Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 11 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 11 August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opens at the Cort Theatre in 1984.
Theresa Merritt in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

1918 Jerome Robbins is born. The choreographer spends most of his early career moving easily between the worlds of classical ballet and Broadway, choreographing and/or directing classics including On the Town, West Side Story, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and The King and I. In 1989, just nine years before his death, his career is celebrated in the Tony-winning musical revue, Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

1948 Ray Bolger, best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, opens in Where's Charley? at the St. James Theatre. The story, adapted by librettist George Abbott, is based on the 1892 Brandon Thomas play, Charley's Aunt, and is set to music by Guys and Dolls genius Frank Loesser. His score includes "My Darling, My Darling" and "Once in Love With Amy." George Balanchine, the well-known choreographer, stages the piece. Although reviews are mixed, it runs 792 performances, and a film version is made in 1952 starring Bolger, who is singled out by some critics as the only reason the show stayed open as long as it did. Unfortunately, no Broadway cast album exists because of a musician's strike during the run.

1958 Don Ameche and Elaine Stritch star in the musical Goldilocks, set in the world of silent films, opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Walter Kerr, drama critic at the New York Herald Tribune, directs and co-writes the book with his wife Jean Kerr. Agnes de Mille choreographs. The musical's two featured performers, Russell Nype and Pat Stanley, both win Tony Awards for their performances.

1979 The New York Times adopts a policy of allowing reviews of major productions to be based on preview performances rather than opening nights. Broadway producers were in dismay about this and were outright furious when Walter Kerr (of the Times) had requested, and received, free preview tickets for shows of the season, while those same requests by critics for other major newspapers and magazines weren't honored.

1984 Charles Dutton and Theresa Merritt star in August Wilson's first big Broadway success, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, opening at the Cort Theatre. The play takes place at a Ma Rainey recording session, during which she is having trouble with one of her musicians. Frank Rich, in the New York Times, states that "This play is a searing inside account of what white racism does to its victims." The production runs 275 performances. Wilson goes on to write the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas Fences and The Piano Lesson.

2000 The whine flows freely on Broadway when Linda Lavin begins previews in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Off-Broadway cast, including Michele Lee and Tony Roberts, reunites for the Broadway staging of the urban comedy by Charles Busch. Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow directs.

2001 Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren open in a revival of August Strindberg's Dance of Death. Both go on to earn 2002 Oscar nominations for movie roles.

2002 An American troupe debuts the musical 42nd Street in Moscow, performing in English.

2009 The Broadway premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet's Oleanna, starring Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, opens at the John Golden Theatre. Doug Hughes directs the drama about a female college student who accuses her professor of sexual harassment.

2011 The world premiere of The Lyons, Nicky Silver's play about a dysfunctional family preparing for the death of its patriarch, opens Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. The production, which stars Linda Lavin as wife and mother Rita Lyons, transfers to Broadway in 2012 and earns Lavin a Tony nomination.

2012 A new Broadway production of Edmond Rostand's 1897 romantic verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Douglas Hodge in the title role, opens at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre. Jamie Lloyd directs a cast that also includes Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Bill Buell and Kyle Soller.

More of Today's Birthdays: Earle Hyman (1926–2017). Marvin A. Krauss (1928–2002). Ron Leibman (1937–2019). Judy Kaye (b. 1948). Jonathan Hadary (b. 1948). Stephen Spinella (b. 1956). Jane Krakowski (b. 1968).

Watch highlights from a West Side Story flash mob recreating the original Jerome Robbins choreography:

More Today in Theatre History

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!