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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: November 12

1874 Birthday of pioneering African-American performer-composer Bert Williams, who writes music for Broadway’s In Dahomey (1903) and Abyssinia (1906), but achieves even greater fame as a singer and dancer in five editions of the Ziegfeld Follies between 1910 and 1920.

1918 David Belasco produces and directs Tiger! Tiger!, by Edward Knoblock. The play, with a cast that includes Wallace Erskine, Dorothy Cumming, and Lionel Atwill, runs 183 performances.

1922 Birthday of actor Kim Hunter, best known for creating the role of Stella in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

1941 Guy Bolton and W. Somerset Maugham see the opening of their generically-titled play Theatre, which stars Cornelia Otis Skinner and the ubiquitous George Spelvin (a name used in the program when the actor’s real name must be kept secret for one reason or another). It stays at the Hudson Theatre for 69 performances.

1951 Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe ask all to Paint Your Wagon. The show, based on Bret Harte‘s Millionaire of Rough and Ready, paints the town for nine months. Holding the brushes are James Barton and Olga San Juan, with choreography by Agnes de Mille.

1957 Birthday of Broadway dancer Karen Ziemba, a favorite of choreographer Susan Stroman and songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, who is featured in The World Goes ‘Round, Contact, Never Gonna Dance, Curtains, and Bullets Over Broadway, and stars in the 1997 musical Steel Pier.

1967 Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway head an all-Black cast in the opening of a revamped version of Hello, Dolly! at the St. James Theatre. After the curtain call, Carol Channing, who is in the audience, is invited on stage by Pearl Bailey to sing the title song. The show has been running since January 1964 and racks up a total of 2,844 performances.

1970 Broadway opening night for Sleuth, one of the most successful stage murder mysteries. Keith Baxter and Anthony Quayle star in the story of a mystery writer who plots to toy with, then kill, his wife’s lover. It runs 1,222 performances at the Music Box Theatre.

1989 Tommy Tune directs and choreographs Grand Hotel which opens at the Martin Beck Theatre, based on the early thirties play and film. The score is by Robert Wright, George Forrest, and Maury Yeston, but the emphasis is on staging and spectacle. The show runs 1,017 performances.

2001 Los Angeles’ new Kodak Theatre makes its debut with The Ovation Awards, the Los Angeles theatre honors. The building at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue is designed by scenic designer and architect David Rockwell.

2012 Christopher Durang‘s Chekhov-inspired comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which whips characters from the Russian playwright’s catalog into a frothy weekend of costumes, prophesies, and existential longing, opens Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater‘s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The cast features Sigourney Weaver, Kristine Nielsen, David Hyde Pierce, Genevieve Angelson, Shalita Grant, and Billy Magnussen. The production transfers to Broadway in 2013, where it wins the Tony Award for Best Play.

2015 The Young Vic’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, directed by acclaimed Belgian director Ivo van Hove, opens on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The cast includes Mark Strong, Nicola Walker, Phoebe Fox, and Russell Tovey. The production wins Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival of a Play.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Richard A. Whiting (1891–1938). Mary Louise Wilson (b. 1931). Wallace Shawn (b. 1943). Lynn Meadow (b. 1946). Megan Mullally (b. 1958). Manoel Felciano (b. 1970). Alistair Brammer (b. 1988).

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