Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 1 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 1 In 2005, the original production of The Color Purple, starring LaChanze, opens on Broadway.
LaChanze and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes in the original Broadway production of The Color Purple. Paul Kolnik

1907 Theatrical producer Herman Levin is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1924 Fred and Adele Astaire star in Lady, Be Good, about a penniless brother-sister dance team. The musical is the first Broadway collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin, introducing such tunes as "Fascinating Rhythm," "Oh, Lady Be Good!," "Little Jazz Bird," and "The Hald of It, Dearie' Blues." The musical's book is penned by Guy Bolton, who will go on to co-write Anything Goes with Cole Porter and P.G. Wodehouse in 1934; and Fred Thompson.

1929 In London, actors vote unanimously to form the British Actors Equity Association. Rules and the constitution are adopted in May of the following year.

1930 Incidents from Emily Dickinson's life are the subject of Alison's House. Presented by New York's Civic Repertory Theatre, the play, written by Susan Glaspell, later wins a Pulitzer Prize.

1955 After losing an eye in an operation three months earlier, Paul Muni returns to the cast of Inherit the Wind at the National Theatre. He is greeted by the audience and cast members with a standing ovation.

1956 Broadway audiences hear Barbara Cook sing "Glitter and Be Gay" for the first time as Candide opens at the Martin Beck Theatre. Audiences aren't sure what to make of the Leonard Bernstein-scored musical, and it runs only 73 performances. Director Harold Prince has more success with his 1974 Broadway revival, which runs 740 performances.

1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein transport audiences to San Francisco's Chinatown with Flower Drum Song. Larry Blyden, Pat Suzuki, Miyoshi Umeki, and Juanita Hall star in the musical, directed by Gene Kelly. It runs 600 performances at the St. James Theatre. Umeki and Hall both repeat their performances in the 1961 film adaptation.

1968 Burt Bacharach and Hal David make their Broadway songwriting debuts as Promises, Promises opens at Broadway's Shubert Theatre, in a production starring Jerry Orbach (in what will become a Tony-winning performance) and Jill O'Hara. Book writer Neil Simon adapts Billy Wilder's film The Apartment, about a junior executive who gets unwittingly intertwined with his bosses' extramarital affairs when he lends out his bachelor pad for their late night trysts. Michael Bennett, choreographing his third-ever Broadway musical, stages the show-stopping "Turkey Lurkey Time," led by Donna McKechnie, Baayork Lee, and Margo Sappington. The title number will become a pop hit for Dionne Warwick.

1971 After a summer run at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre, Two Gentlemen of Verona opens at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Adapted from the Shakespeare play, the musical features a score by Hair composer Galt MacDermot, lyrics by John Guare, and a book by Guare and Mel Shapiro. With Tony-nominated performances from Raúl Juliá, Clifton Davis, and Jonelle Allen, the work will go on to beat out both Follies and Grease to take Best Musical at the 1972 Tony Awards.

1987 The Ritz Theatre plays host to Penn Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller, whose Penn & Teller opens and runs for 122 performances.

1999 Liza Minnelli returns to Broadway with a salute to her father, film director Vincente Minnelli. Minnelli on Minnelli is presented at the Palace Theatre, where her mother, Judy Garland, had triumphed in solo concerts.

2005 After being talked up for weeks by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, who is one of the producers, the musical adaptation of Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple debuts on Broadway. LaChanze, who plays Celie, wins the 2006 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical. The show is revived on Broadway ten years later, with Cynthia Erivo winning a Tony Award for her performance in the same role.

2011 Frank Wildhorn and Don Black's musical Bonnie & Clyde, telling the story of the Depression-era American outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, opens at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan star in the title roles. Though it only runs 36 performances, both Wildhorn and Black's score and Laura Osnes' performance receive Tony nominations.

2016 Composer Alan Menken returns to Broadway with a musical version of Chazz Palminteri‘s A Bronx Tale. Opening at the Longacre Theatre, A Bronx Tale: The Musical has a book by Palminteri, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and stars the late Nick Cordero as mob boss Sonny. It runs 700 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Harry Lewis (1885-1950). Ray Henderson (1896-1970). Cyril Ritchard (1897-1977). Mary Martin (1913-1990). Dick Shawn (1923-1987). Keith Michell (1928-2015). Woody Allen (b. 1935). Bette Midler (b. 1945). Obba Babatundé (b. 1951). Treat Williams (b. 1951). Michael Esper (b. 1976). Josh Grisetti (b. 1981).

Look Back at the Original Broadway Production of The Color Purple

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