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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: September 12

1866 The Broadway musical is born. The Black Crook, a musical extravaganza featuring a melodramatic plot and scantily-dressed ballerinas who serve as chorus girls, opens at Niblo’s Garden, . Tickets range from five cents to $1.50. It is the first Broadway show to run for more than a year. In 1954, a musical called The Girl in Pink Tights, which is based on the story of the show’s creation, opens on Broadway. Many other influences created the musical as it is known today, but Black Crook remains the consensus earliest model.

1927 Sigmund Romberg‘s operetta My Maryland, based on the Clyde Fitch play Barbara Frietchie, opens a 312-performance run at Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre, featuring Evelyn Herbert.

1951 The Holiday Theatre returns to the legitimate fold for the first time since 1927 with the opening of the American-Yiddish revue Bagels and Yox. The theatre, previously called the Central Theatre, had been used as a burlesque and movie house in the intervening years.

1960 The old Mansfield Theatre is rechristened with its current name, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. A show produced by David Merrick, Vintage ’60, is the first to open there.

2000 Britain’s Improbable Theatre bring their spontaneous theatrical performance piece, Lifegame, to Off-Broadway’s Jane Street Theatre. The improvisational work, in which a civilian is interviewed on stage about his or her life and then is witness to an instant interpretation of their milestone events by an acting troupe, was a hit in England and southern California before reaching New York stage. The event was created by improvisational theatre artist Keith Johnstone and offers a new character and a fresh life story eight times a week. Though the Off-Broadway run is brief, it inspires a TV series of the same name on the TNN cable network the following year.

2001 All Broadway and Off-Broadway shows remain dark, the day after terrorist attacks destroy the World Trade Center and travel into and around Manhattan is disrupted.

2002 The Ragtime team of Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, and Terrence McNally collaborate again for the Off-Broadway musical A Man of No Importance at Lincoln Center Theater‘s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Starring Roger Rees as bus conductor Alfie Byrne, it runs through the end of the year.

2010 The New York City premiere of Me, Myself & I, Edward Albee‘s play touching on some of his favorite ideas—parenting, children, identity, reality—opens at Playwrights Horizons. The play is directed by Emily Mann, who staged the 2008 world premiere at the McCarter Theatre, and stars Elizabeth Ashley, Zachary Booth, Brian Murray, Natalia Payne, Stephen Payne, and Preston Sadleir.

2011 The Kennedy Center‘s critically acclaimed production of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim‘s musical Follies, opens at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre. The cast is headed by Bernadette Peters as Sally, Jan Maxwell as Phyllis, Danny Burstein as Buddy, Ron Raines as Benjamin, and Elaine Paige as Carlotta.

2015 It’s the last dance for the “Dancing Queen”: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus‘ musical Mamma Mia! plays its 5,773rd and final performance on Broadway.

2018 Jen Silverman’s play Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties opens at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Directed by Mike Donahue, the MCC production stars Dana Delany, Lea DeLaria, IAdina Verson, Ana Villafañe, and Chaunté Wayans as five women—all named Bettie—who collide at the intersection of rage, love, and the theatre, provoking them all to take a look in the mirror and be brave enough to face the person they didn’t know they could be.

Today’s Birthdays: Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972). Harvey Schmidt (1929-2018). Ian Holm (1931-2020). Peter Scolari (b. 1955). Tony Sheldon (b. 1955). Hans Zimmer (b. 1957). Gregg Edelman (b. 1958). Will Chase (b. 1970). Jennifer Hudson (b. 1981). Will Blum (b. 1984).

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