Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 23

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 23
Chita Rivera with the cast of The Visit.
Chita Rivera with the cast of The Visit. Thom Kaine

1922 It's booze, jazz, and The National Anthem. J. Hartley Manners' work showcases his wife, Laurette Taylor, and Ralph Morgan. The drama runs at Henry Miller's Theatre for 114 performances.

1933 Happy birthday, Chita Rivera—born today in Washington, D.C. The Tony-winning singer-dancer-actor stars in Can-Can, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Visit, and plays Velma in the original Chicago. In 2005, she tells the story of her career on stage in the Broadway bio Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life.

1941 The unlikely combination of Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Gertrude Lawrence, and Danny Kaye make a hit out of the musical Lady in the Dark, the psychological profile of a female business executive. It runs 467 performances at the Alvin Theatre.

1943 American drama critic Alexander Woollcott dies in New York. He served as drama critic for the New York Times, the Herald, and the Sun. Woollcott appeared as an actor in Brief Moment by S. N. Behrman and was said to have been the model for the character Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. His books include Mr. Dickens Goes to the Play, Enchanted Aisles, and As You Were. Woollcott was 56 years old.

1953 Sylvia Regan's farce The Fifth Season, exposing New York's garment industry, opens at the Cort Theatre, where it runs 654 performances . Menasha Skulnik stars.

1958 Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick make their Broadway debut as a team with the opening of their musical The Body Beautiful. It runs just 60 performances, but the team returns with scores to Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, and She Loves Me.

1964 Arthur Miller explores his failed marriage with Marilyn Monroe in his drama After the Fall, which opens at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre, where it runs 208 performances. Jason Robards, Jr. and Barbara Loden star.

1975 Greg Antonacci sends a group of New York types on a hunt for the Elephant King of memory in his surreal Dance With Me, which transfers to Broadway from Off-Broadway. It runs 396 performances at the Mayfair Theatre.

1976 Actor-singer Paul Robeson dies at age 78. He appeared as the lead in Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and Shakespeare's Othello, and as Joe in Show Boat, among other performances. He was a spokesman for equal rights for all disenfranchised people.

1986 Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood, a musical revue featuring the music of Jerome Kern, opens at the Ritz Theatre and runs only 13 performances. The cast features Elaine Delmar, Liz Robertson, Scott Holmes, and Elisabeth Welch.

1994 Set designer Oliver Smith dies. Smith designed the sets for On The Town, Brigadoon, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Hello, Dolly!, and The Odd Couple.

2003 Nell Carter, the actor-singer who won a Tony Award for singing Fats Waller tunes in Ain't Misbehavin', dies at age 54.

2005 Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women becomes a Broadway musical, with a score by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein and book by Allan Knee. Sutton Foster stars as Jo, with Maureen McGovern as Marmee. It runs 137 performances.

2014 The world premiere of John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar opens on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne star in the romantic comedy about a woman in rural Ireland who is determined to start a romance with the man who lives on the cattle farm next door.

More of Today's Birthdays: Mary Philips 1901. Irene Sharaff 1910. Swen Swenson 1930. Arlene Golonka 1939.

Watch highlights from the 2013 concert Chita: A Legendary Celebration:

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