1854 Birthday of John Philip Sousa, composer of countless marches, who also found time to write Broadway musicals including Chris and the Wonderful Lamp (1900), The Free Lance (1906), and The American Maid (1913). In The Music Man, it is his arrival in town that Prof. Harold Hill is describing in the song "76 Trombones," which is written in Sousa style. Composer Meredith Willson played in Sousa's band early in his career.
1899 Opening night at the Garrick Theatre for the melodrama Sherlock Holmes written by and starring William Gillette, based on the Arthur Conan Doyle stories about a brilliantly analytical detective. Gillette revives and tours the play almost constantly over the next three decades. In all, the play is produced on Broadway eight times, most recently in 1974 with John Wood in Gillette's signature role.
1905 Peter Pan flies over Broadway for the first time, in a production by James M. Barrie at the Empire Theatre, starring Maude Adams in the title role. The play is revived on Broadway seven times over the next 50 years, then adapted twice as a musical (first by Leonard Bernstein, then by Moose Charlap and Jule Styne), earning it more productions.
1911 Henrik Ibsen's The Lady From the Sea gets its American premiere.
1966 Jean-Claude Van Itallie's production of three of his short satires, American Hurrah, opens Off-Broadway at the Pocket Theatre. Interview, TV, and Motel are the three plays and the cast includes Brenda Smiley, Ronnie Gilbert, and Bill Macy. These plays about industrial America and urban life are directed by Joseph Chaikin and Jacques Levy and run for 634 performances until the troupe has the opportunity to perform the plays at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1967.
1988 An all-star cast comprises the revival of Waiting For Godot at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The Samuel Beckett staple is directed by Mike Nichols and stars Robin Williams and Steve Martin, along with F. Murray Abraham and Bill Irwin, but only has a limited run of 25 performances.
2000 Interviews with exonerated death row inmates form the basis for Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen's The Exonerated, which features performers Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Buscemi, Vincent D'Onofrio, Hazelle Goodman, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson at the Culture Project at 45 Bleecker. The play uses simple staging with the actors reading interconnected monologues based on the interviews. Two other nights are performed by such stars as Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Edie Falco, Sarah Jones, and David Morse.
2002 In an abrupt change of style, character, and subject matter, tough-guy playwright David Mamet opens Boston Marriage, an Oscar Wilde-style comedy of manners about two Victorian-era lesbians who work out their jealousy over a pretty, young interloper.
2003 Broadway's Biltmore Theatre gets its first opening night in 16 years when Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour bows at the space that has become the flagship for the Manhattan Theatre Club after a multimillion-dollar renovation.
2005 The close harmonies and personal dramas of the doo-wop group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons are turned into a crowd-pleasing songbook musical, Jersey Boys, which turns into the dark-horse winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical. John Lloyd Young and Christian Hoff also win Tony Awards for their respective performances as Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito, and the show runs on Broadway for 4,642 performances.
2010 A group of about thirty people picket the The Scottsboro Boys, saying that the musical, which uses the conventions of 19th century minstrel shows, is racist. Director Susan Stroman is quoted in The New York Times responding that the show’s creators “were not celebrating the minstrel tradition but rather using it to reveal the evils of the system.”
2011 The world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's musical Queen of the Mist opens at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church. Presented by The Transport Group, the production stars Mary Testa as Anna Edson Taylor: the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
More of Today's Birthdays: Gus Kahn 1886. Ole Olsen 1892. Juanita Hall 1901. Ruth Selwyn 1905. Jonathan Harris 1914. Peter Matz 1928. Mike Nichols 1931. Michael Cerveris 1960. Eddie Korbich 1960. Ethan Hawke 1970. Patina Miller 1984.
Watch Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young sing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in Jersey Boys: