Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 14 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 14
Barbara Cook, Jerome Courtland, Ernest Truex, and Edith Atwater in Flahooley.

1931 Playwright and producer David Belasco dies in New York City. He began his theatrical life as a child actor in California and started writing plays in his twenties. He adapted the John Luther Long story into the play Madame Butterfly in 1900. In 1905, he wrote, directed, and produced The Girl of the Golden West. In 1906, he built the Stuyvesant Theatre which is now Broadway's Belasco Theatre. Belasco liked to shave six years off his age, but it's generally assumed he was 78 at the time of his death. According to Broadway legend, his ghost haunts the apartment where he lived above the theatre that bears his name.

1951 Barbara Cook makes her Broadway debut in E.Y. Harburg, Sammy Fain, and Fred Saidy's Flahooley. The musical's cast also includes Irwin Corey, Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, and Bil Baird's Marionettes. It lasts 40 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1957 Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter star in New Girl in Town, George Abbott and Bob Merrill's musical adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie. It runs 431 performances at the 46th Street Theatre. At the 1958 Tony Awards, Verdon and Ritter tie for the award for Leading Actress in a Musical, the first tie in Tony history.

1965 The East-West Players, formed to "truthfully express Asian Pacific American thought and depict on stage Asian Pacific American life...," open in Los Angeles. The first performance is Rashomon.

1970 Actor Billie Burke dies in Los Angeles. She made her stage debut in London in The School Girl in 1903. Her Broadway debut occurred in 1907 in My Wife; producer Florenz Ziegfeld called her that in 1914. Burke was immortalized on screen as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the film The Wizard of Oz. She was 84 years old.

1978 Working, a musical revue conceived and directed by Stephen Schwartz, based on Studs Terkel's oral history of the working class, opens at the 46th Street Theatre. It features songs by a variety of writers, from Schwartz to Mary Rodgers to Micki Grant to James Taylor.

1986 Craig + Craig = 3. Playwright Craig Lucas and composer-lyricist Craig Carnelia create the musical Three Postcards which opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The show, about three friends who have a reunion of their own, is directed by Norman René.

1999 Stephen Sondheim's long-unproduced 1954 musical, Saturday Night, sees the stage as it starts previews in Chicago, sporting two new songs and an edited script. The musical, about pals in 1929 Brooklyn, was to have been Sondheim's professional debut in the mid-1950s, but a production was thwarted by the death of the producer. The musical makes its New York premiere Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater on February 14 the following year.

Today's Birthdays: Julian Eltinge 1881. Alvin Epstein 1925. Bobo Lewis 1926. Eric Morecambe 1926. Sian Phillips 1933. Herb Foster 1936. Mark Blum 1950. Cate Blanchett 1969.

Flip through photos from Barbara Cook's career on Broadway, beginning with Flahooley in 1951:

From The Music Man to She Loves Me: Look Back at Barbara Cook on Broadway

More Today in Theatre History

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