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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: February 20

1893 Birthday of playwright and producer Russel Crouse, whose prodigious output of scripts—many in partnership with Howard Lindsay—includes State of the Union and The Great Sebastians; the librettos to The Sound of Music, Call Me Madam, and Anything Goes; and the play that is still the longest-running non-musical in Broadway history, Life With Father.

1905 Augustus Thomas finds inspiration for a play from a series of drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, illustrator of the Gibson Girl. The Education of Mr. Pipp, a comedy, stars Digby Bell and Kate Denin Wilson. It runs at New York’s Liberty Theatre for 10 weeks.

1917 When newlyweds must hide their marriage—Oh, Boy! Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse collaborate on the musical, and Jerome Kern scores. Hit song: “Till the Clouds Roll By.”

1926 Dame Gillian Lynne is born in Bromley, Kent, England. She will go on to a successful career as a dancer and actor before becoming an award-winning choreographer and director, with such legendary titles as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera to her name. In 2018, she becomes the namesake of the first West End theatre to be named for a non-royal woman when The New London Theatre is renamed in her honor.

1928 Chester Morris and Elsie Lawson are the Whispering Friends. George M. Cohan‘s farce runs 14 weeks at the Hudson Theatre. William Harrigan and Anne Showmaker co-star.

1934 Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson collaborate on an unusual Broadway “opera,” Four Saints in Three Acts. It runs 32 performances at the 44th Street Theatre, followed by a 16 performance return engagement at the Empire Theatre.

1973 Demonstrating the difference in sensibilities between London and New York, the farce No Sex Please, We’re British, opens at Broadway’s Ritz Theatre en route to a 16-performance flop run. The London original continues for a run of 6,761 performances, their longest-running comedy ever.

1980 The Broadway premiere of Lanford Wilson‘s Talley’s Folly opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The play is the prequel to Wilson’s Fifth of July which, also under the direction of Marshall W. Mason, opens later in the year.

1983 Birthday of future Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller. She receives a Tony nomination for her 2011 Broadway debut in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and wins Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Other Broadway credits include The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Waitress, and Carousel.

2003 First Off-Broadway performance for the puppet/human musical Avenue Q at the Vineyard Theatre. The show by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty earns raves, moves to Broadway, and wins the Tony Award as Best Musical.

2014 Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman‘s musical The Bridges of Madison County, based on the Robert James Waller romance novel about a woman who sees love anew when a rugged photographer pulls into town, opens on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale star. Although the production only lasts 100 performances, Brown wins Tony Awards for his orchestrations and score.

2020 A new take on West Side Story from the mind of Tony-winning director Ivo van Hove opens at the Broadway Theatre. The revival stars Shereen Pimentel as Maria and Isaac Powell as Tony, with Yesenia Ayala as Anita.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Robert Altman (1925-2006). Sidney Poitier (b. 1927). Sandy Duncan (b. 1946). Brenda Blethyn (b. 1946). Lili Taylor (b. 1967). Lauren Ambrose (b. 1978).

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