Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 29 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: October 29 In 1977, Kander and Ebb's The Act opens on Broadway, leading to Liza Minnelli's second Tony win.
Liza Minnelli and cast Martha Swope/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

1882 Birth of French playwright Jean Giraudoux, author of The Madwoman of Chaillot, Ondine, Intermezzo, Tiger at the Gates, and Amphitryon 38.

1891 Birth of comedian Fanny Borach, better known as Fanny Brice, star of the Ziegfeld Follies, whose shtick consists mainly of making fun of her own looks. Her enduring "Baby Snooks" persona carries over to a radio career in the 1930s. Her signature tune is the wistful "My Man." Her life serves as the basis for the musical Funny Girl.

1894 Opening night for Reginald De Koven's popular operetta, Rob Roy.

1932 Mildred Natwick makes her Broadway debut in Frank McGrath's Carry Nation at the Biltmore Theatre.

1936 Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman (or is that Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante?) star in the Cole Porter musical Red, Hot and Blue!, memorable mainly for the PR battle in which both stars demand top billing. Management eventually compromises by crisscrossing their names on the marquee of the Alvin Theatre. It runs 183 performances (with Bob Hope settling for third billing).

1941 Cole Porter's musical Let's Face It! opens at the Imperial Theatre. It is the first chance that Danny Kaye has to prove himself as a leading man. His co-stars for the evening include Eve Arden, Vivian Vance, and Nanette Fabray. José Ferrer takes over for Danny Kaye during the run of the show, which is 547 performances. A film version is released in 1943.

1946 After a seven-year WWII delay, Noël Coward's semi-autobiographical play Present Laughter premieres today at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre, starring frequent Coward player Clifton Webb a narcassistic actor in the throws of a mid-life crisis. The work will go on to become a Broadway favorite, receiving revivals in 1958 (starring Coward himself), 1982, 1996, 2010, and 2017.

1952 Audiences are kept on the edge of their seats as a husband hires a man to kill his wife in Dial "M" for Murder, opening at the Plymouth Theatre for a 552-performance run.

1958 Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer star in Leslie Stevens' The Marriage-Go-Round, opening at the Plymouth Theatre. The subject of the play is sex and marriage. Julie Newmar is also in the cast.

1960 Celeste Holm stars in Arthur Laurents' Sleeping Beauty-inspired comedy Invitation to a March, opening at the Music Box Theatre. Also in the cast are Eileen Heckart and Jane Fonda. Incidental music is by Stephen Sondheim.

1967 Hair opens at the Astor Library, the new home for Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. This is the first time the company charges admission for one of their shows, although the ticket price is only $2.50. The show transfers to Broadway in 1968, stopping off first at a discotheque on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Broadway run racks up 1,742 performances.

1977 After a calamitous tryout tour, the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical The Act opens at the Majestic Theatre. Liza Minnelli is in the lead role, which wins her the 1978 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical (she had won previously in 1956 for Kander and Ebb's Flora, The Red Menace, and received an honorary Tony in 1974). The story of a nightclub singer recalling her rocky romantic and professional life will come to look more like autobiography as the years roll on. The show runs 233 performances.

1984 The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California suffers its second arson fire in six years. This one costs the theatre $500,000.

2002 Sherie Rene Scott plays the title role in Debbie Does Dallas, a musical based on the pornographic film of the same name. Following a sold-out engagement at the summer 2002 New York International Fringe Festival, the naughty tuner begins a regular Off-Broadway run at the Jane Street Theatre. It continues through February 2003.

2003 After many other acting teams competed for the role, Mark Hamill and Polly Bergen open on Broadway in Richard Alfieri's two-person comedy, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. The play is about an elderly woman whose life in renewed when she begins taking dance lessons. Unfortunately the show is panned and fails to run even as long as the title, closing after just 30 performances.

2009 Finian's Rainbow, the 1947 show-tune-packed musical about an Irishman and his daughter who come to America on a magical quest, opens in a Broadway revival starring Jim Norton, Chuck Cooper, Kate Baldwin, Christopher Fitzgerald, Cheyenne Jackson, and Terri White. The production at the St. James Theatre is the first Broadway revival of the classic Burton Lane/Fred Saidy/E.Y. Harburg show since 1960.

2012 Due to Hurricane Sandy and the suspension of the New York City mass transit system, all Broadway shows are canceled this evening. Performances were also canceled on October 28, and do not resume until October 31.

2015 Keira Knightley makes her Broadway debut in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of Thérèse Raquin at Studio 54. The cast also includes Gabriel Ebert, Matt Ryan, and Judith Light.

More of Today's Birthdays: Akim Tamiroff (1899–1972). Robert Nemiroff (1929–1991). Melba Moore (b. 1945). Ken Billington (b. 1946). Richard Dreyfuss (b. 1947). Rufus Sewell (b. 1967). Gabrielle Union-Wade (b. 1972). Ben Foster (b. 1980).

Thérèse Raquin, Starring Keira Knightley and Judith Light, Opens on Broadway; Red Carpet Arrivals, Curtain Call and After Party!

More Today in Theatre History

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