Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 24

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 24
Chuck Cooper as Tevye in Prince of Broadway
Chuck Cooper as Tevye in Prince of Broadway Matthew Murphy

1985 Playwright Morrie Ryskind dies in his home in Washington, D.C. He collaborated with George S. Kaufman, Ira Gershwin, and George Gershwin on the musicals Strike Up the Band, Let 'Em Eat Cake, and Of Thee I Sing. The last garnered Ryskind and cohorts the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He was 89 years old at the time of his death.

1986 A revival of The Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed 8 1/2-hour production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby opens on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. Once again directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, the play fails to catch on with audiences this time around, and closes a month earlier than originally planned, after 29 performances.

1988 Stage and film actor Leonard Frey, who appeared in the original production of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, dies of AIDS at age 49. Frey also appeared as Mendel, the Rabbi's son, in the original 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof, and received an Oscar nomination for his performance as Motel, the tailor, in the 1971 film version.

2008 The Phantom of the Opera puts down his mask for four performances at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway while technicians invade his lair and upgrade the sound system. Producers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh take the unusual step of temporarily closing down the longest-running show in Broadway history "to bring the production's sound design technology into the 21st century."

2013 Julie Harris, a towering figure of the American theatre in the decades following World War II, who created several iconic stage roles—collecting five Tony Awards along the way—dies at age 87. Her Tony wins were for John Van Druten's I Am a Camera, in which she was the first actor to play Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles on stage; The Lark, Jean Anouilh's rendition of the Joan of Arc story; the romantic comedy Forty Carats; The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, in which she played the title role; and The Belle of Amherst, where she portrayed poet Emily Dickinson.

2014 Disney's Newsies closes on Broadway after 1,004 performances. Alan Menken, Harvey Fierstein, and Jack Feldman's musical, based on the popular 1992 film, was nominated for eight Tony Awards, and won two: Best Score (Menken and Feldman) and Best Choreography (Christopher Gattelli).

2017 Prince of Broadway, a musical retrospective that charts the life and legendary career of director-producer Harold Prince, opens on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Prince and Susan Stroman co-direct a cast that includes Chuck Cooper, Emily Skinner, Tony Yazbeck, and Karen Ziemba. The production features biographical material and songs from many of the shows that earned Prince a record 21 Tony Awards, including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Evita, Sweeney Todd, and The Phantom of the Opera.

Today's Birthdays: James William Wallack 1795. Max Beerbohm 1872. Frank Craven 1881. Nedda Harrigan Logan 1899. Durward Kirby 1912. Stephen Fry 1957. Jessica Boevers 1972.

Watch highlights from Prince of Broadway:

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