Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 8 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 8 In 1981, Kevin Kline stars on Broadway in The Pirates of Penzance.
Rex Smith and Kevin Kline (center) with the cast of The Pirates of Penzance. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1900 Blanche Bates, who will go on to play Cho-Cho San in Madame Butterfly, stars in David Belasco's Naughty Anthony. Olive Redpath co-stars in the comedy at the Herald Square Theatre.

1906 Thomas Dixon's racist and historical revisionist drama The Clansman opens on Broadway, painting a sympathetic picture of the Ku Klux Klan. The drama runs 51 performances, ironically at the Liberty Theatre. It is later adapted to film by D.W. Griffith as The Birth of a Nation.

1911 Louise sings "I wonder how old I am?" in Gypsy, and here's the answer: Born today in Seattle, Washington is Rose Louise Hovick, later to become known as stripper supreme Gypsy Rose Lee. She appears on Broadway in Star and Garter, Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, and other shows, and her [largely fictionalized] memoir inspires the musical Gypsy.

1912 José Ferrer is born in Puerto Rico. He plays many roles and directs many shows on Broadway, but is best known for his 1946 Cyrano de Bergerac.

1913 A Good Little Devil adapted by Austin Strong from the French version by Rosemonde Gerard and Maurice Rostand, plays at the Republic Theatre for 131 performances. Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish are in the ensemble.

1928 Lighting designer Tharon Musser is born in Roanoke, Virginia. Musser's work accents Shinbone Alley and The Birthday Party, among others.

1959 It's Eighty in the Shade at London's Globe Theatre. Sybil Thorndike stars in the Clemence Dane drama, directed by Lionel Harris.

1981 Wilford Leach's hilarious and original staging of The Pirates of Penzance moves to Broadway following a hit summer run at the Delacorte Theater. Starring Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose, Rex Smith, Estelle Parsons, and Tony Azito, the production runs 787 performances, a Broadway record for Gilbert and Sullivan.

1989 42nd Street closes on Broadway after 3,486 performances—the longest run ever for producer David Merrick. The musical featuring music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin opened in 1980 and was awarded the Tony Award for Best Musical.

2005 A BBC telecast of Jerry Springer: The Opera draws 45,000 complaints—but also a respectable 1.8 million TV viewers in Great Britain.

2006 A Tony-nominated Fiddler on the Roof revival closes at the Minskoff Theatre. At the farewell party Rosie O'Donnell (Golde) helps co-star Harvey Fierstein (Tevye) shave off the beard he grew for the role.

2012 Elton John and Lee Hall's 2009 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Billy Elliot, closes on Broadway after 1,304 performances. The four young actors who rotate in the title role each play a section of the final performance. At the curtain call, they are joined by the original three Tony-winning Billy Elliots (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish) as well as several other past Broadway Billys.

2017 Cate Blanchett makes her Broadway debut in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The Present at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Andrew Upton adapted the play from Anton Chekhov's Platonov.

2019 Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy opens Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The music-filled play, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2013, follows the hopes and dreams of the young singers at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, an institution dedicated to the education of strong, ethical black men. The cast includes Jeremy Pope, Chuck Cooper, and Austin Pendleton.

More of Today's Birthdays: Stanley Prager (1917-1972). Larry Storch (b. 1923). Giorgio Tozzi (1923-2011). Soupy Sales (1926-2009). Elvis Presley (1935-1977). Graham Chapman (1941-1989). David Bowie (1947-2016). Harriet Harris (b. 1955). Jacquelyn Piro Donovan (b. 1965). Pierce Cravens (b. 1986). Cynthia Erivo (b. 1987).

PHOTO RECAP: Billy Elliot's Final Broadway Bow

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!