Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: January 26


Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera opens on Broadway on this date in 1988.

1925 Birthday of actor Paul Newman, who stars on Broadway in Picnic, The Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Desperate Hours before going to Hollywood and becoming a film star. He makes a late-career return to the stage in Our Town (2002).

1927 Saturday’s Children, an unlikely comedy penned by Maxwell Anderson, follows the break-up of a marriage. Produced by The Actors’ Theatre, it stars Ruth Hammond and Richard Barbee as the couple, with Beulah Bondi and Ruth Gordon also in the cast. There are 310 performances.

1931 The Theatre Guild produces Lynn Riggs‘ cowboy play Green Grow the Lilacs, starring Lee Strasberg, Tex Cooper, and Franchot Tone. It runs 64 performances at Guild Theatre. A decade later it is suggested to the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II as the possible basis of a musical. They turn it into Oklahoma!

1938 Julie Haydon and Cedric Hardwicke are the Shadow and Substance at the Golden Theatre in New York. Paul Vincent Carroll‘s play, set in Ireland, contrasts the simple faith of a maid with the learning of a priest.

1944 Mary Rolfe is a Wallflower—and she’ll be one for over six months. That’s how long Reginald Denham and Mary Orr‘s comedy clings to the Cort Theatre. Joel Marson is also in the cast.

1950 Paul Scofield, Claire Bloom, and Margaret Rutherford Ring Round the Moon at the Globe Theatre. Peter Brook directs the Jean Anouilh comedy, adapted by Christopher Fry. It runs 682 performances.

1975 Giant talking lizards emerge from the sea and talk philosophy with a picnicking human couple in Edward Albee‘s Seascape. It runs just 63 performances at the Shubert Theatre, with Frank Langella as the head lizard, but then wins the Pulitzer Prize.

1988 Watch that chandelier! Tonight’s the night Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s The Phantom of the Opera makes Broadway’s Majestic Theatre its seemingly permanent haunt. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman star in the musicalization of Gaston Leroux‘s novel. The production currently holds the title for the longest-running show in Broadway history.

1989 Black and Blue opens at the Minskoff Theatre. The show is a musical revue, celebrating the influence of American jazz and blues. Black and Blue receives ten 1989 Tony Award nominations and wins three, including one for Ruth Brown as Best Actress in a Musical. Having his first Broadway opening is a 15-year-old tap genius named Savion Glover.

1996 The opening of the Off-Broadway musical Rent proves both triumphant and tragic. Triumphant, because reviews and audience interest push the show to Broadway, where it becomes an award-winning smash. Tragic, because one day earlier, January 25, 1996, author-composer Jonathan Larson died of an aortic aneurysm.

2003 Noël Coward‘s short-lived 1946 operetta Pacific 1860 gets its long-delayed U.S. premiere as part of the Musicals in Mufti series at Off-Broadway’s York Theatre Company.

2012 Manhattan Theatre Club‘s production of Margaret Edson‘s Wit—the Pulitzer Prize-winning title’s Broadway debut—opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Cynthia Nixon stars as Vivian Bearing, a steely poetry professor facing terminal cancer.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Maria Augusta Trapp (1905-1987). Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-1990). Jules Feiffer (b. 1929). Christopher Hampton (b. 1946). David Strathairn (b. 1949). Celia Keenan-Bolger (b. 1978).

Watch highlights from the 25th anniversary cast of Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera, starring Hugh Panaro and Sierra Boggess:

Related Articles