In 1943, the original Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! opens.
1943 Initially produced for $75,000 and titled Away We Go, the re-titled Oklahoma! comes sweeping into Broadway’s St. James Theatre for 2,212 performances. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based the musical on Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs. It grosses millions of dollars. The show is filled with memorable songs and a cast that includes Alfred Drake, Howard Da Silva, Joan Roberts, and Celeste Holm. Agnes de Mille‘s dance sequences break new ground in choreography. Rouben Mamoulian stages.
1944 Billie Burke stars as a rich widow who thinks it might be fun to live under communism in Mrs. January and Mr. X. Zoe Akins‘ comedy also stars Barbara Bel Geddes and Frank Craven. It runs for 43 performances at the Belasco Theatre in New York.
1945 Strongly etched and delicately remembered, Tennessee Williams‘ memory play The Glass Menagerie opens at the Playhouse Theatre in New York. Laurette Taylor makes a powerful comeback as Amanda Wingfield, matriarch of a fragile family. Eddie Dowling plays her son Tom struggling to find a life. Julie Haydon is her delicate daughter Laura. There are 563 performances.
1960 Opening night for Gore Vidal‘s The Best Man, a political drama about how far a candidate will go to be elected president. The two antagonists bear a certain resemblance to the year’s two prospective presidential candidates, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The play is revived on Broadway during the 2000 and 2012 presidential elections.
1983 Marsha Norman‘s drama ‘night, Mother opens at the John Golden Theatre. Kathy Bates plays a daughter who announces her impending suicide to her mother, played by Anne Pitoniak. The play wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
1999 The Women’s Project and Productions ends its 20th anniversary season with the world premiere of The Summer in Gossensass, a new play written and directed by Maria Irene Fornes. Off-Off-Broadway’s Judith Anderson Theatre houses the production by the nine-time Obie Award winner.
2005 Cherry Jones has such Doubt playing Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanlee’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play about a nun who suspects her priest has molested a student at their parochial school in the 1960s. The work opens today at Broadway’s Walter Kerr theatre, and will go on to be adapted for the big screen in a film starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Viola Davis.
2009 The Age of Aquarius dawns anew at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre when the tribal rock musical, Hair, opens in a revival directed by Diane Paulus. The production began its life at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park—first as a 40th anniversary concert in September 2007, and then as a full production as part of Shakespeare in the Park in summer 2008.
2011 Rajiv Joseph‘s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams as the self-questioning title character who roams a haunted patch of Iraq, opens on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
2016 A revival of The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s Tony-winning 1953 dramatization of the real-life Salem witch trials, opens on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Ben Whishaw, Sophie Okonedo, Ciarán Hinds, and Saoirse Ronan star. Belgian director Ivo van Hove, who also staged a Broadway revival of Miller’s A View from the Bridge earlier in the season, helms the production.
2017 Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles makes her Broadway performing debut when she steps into the central role of Jenna in Waitress. Bareilles, who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, replaces Jessie Mueller, who originated the role on Broadway.
2019 Off-Broadway hit What the Constitution Means to Me opens on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Written by and starring Heidi Schreck, playing a version of herself, the play goes on to earn Tony nominations for Best Play and Best Actress in a Play. It runs for 169 performances.
More of Today’s Birthdays: Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852). James M. Nederlander (1922-2016). Patrick Magee (1922-1982). Sydney Chaplin (1926-2009). William Daniels (b. 1927). Shirley Jones (b. 1934). Richard Chamberlain (b. 1934). Christopher Walken (b. 1943). Rhea Perlman (b. 1948). Brian Tyree Henry (b. 1982)