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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: November 15

1875 British comic operetta titans W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan make their U.S. debut with Trial by Jury at the Eagle Variety Theatre, where it runs 8 performances.

1904 It’s Sunday—and 10 weeks more for featured actor Ethel Barrymore. Thomas Raceward‘s play is directed by William Seymour.

1926 Lynn Fontanne makes one of her last Broadway appearances without her partner/husband Alfred Lunt when she stars as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion at the Guild Theatre. Reginald Mason plays Henry Higgins, and the production runs 143 performances.

1932 Elia Kazan, listed in the Playbill as “E. Kazan,” makes his Broadway debut in Chrysalis, a short-lived drama with Humphrey Bogart and Margaret Sullavan at the Martin Beck Theatre. As a director and advocate of the Method acting technique, Kazan stages some of the landmark Broadway plays of the mid-century, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman.

1956 Dogpatch comes to life as Li’l Abner is staged at the St. James Theatre. Melvin Frank and Norman Panama adapted the Al Capp comic-strip, with songs by Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul. The cast includes Tina Louise and Stubby Kaye dancing to Michael Kidd choreography.

1972 Mourning Becomes Electra is the first production in the new uptown Circle in the Square Theatre. Colleen Dewhurst and Pamela Payton-Wright are featured in the production, which runs 55 performances.

1989 The military courtroom drama A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin opens at the Music Box Theatre. The cast is headed by Tom Hulce, known for his roles in the 1984 film Amadeus and 1990’s Parenthood. The show is made into a movie in 1992 after its 497-performance run on Broadway. The show catapults the writing career of Sorkin, who later creates the TV series The West Wing.

1994 Julie Harris stars as Amanda Wingfield in Roundabout Theatre Company‘s revival of The Glass Menagerie. But the reviews focus on the waiflike actor who plays Laura: Calista Flockhart, who wins a Theatre World Award for her performance. She is quickly snapped up by TV, eventually landing the title role in the series Ally McBeal.

1998 Drug-addicts in Edinburgh get their theatrical outing at the Players Theatre, as a stage adaptation of Trainspotting opens Off-Broadway. The show, adapted from Irvine Welsh’s novel as well as the play (which was previously produced in Glasgow in 1994), runs for 17 performances.

2000 The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien‘s camp science-fiction/horror musical, gets a Broadway revival starring Tom Hewitt, Raúl Esparza, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea DeLaria, Alice Ripley, rock star Joan Jett, and, as the Narrator, onetime talk show host Dick Cavett. It runs 437 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The British import was a 45-performance flop in its original 1975 production, but its movie adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, attracted a devoted cult. In accord with that, audiences for the Broadway revival are offered sacks with newspapers (to use as rain hats) and rice (to throw in the wedding scene), along with other wacky interactive goodies.

2004 Following her internationally-successful Vagina Monologues, playwright Eve Ensler offers an “inside look at the outside” of the female anatomy in her Broadway debut, The Good Body. It runs 40 performances at the Booth Theatre.

2009 The Kennedy Center‘s revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty‘s Ragtime transfers to Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. The musical based on E.L. Doctorow‘s novel about Blacks, whites, and immigrants colliding in 1906 New York, stars Christiane Noll, Robert Petkoff, and Quentin Earl Darrington. Unlike the 1998 original production, which ran on Broadway for two years, the revival manages a run of only 65 performances.

2011 A revival of James Goldman‘s The Lion in Winter, directed by Trevor Nunn, opens at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. The production stars Robert Lindsay as Henry II and Joanna Lumley as Eleanor of Aquitaine.

2012 Sex, drugs, religion, celebrity, music, and romance are swirled together in the musical Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, written by Kathie Lee Gifford, David Friedman, and David Pomeranz, opening at the Neil Simon Theatre. Though the production lasts only 29 performances, Carolee Carmello earns a Tony nomination for her performance as Aimee Semple McPherson.

2015 MiseryWilliam Goldman‘s suspense thriller based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, premieres on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf star.

2017 John Leguizamo‘s latest solo show, Latin History for Morons, opens on Broadway at Studio 54. The crash course in Latin History sheds light on the crucial, but little known roles Latino people played in American history. Leguizamo receives a Special Tony Award the following year “for his body of work and for his commitment to the theatre.”

2018 The Prom, a musical about an Indiana high schooler barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom—and a group of eccentric Broadway folk who infiltrate the town in an attempt to fight the injustice—opens on Broadway. Written by Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, and Bob Martin, the show has a cast that includes Brooks Ashmanskas, Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Michael Potts, and Angie Schworer. It runs 309 performances at the Longacre Theatre.

More of Today’s Birthdays: The Fairbanks Twins (Madeleine Fairbanks (d. 1989) and Marion Fairbanks (d. 1973)) 1900. Tillie Losch (1903–1975). Carol Bruce 1919. Edward Asner 1929. Petula Clark (b. 1932). Gloria Foster (1933–2001). Sam Waterston (b. 1940). Bob Gunton (b. 1945).

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