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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: February 7

1812 Birthday of author Charles Dickens, whose A Christmas Carol has been adapted to the stage dozens of times and provides a durable annuity for theatre troupes everywhere. Among other major stage hits adapted from his work: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Pickwick, and Oliver!

1883 Birthday of composer Eubie Blake, one of the first Black composers to write a Broadway musical. His scores include Shuffle Along, Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds, and Swing It. His life and songs are the subject of the hit 1978 revue Eubie! He also appears as a character in George C. Wolfe‘s 2016 musical Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

1922 The wealth of an eccentric uncle will be hers if star Florence Eldridge can keep her sanity in The Cat and the Canary. John Willard‘s melodrama runs 43 weeks at the National Theatre in New York.

1923 Another season and another inheritance, but this time a woman must keep her temper. Wildflower stars Edith Day. Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II devised the plot; music is provided by Herbert Stothart and Vincent Youmans. Oscar Eagle stages.

1957 Cyril Ritchard plays a strange visitor to a Virginia home who claims to be an alien passing judgment on the Earth in Gore Vidal‘s A Visit to a Small Planet. The comedy runs 388 performances a the Booth Theatre.

1959 First play reading at Joe Cino’s Caffe Cino in New York’s Greenwich Village. The space had opened as a bar in December 1958, but under Cino’s flamboyant stewardship, it grows into the cradle of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, providing a launching pad for the earliest works of Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Jean Claude van Itallie, Tom Eyen, and many other playwrights. Its productions examine subjects no commercial producer of the time would touch, especially those with gay themes. After Cino’s suicide in 1967, his circle of theatre artists found Off-Broadway’s Circle Rep.

1968 Two estranged brothers reunite to settle their father’s estate in Arthur Miller‘s new play The Price, opening at the Morosco Theatre. Pat Hingle, Kate Reid, Harold Gary, and Arthur Kennedy star. It runs 429 performances.

1971 The Trial of the Catonsville Nine plays at the Good Shepherd Faith Church in New York. Saul Levitt and Daniel Berrigan’s play exposing the trial of the Berrigan brothers’ anti-war protests, stars Ed Flanders and Michael Kane. After 130 performances, it transfers to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre for 29 more showings.

1976 Philadelphia’s Shubert Theatre, acquired by The Academy of Music in 1972 and refurbished, re-opens with a revival of My Fair Lady.

1980 Film star Janet Gaynor makes her Broadway debut in Harold and Maude, opening at the Martin Beck Theatre. The production is panned by critics, and closes two days later.

2002 Film star Kevin Bacon stars on Broadway as a former minister suffering a crisis of faith in An Almost Holy Picture.

2012 A revival of Terrence McNally‘s music-kissed biographical drama Master Class, starring Tyne Daly as a late-career diva Maria Callas, opens at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre. Stephen Wadsworth once again directs Daly in the role, having previously done so in 2010 at the Kennedy Center, and in 2011 on Broadway.

More of Today’s Birthdays: George Ade (1866-1944). Eddie Bracken (1915-2002). Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011). David Bryan (b. 1962). Eddie Izzard (b. 1962). James Snyder (b. 1981).

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