Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 20 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 20 In 2001, the musical Urinetown opens on Broadway.
Cast Joan Marcus

1886 Birthday of writer/director John Murray Anderson, whose work for the revues Ziegfeld Follies, Greenwich Village Follies, and John Murray Anderson's Almanac helps launch and further the careers of countless Broadway stars.

1919 The Hudson Theatre plays host to the opening of Clarence, a new comedy by Booth Tarkington. The play, about a diffident entomologist who teaches a family persistence and values, stars Alfred Lunt and a young Helen Hayes. Variety reports that Hayes is "delicious all the way" and proclaims that she is a "child prodigy."

1924 Walter Winchell's first daily article appears in the New York Evening Graphic. Titled "Your Broadway and Mine," it is Winchell's first Broadway column and, accordingly, he is the first Broadway columnist. The news of the day is that Sophie Tucker has left Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1924 in a dispute over stage time.

1929 Anne Meara is born. She is the wife of Jerry Stiller (to whom she was married on this day in 1954) and mother of Ben Stiller. She stars with Jerry in Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan in 1956, John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves in 1970, Richard Greenberg's Eastern Standard in 1988, and the revival of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie in 1993. She also scores an off-Broadway success with her first play, After-Play.

1955 Kurt Weill's and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera was a flop in its 1933 original Broadway production, but its Off-Broadway revival at the Theatre de Lys, with a new translation by Marc Blitzstein, is a sensation and goes on to run more than 2,600 performances. The cast includes Bea Arthur, Jane Connell, John Astin, Jo Sullivan, and Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya. Despite being an Off-Broadway production, Scott Merrill and Lotte Lenya are both nominated for Tony Awards, and Lenya wins for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

1978 The musical revue Eubie!, celebrating the music of Eubie Blake, opens at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre. The production features Gregory Hines and brother Maurice Hines in the cast. At the opening night curtain, 95-year-old Blake takes a bow. The show lasts 439 performances and closes October 7, 1979.

2000 Ally Sheedy makes her debut as the obscure and tortured transsexual rock singer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The actor, known for her work in films such as The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, and High Art, is the first female to play Hedwig. Previously, only male actors had filled the role: the show's creator John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Cerveris, and Kevin Cahoon. The musical opened at the Jane Street Theatre on February 14, 1998 and closes April 9, 2000, after 12 previews and 857 performances.

2001 Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman's Urinetown opens on Broadway, having worked its way up from Fringe Festival to Off-Broadway to Broadway, and having postponed its planned September 13 opening in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The oddly titled and themed musical goes on to win 2002 Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical (John Rando).

2007 Lucy Thurber's Scarcity, starring Kristen Johnston, Michael T. Weiss, and Jesse Eisenberg, opens at Atlantic Theatre Company. Directed by Jackson Gay, the cast also includes Maggie Kiley, Meredith Brandt, Todd Weeks, and Miriam Shor.

2012 Jake Gyllenhaal makes his U.S. stage debut in the American premiere of Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet. Opening Off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre, the cast also includes Annie Funke, Michelle Gomez, and Brían F. O'Byrne. Michael Longhurst directs the play about an overweight 15-year-old girl whose life is changed by the arrival of her estranged uncle.

More of Today's Birthdays: Upton Sinclair (1878–1968). Elliott Nugent (1899–1980). Albert Marre (1925–2012). Rachel Roberts (1927–1980). Ted Neeley (b. 1943). Lee Hall (b. 1966). Kristen Johnston (b. 1967). Emily Padgett (b. 1984).

Look Back at Hunter Foster, Jennifer Laura Thompson, and More in Urinetown on Broadway

More Today in Theatre History

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