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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: February 28

1894 Birthday of playwright Ben Hecht, author or co-author of The Front Page, Twentieth Century, Jumbo, The Egoist, and The Great Magoo.

1915 Birthday of comedian Zero Mostel, who originates the roles of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the original movie version of The Producers.

1916 Novelist Henry James dies in London at age 73. Several of his novels become the basis for plays. Washington Square, which comes to life as The Heiress, is the most successful.

1939 That’s tap dancing you hear. Dancer-choreographer-director Tommy Tune is born. He performs in shows such as Seesaw and My One and Only, and directs and choreographs Nine, Grand Hotel, and The Will Rogers Follies.

1955 Ben Bagley‘s Shoestring Revue has a big name cast. Chita Rivera, Bea Arthur, and Arte Johnson head the cast at the President Theatre in New York.

1959 Playwright Maxwell Anderson dies in Stamford, Connecticut. Among his many plays are Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, Anne of the Thousand Days, and The Bad Seed. He was 71 years old.

1979 Ernest Thompson‘s late-in-life drama On Golden Pond, which premiered Off-Broadway on September 13, 1978 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, transfers to Broadway. The play, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, runs 126 performances at the New Apollo Theatre. The play returns to Broadway three months after closing at the New Apollo, and runs for an additional 252 performances at the smaller Century Theatre.

1988 Robert Prosky and Sam Waterston play Russian and American negotiators trying to pull the world back from nuclear confrontation in Lee Blessing‘s Pulitzer finalist A Walk in the Woods, which opens at the Booth Theatre, beginning a 137-performance run.

1999 The Jason Robert BrownAlfred UhryHarold Prince musical Parade, which opened at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater on December 17, 1998, closes after 85 performances. Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello starred in the show, based on the real-life Leo Frank case and tragic events that followed.

2002 Off-Broadway opening for Eve Ensler‘s drama Necessary Targets, about sexual violence against women during the early 1990s war in Yugoslavia.

2005 Jilline Ringle, a Barrymore Award-nominated actor-singer who was a bright spot in theatres and cabarets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cape May, New Jersey, dies at age 40 after an illness.

2008 Passing Strange opens at the Belasco Theatre after a successful Off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. A young Black Californian who feels trapped by his suburban upbringing goes on a coming-of-age odyssey to Bohemian Amsterdam and Berlin in the musical narrated by the rock musician Stew, who co-composed the score with Heidi Rodewald. It runs 165 performances.

2013 Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg star in the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater world premiere of The Revisionist at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Written by Eisenberg, the play is about an antsy young novelist seeking refuge at a distant relative’s flat in Poland.

2018 Harvey Schmidt, who earned his shining spot in theatre history as composer of the world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks, dies at age 88. Along with lyricist Tom Jones, he also wrote the scores for 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!, and Celebration.

2019 The world premiere of John Logan and Tom Kitt‘s Superhero opens Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. Kate Baldwin, Kyle McArthur, and Bryce Pinkham star in the musical about a widowed mother, her comic book-loving son, and the mysterious stranger who lives in their building.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974). Molly Picon (1898-1992). Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986). Ketti Frings (1909-1981). Charles Durning (1923-2012). Gemze de Lappe (1922-2017). Tom Aldredge (1928-2011). Gavin MacLeod (b. 1931). Kelly Bishop (b. 1944). Mercedes Ruehl (b. 1948). Bernadette Peters (b. 1948). William Finn (b. 1952). Brent Barrett (b. 1957). John Turturro (b. 1957). Seth Rudetsky (b. 1967). Robert Sean Leonard (b. 1969).

Whoopi Goldberg, André De Shields, Tituss Burgess, More Star in Upon These Shoulders February 27

It’s time to celebrate Black artistry on stage and behind-the-scenes with Black Theatre Coalition’s streaming concert Upon These Shoulders, featuring Tony winners Whoopi Goldberg, André De Shields, George Faison, and more. The special airs February 27 at 8 PM ET via On the Stage.

As previously announced, the special is presented in partnership with Playbill. Click here for tickets.

Mack and Mabel_Encores_Rehearsal Photos_2020_HR
Lilli Cooper Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The full lineup features Ahmad Simmons, Aisha Jackson, Amber Iman, Anastacia McCleskey, André De Shields, Ari Groover, Bebe Winans, Brandon A. McCall, Brandon Victor Dixon, Brittney Johnson, Bryonha Parham, Camille A. Brown, Carly Hughes, Charles Randolph-Wright, Christina Sajous, Daniel J. Watts, DJ Duggz, George Faison, Harry Lennix, Khaila Wilcoxon, Kimberly Marable, L. Steven Taylor, Lilli Cooper, Malcolm Armwood, Marisha Wallace, Mason Reeves, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Mayor of Chicago), Mayor Muriel Bowser (Mayor of D.C.), Marlies Yearby, Merle Dandridge, Michael R. Jackson, Nathan Lee Graham, Nick Rashad Burroughs, Norm Lewis, Nteliseng Nkhela, Olivia Donaldson, Paul Tazewell, Phillip Boykin, Raja Feather Kelly, Savion Glover, Shereen Pimentel, Stephanie Umoh, Tamika Lawrence, TyNia Brandon, Tituss Burgess, Tracee Beazer Barrett, Tramaine Gray, Valisia LeKae, Whoopi Goldberg, and Wynton Marsalis.

