Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 14

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: November 14
 
Bebe Neuwirth and company in Chicago.
Bebe Neuwirth and company in Chicago. Dan Chavkin

1905 Blanche Bates is Minnie, sweetheart of the mines in Girl of the Golden West. She tends a saloon, fugitive lover, and pursuing sheriff. Writer, director, and producer David Belasco is no stranger to the subject, having worked as an actor in Virginia City, Nevada, during the Comstock Lode boom. Composer Giacomo Puccini later adapts the story into the opera La Fanciulla del West.

1945 Ralph Bellamy stars as a presidential candidate trying to present a happy facade to voters with his estranged wife (Ruth Hussey) in State of the Union. Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's play opens a 765-performance run at the Hudson Theatre. It wins the 1946 Pulitzer Prize and is in 1948 is made into a film by Frank Capra, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

1950 London's Old Vic, damaged during the war, presents Bartholomew Fair in its restored theatre.

1950 The witches of Bell, Book and Candle begin their brew. John Van Druten's play stars Lilli Palmer as a witch falling in love with mortal Rex Harrison. The run spans 233 performances at the Barrymore Theatre.

1971 Just a year after they worked together on Company, playwright George Furth and director Michael Bennett team up for Twigs, a program of one-act plays featuring Sada Thompson. It opens at the Broadhurst Theatre and runs 289 performances, winning Thompson a 1972 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Play.

1977 Anne Bancroft is directed by Arthur Penn in the play, Golda. This documentary-style drama about Israel's former prime minister runs 13 weeks.

1993 Robert Schenkkan's The Kentucky Cycle, three plays tracing the place of Kentucky in American history, 1775-1975, opens at the Royale Theatre. It is one of the few plays to win the Pulitzer Prize before it opens in New York, and New York audiences do not take to it. Despite the presence of Stacy Keach in major roles, it closes after just 33 performances.

1996 The spirit of Bob Fosse infuses a bare-bones revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Chicago that becomes the runaway smash of the season. Director Walter Bobbie, choreographer Ann Reinking staging the show "in the style of Bob Fosse," and actors James Naughton and Bebe Neuwirth, all take home Tonys, as does the show itself. Broadway's longest running revival, the show celebrated its 8,000th performance on February 20, 2016.

1999 Matthew Broderick, Mia Farrow, Uta Hagen, and Jonathan Pryce star in a benefit reading of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. The special reading benefits the HB Playwrights Foundation & Theatre, which is named for Herbert Berghof, who was married to Uta Hagen. A gala supper follows the performance at the Marriott Marquis. Among the more than 130 playwrights who find a home at HB are Tennessee Williams, Horton Foote, Donald Margulies, Thornton Wilder, Martin Sherman, and Saul Bellow.

2002 "I want to hear a poem," 1999 Fresh Poet of the Year Steve Colman says as Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam opens on Broadway, featuring the contemporary urban slam-style poetry pioneered on his HBO show of the same name. The production runs 198 performances at the Longacre Theatre, and wins the 2003 Tony Award as Best Special Theatrical Event.

2003 Dorothy Loudon, who created one of the more indelible portraits in musical comedy history with her Tony-winning portrayal of the slatternly, orphan-hating Miss Hannigan in the original Annie, dies at age 70. Other credits in a long career included playing opposite Katharine Hepburn in The West Side Waltz in 1981 and starring in the original Broadway production of Noises Off in 1983. Loudon was born September 17, 1933, in Boston, and went to school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She earned three Tony nominations: for the aforementioned plus The Fig Leaves Are Falling and Michael Bennett's Ballroom.

2003 As part of a new initiative to spread the influence and awareness of the Tony Awards throughout the year, the 2003 Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre are bestowed in a ceremony at the Lyceum Theatre. Honorees include the principal ensemble of La Bohème, hair and wig designer Paul Huntley, Johnson-Liff Casting Associates, and The Acting Company.

2006 The Broadway revival of Chicago celebrates its tenth anniversary with a special benefit performance that brings together some three dozen stars who appeared in the show over the years, playing each scene with multiple actors.

2010 Sebastian Arcelus stars as Buddy the elf in Elf, which opens on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Based on the 2003 film about a boy who was raised to believe he was one Santa's elves, the musical features a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, and co-stars Amy Spanger, Mark Jacoby, Beth Leavel, and George Wendt.

2011 Lee Pockriss, the theatre and pop composer whose musicals include Broadway's Tovarich and Off-Broadway's Ernest in Love, both with lyricist Anne Croswell, dies at age 87.

2012 Playwright David West Read makes his Broadway debut with the comedy The Performers, opening at the Longacre Theatre. Set at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas, the play stars Henry Winkler, Cheyenne Jackson, Daniel Breaker, Ari Graynor, Jenni Barber, and Alicia Silverstone. After receiving mostly mixed to negative reviews, the production will close after only 6 performances.

2013 William Finn and James Lapine's musical Little Miss Sunshine, based on the 2006 road-trip comedy of the same name, opens Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre. The show has been heavily revised since it's 2011 world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse, retaining only three songs from the previous version. The production stars Hannah Rose Norberg, Will Swenson, Stephanie J. Block, and David Rasche.

2016 Josh Groban makes his Broadway debut as in Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, opening at the Imperial Theatre. Rachel Chavkin directs the musical, based on a 70-page slice of Tolstoy's War and Peace, that transforms the theatre into an opulent Russian salon that engulfs the audience. The show's cast also includes Denée Benton, Brittain Ashford, Amber Gray, and Lucas Steele. It runs 336 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Haila Stoddard 1913. Brian Keith 1921. Sandahl Bergman 1951.

Watch highlights from the 2016 Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, starring Josh Groban and Denée Benton:

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