdie, starring Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera, opens on Broadway in 1960.
1865 Our American Cousin, starring Laura Keene, is in performance tonight when John Wilkes Booth shoots President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Booth’s brother Edwin refrains from acting for the next two years.
1904 Birthday of master actor Sir John Gielgud, who defines acting in the years between the world wars and thereafter. In addition to his memorable Hamlet and other classical roles, he creates notable roles in works by Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, and Terrence Rattigan. He also directs extensively.
1926 Raquel Meller commands the unheard of ticket price of $25 for her month-long engagement at Broadway’s Empire Theatre. She sings a repertoire of Spanish songs, accompanied by members of the Philharmonic Society of New York. She tours most of the major cities on the East Coast.
1937 Need to make some money so you won’t be sent to the county farm? Hey! Put on a show! So much for the plot involved in Babes In Arms. It’s full of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart songs and a cast that includes Mitzi Green, Dan Dailey, and Alfred Drake. George Balanchine is on hand to choreograph.
1960 The Elvis Presley phenomenon gets spoofed in the lighthearted musical Bye Bye Birdie, with a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. Dick Van Dyke plays the put-upon manager of rocker Conrad Birdie, who is trying to get him to give “One Last Kiss” to a fan on The Ed Sullivan Show before he’s drafted. The show opens at the Martin Beck Theatre, and runs 607 performances.
1992 Good old reliable Nathan Detroit is back to his old tricks on Broadway as Frank Loesser‘s Guys and Dolls is revived at the Martin Beck Theatre. Nathan Lane stars, with Faith Prince as his perpetual fiancée, Peter Gallagher as the high-betting Sky Masterson, and Josie de Guzman as the missionary. The show garners director Jerry Zaks, Prince, and the revival itself Tony Awards.
2000 The New York Theatre Workshop production of Claudia Shear‘s Dirty Blonde begins previews at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The original NYTW cast of Kevin Chamberlin, playwright Shear, and Bob Stillman transfers intact to Broadway. James Lapine, who conceived the show with playwright Shear, helms the story about two single New Yorkers who meet at Mae West‘s grave site.
2002 Henry Goodman is fired from the Broadway musical The Producers, less than a month after taking over the coveted role of Max Bialystock from original star Nathan Lane. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman issues a statement saying, “I have the utmost respect for Henry Goodman. He is a wonderful actor and I would happily work with him again on another project. Henry has been very well received by audiences nightly, but the producers have decided to pursue a different quality for the role.” He’s replaced by longtime understudy Brad Oscar.
2008 Madeline Gilford, a performer and producer who was married to actor Jack Gilford for 40 years, dies at age 84. She appeared on Broadway in the play Embezzled Heaven, and co-produced the play The World of Sholom Aleichem, starring her husband, and the musical Rags.
2011 The National Theatre of Great Britain production of War Horse, the visually arresting play about the bond between a young man and his horse set against the backdrop of the first World War, opens on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Nick Stafford adapted Michael Morpurgo‘s 1982 children’s novel (originally told from the point of view of the horse) for the production, which incorporates a series of life-sized equestrian puppets, which have the capability of strikingly lifelike movement. The production wins five Tony Awards, including Best Play.
2013 Music pioneer Berry Gordy brings his life story to the stage in Motown The Musical, a jukebox musical that takes audiences through the highs and lows of life in the recording industry. Opening at the Lunt-Fonanne Theatre, the hit-filled musical stars Brandon Victor Dixon as Gordy and Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross.
2015 Lisa Howard, Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, and Sierra Boggess star in It Shoulda Been You, opening on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. David Hyde Pierce directs Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi‘s musical comedy about a wedding gone awry.
2016 Frank Langella plays a man falling into the grip of dementia in the American premiere of Florian Zeller‘s The Father, opening on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club‘s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Langella wins his fourth Tony Award for his performance.
More of Today’s Birthdays: Lydia R. Diamond (b. 1969). Leigh Ann Larkin (b. 1980). Nick Choksi (b. 1981).