In 1972, Grease opens in New York at the Eden Theatre.
1882 Birthday of John Barrymore, actor in the grand style, and scion of the Barrymore acting clan. Though he begins as a light comedian, he becomes identified with the classics, notably Hamlet.
1921 Laurette Taylor stars in a revival of one of the great hits of the early 1920s, Peg o’ My Heart, J. Hartley Manners‘ play is about an Irish farm lass who inherits a fortune, but must give up all she loves to get it. It runs 88 performances at the Cort Theatre.
1968 George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton star in a trio of one-act comedies by Neil Simon, collectively titled Plaza Suite. It runs 1,097 performances and is followed by several other Simon “Suite” plays, including California Suite and London Suite.
1972 What are the chances for a little rock musical about a high school summer romance that spills into the school year? Pretty good, apparently. Grease opens in New York, riding a wave of ’50s nostalgia that makes it (briefly) the longest running show in Broadway history (3,388 performances). It’s followed by a film version that becomes one of the most successful movie musicals—and soundtracks—ever.
1975 P.G. Wodehouse, collaborator with Guy Bolton on such musical books as Miss Springtime and Oh, Boy! (with a score by Jerome Kern), dies at age 93. In 1928, he contributed lyrics to The Three Musketeers. Wodehouse’s short stories and novels about Bertie Wooster and all-knowing servant Jeeves inspire a number of works of stage and film.
1988 Composer Frederick Loewe, half of the famous Lerner-Loewe musical team, dies at the age of 87. He brought us such musical classics as My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon, Camelot, and Paint Your Wagon.
1998 Eve Ensler‘s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues gets a starry reading to benefit breast cancer research as part of an event called “V-Day.” It’s the first in an annual series of Valentine’s Day readings of the play that highlight a range of women’s issues, particularly violence against women. In less than a decade, the event, dubbed “Victory Against Violence Day,” spreads to more than a thousand cities worldwide.
2009 John McGlinn, a conductor and musical archivist who devoted himself to finding and recording the restored scores of early works of the American musical theatre, dies at age 55.
2016 The world premiere of Chazz Palminteri‘s A Bronx Tale The Musical, featuring a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, opens at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. The production transfers to Broadway later that year.
More of Today’s Birthdays: Jack Benny (1894-1974). Nigel Bruce (1895-1953). Thelma Ritter (1902-1969). Florence Henderson (1934-2016). [Raymond Joseph] Teller (b. 1948). Laurie Kennedy (b. 1948). Renée Fleming (b. 1959). Danai Gurira (b. 1978).
Watch highlights from the 2016 Paper Mill Playhouse production of A Bronx Tale The Musical: