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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: December 31

1879 World premiere of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan‘s The Pirates of Penzance at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York, with Alice Barnett as Ruth.

1905 Birthday of Jule Styne, who composes the scores for Broadway’s Gypsy, Funny Girl, Peter Pan, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bells Are Ringing, and many more.

1906 Brewster’s Millions is the tale of a lucky young man who must spend a million dollars in order to earn another million. Adapted from George Barr McCutcheon‘s story by Winchell Smith and Byron Ongley, the show has a cast that includes John Drew Devereaux and the debut of the fictitious actor George Spelvin. Spelvin, a favorite of author Smith, would be employed whenever a name is needed for a dead body on stage, a doll used as a babe-in arms, or when an actor is ‘doubling’ parts.

1917 J. Hartley Manners writes for and directs his wife Laurette Taylor in Happiness. This comedy runs at the Criterion Theatre in New York for 136 performances.

1923 The Song and Dance Man is, not surprisingly, George M. Cohan, who also wrote and produced the comedy at the Hudson Theatre. The story highlights the redemption of an unemployed entertainer who turned to robbery [instead of waiting tables].

1925 Playwright Lillian Hellman marries writer Arthur Kober.

1996 Andrew Lloyd Webber becomes a Lord. The composer of such hit musicals as Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at the annual ceremony.

1999 Usually a big night on Broadway, this New Year’s Eve sees many shows canceling performances owing to the size of expected crowds ushering in the 2000’s.

2005 The Broadway trade group the League of American Theatres and Producers announces that Broadway has enjoyed its most prosperous year ever, taking in $825 million, up ten percent from the previous year.

2011 The West End production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert closes after a run of over 1,000 performances at the Palace Theatre. The musical about the adventures of a trio of drag queens who journey across the Australian Outback, opened in London on March 23, 2009.

2014 Kelli O’Hara makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in the Franz Lehár operetta The Merry Widow, playing the role of Valencienne. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, the production stars Renée Fleming in the title role. Fleming makes her Broadway debut a few months later in the short-lived comedy Living on Love.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Jason Robards, Sr. (1892-1963). Richard Kollmar (1910-1971). Joan McCracken (1917-1961). Anthony Hopkins (b. 1937). Bebe Neuwirth (b. 1958). Val Kilmer (b. 1959). Joey McIntyre (b. 1972). Andy Grotelueschen (b. 1979). Adam Chanler-Berat (b. 1986). Micah Stock (b. 1988). Denée Benton (b. 1991).

What to Watch on New Year’s Eve 2022 – Billy Porter, Patti LuPone & More Ring in the New Year

Billy Porter is set to co-host Dick Clarke’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, also performing his new single. Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper return to CNN with an appearance from Patti LuPone. Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson present a brand-new variety show. Chita Rivera hosts a special for PBS, featuring Lea Salonga, Paulo Szot, Drew Gehling, and more.

Liz Callaway Will Honor Stephen Sondheim in New Concert Act

Tony nominee Liz Callaway, who made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along, will celebrate the work of the late Sondheim when she returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below in March.

To Steve With Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim will be presented at the Manhattan venue March 23–26, 2022, at 7 PM.

Liz Callaway
Liz Callaway Bill Westmoreland

Callaway recently told Playbill, “I fell in love with Sondheim music when I was 10 years old, when my parents took me to see my first Broadway show, Company. I brought home the cast album and memorized every song. Little did I know that his music would become part of my DNA. I’ll always be grateful to Steve for taking a chance on me, for his guidance, and for giving me ‘so much stuff to sing!’”

READ: Everybody Rise!: Remembering Stephen Sondheim

Callaway received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in Baby, and was also seen on Broadway in Cats, Miss Saigon, The Three Musketeers, and The Look of Love. Other New York appearances include Follies in Concert at Lincoln Center, A Stephen Sondheim Evening, Encores! Fiorello, and Hair in Concert. She sang the Academy Award-nominated “Journey to the Past” in the animated feature Anastasia. Other film work includes Jasmine in the two Aladdin sequels; The Swan Princess; and The Rewrite with Hugh Grant.

Tickets and additional information are available by clicking here.

Toronto Production of Come From Away Closes After COVID Shutdown

The Toronto production of Come From Away, which had reopened December 15 following a 21-month pandemic hiatus, ended its run December 22 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The musical played a total of 855 performances. The musical, considered the most successful Canadian musical, cited the Omicron variant and its toll on theatres—as well as a lack of governmental support in the country.

Producer David Mirvish said in a statement, “Despite our best efforts, within a week of reopening an outbreak in the backstage company forced us to cancel four performances, with the hope that we would resume on December 28. But during this short break, it became bluntly apparent that it would be impossible to continue when this incredibly contagious variant has sent case numbers soaring.

“In other parts of the world, the government has stepped up to support the commercial theatre sector by offering a financial safety net for the sector to reopen and play during the pandemic, thus protecting the tens of thousands of good jobs the sector creates.…But in Canada there is no such government support. And without such a safety net it is impossible for the production to take yet another extended hiatus. The costs of reopening a second time are prohibitively high and risky.”

READ: Standbys Save the Day at Broadway’s Come From Away

Ticket holders of the canceled performances will be contacted and will be offered a transfer of the value of their tickets to account credits, gift cards, or a refund.

The international hit musical Come From Away tells the true story of 7,000 stranded air passengers during the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. The ensemble cast take on a variety of roles, from travelers to locals to airline personnel.

The show features music, lyrics, and a book by Irene Sankoff and David Hein with direction by Tony winner Christopher Ashley, choreography by Olivier winner Kelly Devine, music supervision and arrangements by Ian Eisendrath, scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Gareth Owen, and orchestrations by August Eriksmoen.

The film capture of Come From Away began streaming on Apple TV+ beginning September 10, while a free, in-person concert staging of the musical was presented in front of the Lincoln Memorial that same day.

READ: Reviews for Apple TV+ Premiere of Come From Away

The Broadway production resumed performances in September at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The musical made its New York debut after playing tryouts at La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C., and Toronto’s Royal Alexandra.

Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: December 27

1920 Brock Pemberton’s Miss Lulu Bett opens at the Belmont Theatre. It runs 198 performances and wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

1924 London drama critic and playwright William Archer dies. He contributed to Figaro, the World, Tribune, and the Nation. His translations of Henrik Ibsen were produced in the 1890s. In 1921 his melodrama, The Green Goddess, ran for 54 weeks at the Booth Theatre.

1926 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart‘s Peggy-Ann opens at the Vanderbilt Theatre. Despite its 333-performance run, it is one of the most rarely revived of the team’s musicals.

1927 The intricate lives of people living on a Show Boat come to life at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Adapted by Oscar Hammerstein II from Edna Ferber‘s novel, the score composed by Jerome Kern includes soon-to-be-classics “Ol’ Man River” and “Make Believe.” The cast includes Helen Morgan, Norma Terris, Charles Winninger, and Jules Bledsoe.

1941 Clifford OdetsClash By Night centers on a husband who comes to realize the man to whom he has opened his home is having an affair with his wife. Lee J. Cobb, Joseph Schildkraut, and Tallulah Bankhead fight it out at the Belasco Theatre.

1945 Home of the Brave gains critical and financial recognition. Playwright Arthur Laurents wins $1,000 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his timely war story.

1948 U.S. premiere of Jean Giraudoux‘s fantasy allegory The Madwoman of Chaillot at the Belasco Theatre, starring Martita Hunt as Countess Aurelia. It is later adapted as the musical Dear World.

1961 Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green team up for their second musical in a year, Subways Are for Sleeping, which attempts to offer a humorous portrait of homeless people. When it is slammed by the critics, producer David Merrick responds with one of his most memorable PR stunts, hiring people with the same names as the critics, and running their (positive) comments in a quote ad. It doesn’t help. However, it also introduces actor Phyllis Newman, who wins a Tony Award for her performance.

1965 Broadway is mesmerized and scandalized by Peter Brook‘s staging of Peter Weiss‘ long-titled drama, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, also known as Marat/Sade, one of the first plays on the American stage to offer full frontal nudity. It wins the Tony Award as Best Play and runs at the Martin Beck Theatre.

1999 Emmy winner Susan Lucci takes her opening night bow as a temporary replacement for Tony Award-winning Bernadette Peters in the Broadway revival of Irving Berlin‘s Annie Get Your Gun.

2002 The film adaptation of John Kander and Fred Ebb‘s Chicago opens in major markets. Rob Marshall directed the film version of the 1975 musical, which goes on to win the 2003 Academy Award for Best Picture—the first musical to do so since Oliver! in 1968.

2014 The world premiere of Sheryl Crow and Barry Levinson‘s musical Diner opens at Virginia’s Signature Theatre. Kathleen Marshall directs the show, based on Levinson’s 1982 film about a group of childhood friends who reunite for a wedding in 1959 Baltimore. The cast includes Whitney Bashor, Josh Grisetti, Derek Klena, Adam Kantor, and Matthew James Thomas.

2016 Carrie Fisher, the storied film actor best known as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, dies at age 60, after suffering a heart attack during a flight from London to Los Angeles. Fisher made her Broadway debut in the musical Irene, opposite her mother, Debbie Reynolds; and later appeared in Censored Scenes from King Kong, Agnes of God, and her autobiographical solo show, Wishful Drinking.

2018 Sono Osato, the Japanese-American ballet dancer who created the role of Ivy Smith in the 1944 Broadway premiere of On the Town, dies at age 99. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the age of 14, making history as the internationally renowned troupe’s youngest dancer, first American, and first dancer of Japanese descent. She later joined the American Ballet Theatre, and also appeared on Broadway in One Touch of Venus.

Today’s Birthdays: Sydney Greenstreet (1879-1954). Milton Shubert (1901-1967). Marlene Dietrich (1901-1922). Oscar Levant (1906-1972). Tommy Rall (1929-2020). Tovah Feldshuh (b. 1952). Joe Mantello (b. 1962).