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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: November 7

1904 The timeless anthem “Give My Regards to Broadway” is first sung on the Broadway stage at the opening of George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones at the Liberty Theatre. The story of an American jockey in England runs just 52 performances, but the song lives on.

1910 Opening night for Victor Herberts operetta Naughty Marietta, which runs 136 performances at the New York Theatre, and quickly becomes a theatre staple, enjoying countless tours and three Broadway revivals in the decades to come.

1919 Birthday of Ellen Stewart, whose La Mama Experimental Theatre Club serves as one of the cornerstones of the Off-Off-Broadway movement.

1921 Lisping comedian Ed Wynn earns a nickname with the musical comedy The Perfect Fool, written by and starring himself, which begins a 275-performance run at the Cohan Theatre. Wynn stars in many Broadway productions and films, but is perhaps best known to modern audiences as the giggling Uncle Albert who hosts the tea party on the ceiling in Disneys film Mary Poppins.

1922 Jeanne Eagels creates the role of Sadie Thompson, a prostitute at odds with a jungle missionary, in Rain, based on a W. Somerset Maugham short story. It runs 256 performances at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre. Joan Crawford immortalizes the role on film in 1932.

1934 Opening night of Dark Victory, one of the great weepers in Broadway history, and endlessly imitated. Tallulah Bankhead stars at the Plymouth Theatre as a spoiled heiress who discovers she has just months to live, and must mend her evil ways, live life to the fullest, and make peace with the world before she departs. Bette Davis takes the role in the 1939 film version.

1956 Long Day’s Journey Into Night opens (against late playwright Eugene O’Neill’s wishes) at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The cast includes Jason Robards Jr., Fredric March, and Florence Eldridge, all directed by José Quintero. Variety reports that this play is “a monumental, overwhelming drama, terrible in its ruthlessness, searing in its self-revelation, exalting in its pity and shattering in its impact.” Brooks Atkinson declares that this production helps “acquire size and stature” for the American theatre. The show runs for 390 performances.

1958 The Quare Fellow opens Off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The show, whose title is slang for “condemned man,” is written by Brendan Behan and stars Liam Clancy. It runs for 126 performances.

1963 The dieting Zero Mostel has forgotten to eat and collapses during the intermission of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He is unable to complete the performance.

1968 Lee J. Cobb stars in King Lear at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The supporting cast is a who’s who of future stars: Stacy Keach, Philip Bosco, Paul Rudd, Charles Cioffi, Rene Auberjonois, and others.

1971 David Rabe‘s Sticks and Bones opens at the Public Theater. David Selby stars as a traumatized Vietnam vet who returns home to his all-American family. The Golden Theatre hosts the show’s move to Broadway in 1972, with Santo Loquasto getting his first opportunity to design a Broadway set. It runs for 121 performances Off-Broadway, and then 246 performances on Broadway.

1996 The Santaland Diaries opens at the Atlantic Theater Company. The play, adapted from David Sedaris’ book, Barrel Fever, features two stories: “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family,” about a housewife who finds her husband’s illegitimate daughter on her doorstep, and “The Santaland Diaries,” describing the experience of working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s. The show runs 63 performances.

2001 Elaine Stritch‘s solo show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, debuts at the Public Theater to rave reviews. The production moves to Broadway later in the season and wins a Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event.

2003 The song catalog of rocker Rod Stewart forms the basis of a new musical, Tonight’s the Night, which opens at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre.

2004 Howard Keel, 85, the handsome high baritone who sang musical theatre’s great roles in the film versions of Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Kismet, and Kiss Me, Kate (and appeared onstage in stock and in the Broadway musical Saratoga), dies of colon cancer in Palm Desert, California.

2011 The first Broadway revival of GodspellStephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak‘s 1971 rock musical that retells The Gospel According to St. Matthew with singing, clowning, improvisation, and numerous topical references—opens at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Daniel Goldstein directs a cast featuring Hunter Parrish, Telly Leung, Lindsay Mendez and Nick Blaemire. It runs for 264 performances.

More of Today’s Birthdays Charlotte Crabtree 1847. Dean Jagger 1903. Norman Krasna 1909. Lindsay Duncan 1950.

Watch highlights from the 2011 Broadway revival of Godspell:

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