Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 4 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 4 In 2016, Dear Evan Hansen opens on Broadway.
The cast of Dear Evan Hansen Matthew Murphy

1860 Birthday of Lillian Russell, who becomes the epitome of Gilded Age female sex appeal and stage presence, starting in vaudeville at Tony Pastor's Theatre and graduating to a series of frothy musical comedy vehicles including Whirl-i-gig, Fiddle-dee-dee, Hoity-Toity, Twirly-Whirly, Whoop-Dee-Doo, and Lady Teazle. She also appears in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and, later in life, in burlesque.

1901 The Girl and the Judge both want what's best for the girl's kleptomaniac mother. Clyde Fitch wrote and staged the drama which stars Annie Russell.

1906 Douglas Fairbanks stars in The Man of the Hour by George Broadhurst. The plot—Fairbanks as a reformer out to expose corruption at City Hall—angers the Tammany Hall politicians and fans the interest of the public. It runs 479 performances.

1910 Composer Alex North, one of the many contributors to Of V We Sing, is born in Chester, Pennsylvania.

1933 Tobacco Road, Jack Kirkland's drama based on the 1932 Erskine Caldwell novel about a family of Georgia sharecroppers, opens at the Theatre Masque. It sticks around for 3,182 performances, making it, at the time, the longest running play in Broadway history.

1934 What do you do when kidnappers move into your boarding house? Lucile Watson, star of Post Road, has 209 performances to find out. The Wilbur Daniel Steele and Norma Mitchell comedy opens at the Masque Theatre.

1983 The story goes on as Baby opens at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Broadway debut for the writing team of David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr., Baby takes a look at the process of becoming a parent from three different perspectives: a young and unmarried couple, a couple struggling with fertility, and an older couple whose pregnancy is a surprise. Featured in the cast are Beth Fowler and Liz Callaway, the latter in her first leading role on Broadway.

1986 Neil Simon's Broadway Bound opens at the Broadhurst Theatre, where it runs for 756 performances. The cast includes Linda Lavin, John Randolph, Phyllis Newman, and Jason Alexander. It is the third of Simon's autobiographical plays, which include Biloxi Blues and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

1997 Linda Lavin, Harris Yulin, George Hearn, Sophie Hayden, and Natalie Portman star in a James Lapine-directed revival of The Diary of Anne Frank, notable for its inclusion of personal material about Anne's budding sexuality and her strained relationship with her mother.

2003 The world premiere of the new Cy Coleman musical, Like Jazz, opens at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum, starring Lillias White, Patti Austin, and Jennifer Holliday. It is Coleman's final major debut of a new musical before his death in November 2004.

2007 Broadway opening night for Tracy Letts' searing family drama August: Osage County, which wins the Tony Award as Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It runs for 648 performances.

2011 A revival of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, starring Dianne Wiest as Ranevskaya and John Turturro as Lopakhin, opens Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company.

2012 The New York City premiere of Golden Age, Terrence McNally's play about the world of composer Vincenzo Bellini, opens Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club, with Lee Pace starring as the nervous 19th-century Sicilian composer whose opera I Puritani is receiving its Paris world premiere in 1835. The cast also includes F. Murray Abraham, Bebe Neuwirth, and Will Rogers.

2015 Al Pacino returns to Broadway in David Mamet's China Doll, opening at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The play follows a billionaire who is about to retire and marry a younger woman when his plans are shaken by a phone call.

2016 Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson’s musical Dear Evan Hansen opens on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre, following a sold out Off-Broadway run. Ben Platt stars as a high school student who is thrust into the center of a rapidly evolving controversy. The production wins six Tony Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical for Platt, and Best Musical.

2017 SpongeBob SquarePants, a Broadway musical based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, opens at the Palace Theatre. Conceived and directed Tina Landau, it stars Ethan Slater in the title role, Danny Skinner as Patrick, Gavin Lee as Squidward, and Lilli Cooper as Sandy. An impressive roster of pop and rock stars contribute songs for the show, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Panic! At the Disco, They Might Be Giants, and David Bowie. It runs 327 performances.

More of Today's Birthdays: Derek Smith (b. 1959). Marisa Tomei (b. 1964). Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (b. 1985).

See Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen

More Today in Theatre History

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