Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 11

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 11
A scene from the original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures.
A scene from the original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1899 "I would rather play Ibsen than eat—and that's often what it amounts to," said Eva Le Gallienne, born in London today. Her determination and drive lead her to a stage debut in Monna Vanna at the Queen's Theatre in London in 1914; her Broadway debut takes place one year later in the comedy Mrs. Boltay's Daughters. She appears in countless shows, and in 1937 plays Hamlet with Uta Hagen as her Ophelia. In 1926 she founds the Civic Repertory Theatre with the motto "Theatre should be an instrument for giving, not a machinery for getting."

1927 Opening night of the musical Piggy, by Lew Brown and Cliff Friend, based on the play The Rich Mr. Hoggenheimer. The show, which runs 83 performances at the Royale Theatre, is one of the few musicals in history that decided to change its title after opening night. The new moniker: I Told You So.

1936 English actor-producer Ian Robertson dies at the age of 76. While in America he acted with Edwin Booth, Helena Modjeska, and the Frohmans, among others. He was stage manager and producer at the Boston Museum Theatre. He also wrote several plays.

1952 John Gielgud directs and stars in Much Ado About Nothing at London's Phoenix Theatre. It will do—for a seven-month run. Also in the cast are Dorothy Tutin and Paul Scofield.

1964 In celebration of William Shakespeare's Quartercentenary, the Royal Shakespeare Company plays its three-part War of the Roses at London's Aldwych Theatre.

1976 Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures opens at the Winter Garden Theatre. The musical uses a Kabuki-like staging and elements of Eastern music. Harold Prince directs an Asian-American cast.

1979 Joel Grey and Ron Holgate star in the opening night of Jerry Herman's musical The Grand Tour, which runs 61 performances at the Palace Theatre. It was based on the play, Jacobowsky and the Colonel.

2000 Broadway's Belasco Theatre welcomes the transfer of James Joyce's The Dead from Off-Broadway. The musical boasts a book by Richard Nelson (who wins a Tony for it), music by Shaun Davey, and lyrics adapted by Nelson and Davey. Featured in the cast are Christopher Walken, Blair Brown, Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley, and Stephen Spinella.

2009 Tom O'Horgan, the Drama Desk Award-winning, Tony-nominated director who brought a downtown ethic to his Broadway projects, including the original Broadway productions of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, dies at age 84.

2016 David Margulies, an actor who successfully moved back and forth from stage to TV to film with memorable portraits of harried ethnic characters, dies at age 78. Margulies made 13 appearances on Broadway from The Iceman Cometh in 1973 to Wonderful Town in 2003.

More of Today's Birthdays: Alan Paton 1903. Ruth Goetz 1912. Mary Rodgers 1931. Joel Zwick 1942. Max von Essen 1974.

Flip through photos from Max von Essen's stage appearances:

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