Flip through the official digital Playbill for Upon These Shoulders:

This digital program was created using PLAYBILLder, Playbill’s custom, Broadway-quality program creation tool. Get started building your real—or fantasy—Playbill program today at PLAYBILLder.com.

Using performances, interviews, and video messages from Broadway stars and arts workers, the show will spotlight the history of Black artists’ creativity, magnify the work of today’s Black artists, and shed a light on the future of American theatre along with those who are going to lead the way. The concert will also highlight the work of the Black Theatre Coalition, emphasizing its leadership as the community moves the needle towards equity.

Daniel J. Watts, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Amber Iman
Daniel J. Watts, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Amber Iman

Proceeds from Upon These Shoulders will go directly to BTC’s Fellowship Initiative which will launch in the fall. 42 paid fellowships will be awarded in various categories of management, design, creative, casting, PR, and marketing.

The evening, produced in association with Jacquelyn Bell, will be directed by T. Oliver Reid and Warren Adams with a script by Jess Carson and music direction by Michael O. Mitchell. Daniel P. Calderon and #WorkFromHome provide additional video filming and production with sound mixing and editing from GSI Studios.

The Black Theatre Coalition team includes Reid, Adams, Reggie Van Lee, Aaliytha Stevens, Afton Battle, Tamica Clanton, and Anthony McDonald. BTC’s mission is to remove the illusion of inclusion in the American Theatre by building an ethical and sustainable roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for Black Theatre Professionals.

Upon These Shoulders is made possible thanks to title sponsor Cadillac and additional sponsorships by GEICO, City National Bank, American Express, and AARP.

A special American Express® Exclusive Package—which includes a ticket to the virtual concert and a pre-filmed virtual concert post-show event starting at 8:00pm(ET) with Tony Award Nominees Norm Lewis and Brandon Victor Dixon—is available exclusively for American Express Card Members.

Stage Adaptation of Oscar-Winning Spirited Away Will Premiere in Japan

A world premiere stage adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning animated film Spirited Away will debut in Japan. Tony and Olivier winner John Caird (Nicholas Nickelby) adapts and directs the production, with performances slated to begin in February 2022 at Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre.

Spirited Away (original title: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) follows Chihiro, a 10-year-old moving with her parents to a new home. After they get lost in a mysterious world and her parents are turned into pigs, Chihiro (to be double-cast with Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi) must survive in the strange land and return to the human world.

Director John Caird
Director John Caird Mark Kitaoka

Following the run at the Imperial, Spirited Away aims to tour the country throughout the spring and summer, playing Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Nagoya.

INTERVIEW: How 1 Man Directs Japan’s New The Phantom of the Opera Via Zoom From New York

“I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form,” says Caird. “I share a belief in all the most dominant themes of [Miyazaki’s] work, themes that are at the core of the Sen to Chihiro world—care for the environment, reverence for nature, a belief in the force of the good spirits within us, and the empowerment of young women and men to change the world for the better.”

“We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision. He is a person we can trust. I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction,” said Studio Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki, the film’s producer. “I could tell how much he adores this story from his delighted face when I gave him a No-Face (Kaonashi) piggy-bank.”

VIDEO: Go Inside the Revival for Encores! LOVE LIFE with Victoria Clark, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kate Baldwin & More

The third installment ofEncores Inside the RevivalfeaturesdirectorVictoria Clark,Encores MusicDirectorRob BermanandConsulting Producer for Musical Theater,and previousEncores Artistic DirectorJackViertelas theyrevisit,Love Lifea year later anddiscuss their process of imagining Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerners rarely seen1948 musical.

Hamilton to Get Funko Pop Collection of Vinyl Figurines

Collectible vinyl figurine maker Funko Pop has announced a collection of figurines and keychains based on the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical Hamilton, to release in June.

The collection includes four-inch figurines of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, and all three Schuyler sisters, depicted as played in the original Broadway cast by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas Jones, respectively. The figurines also feature Paul Tazewell’s Tony-winning costume designs. There will also be three-inch keychain versions of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, and Angelica Schuyler.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr. in <i data-lazy-src=

The figures will be available from retailers that sell Funko Pop figurines, including the official Hamilton merchandise store. A blue coat–wearing variant of Alexander Hamilton will be exclusive to Walmart.

With figurines representing a wide array of fandoms, Funko Pop is no stranger to musical theatre. Earlier releases have included characters from Little Shop of Horrors, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. All of Funko’s theatrical figurines have been a part of either their Movies or Disney lines, and have been visually styled based on how the characters appear in the musicals’ film adaptations. While the Hamilton collection is also technically part of Funko’s Movies collection, its film (on Disney+) being a captured stage performance makes its Funko Pop collection the first created around characters as they appeared on the stage.