Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: February 19

1900 A week-long engagement at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre by the Irish Literary Theatre does not cause much of a stir. The company stages The Bending of the Bough by George Moore, Maeve by Edward Martyn, and The Last Feast of the Fianna by Alice Milligan. These performances are later seen as the first steps of what will become Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre.

1935 Stella Adler stars in Clifford Odets‘ drama Awake and Sing! The study of the effects of the Depression on a family in the Bronx runs 26 weeks at the Belasco Theatre.

1953 Picnic opens on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. William Inge‘s tale of a handsome drifter’s effect on a small Kansas town stars Ralph Meeker, Kim Stanley, Paul Newman, Eileen Heckart, and Janice Rule. Joshua Logan stages the 477 performance run.

1978 Basing the book and lyrics on earlier plays of Charles Bruce Millholland, Ben Hecht, and Charles MacArthur, Betty Comden and Adolph Green ride On the Twentieth Century. The musical stars Madeline Kahn as a glamour queen who’s the victim of a con. Also in the cast: John Cullum, Imogene Coca, and Kevin Kline. There are 449 performances. It wins five Tony Awards, including Best Original Score for Comden, Green, and composer Cy Coleman.

1981 A revival of the Eric Blau and Mort Shuman musical, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well Living in Paris, opens at New York’s Town Hall. The celebration of the late French artist stars Sally Cooke, Joe Masiell, Shawn Elliott, and Betty Rhodes.

1992 George Gershwin‘s Girl Crazy is reinvented by Mike Ockrent and Ken Ludwig as Crazy for You, which opens at the Shubert Theatre. The production adds 13 Gershwin songs. Ockrent directs and his future wife, Susan Stroman, choreographs. It runs 1,622 performances, and wins the Tony Award for Best Musical.

2006 Chita Rivera opens The Dancer’s Life at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The autobiographical musical takes audiences through the West Side Story and Chicago star’s storied (and Tony-winning) career and lets Rivera kick up her heels to many of her greatest stage triumphs.

2009 The Story of My Life, Neil Bartram and and Brian Hill‘s two-actor musical about a lifelong friendship—and its sudden ending—opens on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. Richard Maltby, Jr. directs Will Chase and Malcolm Gets, who star as pals who grew up together, and play ages 6 to 35. The show closes three days later, after only five performances.

2019 A new production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth‘s Merrily We Roll Along opens Off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company‘s Laura Pels Theatre. Fiasco Theater’s newly revised version of the musical streamlines the show to one act and a cast of six, and incorporates additional material from George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart‘s 1934 play.

Today’s Birthdays: Ernest Glendinning (1884-1936). Cedric Hardwicke (1893-1964). Louis Calhern (1895-1956). John William “Bubbles” Sublett (1902-1986). Saul Chaplin (1912-1997). Carson McCullers (1917-1967). George Rose (1920-1988). Marshall Barer (1923-1998). David Margulies (1937-2016). Carlin Glynn (b. 1940). Jeff Daniels (b. 1955). Theresa Rebeck (b. 1958). Hugh Panaro (b. 1964).

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