Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: January 29

1860 Birthday of Anton Chekhov, one of the fathers of modern drama, whose comparatively small oeuvre includes classics The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters, The Seagull, and Uncle Vanya.

1917 Birthday of sturdy leading man John Raitt, star of Broadway’s original Carousel and The Pajama Game, and father of pop singer Bonnie Raitt.

1931 Birthday of composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse, who collaborates with Anthony Newley on Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, and the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; and with Frank Wildhorn on Victor/Victoria and Jekyll & Hyde.

1943 The Patriots stand guard at the National Theatre in New York. Sidney Kingsley‘s play highlights the hardships of the Founding Fathers, and wins the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. It stars Raymond Edward Johnson, Madge Evans, and Cecil Humphreys.

1947 All My Sons, Arthur Miller‘s drama depicting post-war America and the end result of one father’s choice, unfolds at the Coronet Theatre in New York. Arthur Kennedy and Ed Begley are featured as son and father. The play runs for 41 weeks, Miller’s first Broadway hit.

1957 What happened that afternoon in The Potting Shed? Graham Greene‘s drama at the Bijou Theatre in New York explores the power of faith. Sybil Thorndike and Robert Flemyng lead the cast.

1966 Opening night of the musical Sweet Charity, providing another hit for director Bob Fosse, star Gwen Verdon, composer Cy Coleman, lyricist Dorothy Fields, and librettist Neil Simon. The production runs 608 performances. The date is notable for another reason: it marks the reopening of the venerable Palace Theatre in Times Square after a refurbishment. Once the pinnacle of vaudeville and a fading concert venue, it henceforth serves as a regular Broadway theatre.

1976 A bicentennial revival of Dion Boucicault‘s Rip Van Winkle is staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Joshua Logan directs and Anthony Quayle stars.

1986 Maurice Hines conceives the musical revue, Uptown…It’s Hot!, opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. It features songs such as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?,” “Tutti Frutti,” and “Stop in the Name of Love.”

1998 Disappointment reigns on Broadway with the opening of Paul Simon‘s eagerly expected first musical, The Capeman, about a real-life murderer who seeks salvation and forgiveness. The music is found to be fascinating, but the book by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott is found to be static, undramatic, and unconvincing. Family members of the murder victims picket opening night. The musical runs 68 performances at the Marquis Theatre.

2002 Bea Arthur‘s solo show, Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends begins performances at the Booth Theatre. The co-star of Mame and The Threepenny Opera, not to mention TV’s Maude and The Golden Girls, earns a Tony nomination for her show.

More of Today’s Birthdays Owen Davis (1874-1956). W.C. Fields (1880-1946). Mary Eaton (1901-1948). “Professor” Irwin Corey (1914-2017). Victor Mature (1913-1999). Michael Higgins (1920-2008). Tom Selleck (b. 1945). Terry Kinney (b. 1954).

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