Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 29

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 29
Brian d'Arcy James in Hamilton.
Brian d'Arcy James in Hamilton. Joan Marcus

1954 A star is born as Carol Haney's understudy in The Pajama Game goes on in place of the ailing actor and is discovered by theatre critic George Freedly. Writes Freedly in his review of the musical: "The night I saw the show, Miss Haney was sick and her understudy Shirley MacLaine took over. It was one of the most accomplished and completely professional performances I have had the pleasure of enjoying." It will not be long at all before the future Academy Award winner MacLaine comes to Hollywood's attention.

1983 Broadway's Alvin Theatre, home of the original Broadway production of Annie, is renamed in honor of celebrated American playwright Neil Simon. The Neil Simon Theatre goes on to house many Broadway smashes, including revivals of The King And I and The Music Man, and the original production of Hairspray.

1993 Howard Crabtree's Whoop-Dee-Doo!, the musical revue conceived, created and developed by Charles Catanese, Phillip George, Peter Morris, Dick Gallagher, Mark Waldrop, and its namesake, Howard Crabtree, opens at the Actors' Playhouse. Three years later, Gallagher, Waldrop, and Crabtree reunite for the revue When Pigs Fly, but Crabtree falls ill due to complications of AIDS and dies June 28, 1996 before the show's August 14 opening night.

2000 After three extensions at Chicago's Goodman Studio Theatre, Rebecca Gilman's comedy Spinning Into Butter gets to melt the hearts of New Yorkers. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show arrives at Lincoln Center Theater's Off-Broadway venue, the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre.

2003 Katharine Hepburn, the legendary Oscar-winning actor whose heart always remained close to the live theatre, dies at age 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a few miles from the Ivoryton Playhouse where she played early stage roles. Among her stage roles were Coco Chanel in the 1970 musical Coco, and Margaret Mary Elderdice in The West Side Waltz by Ernest Thompson, author of On Golden Pond (one of Hepburn's film hits). Her early Broadway triumphs included the original production of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story. She won four Leading Actress Academy Awards in her lifetime and was nominated 12 times in the category.

2006 Lloyd Richards dies at 87. The groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning, African-American director shepherded the work of playwrights Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson and served as the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference—the O'Neill Center's founding program—for 32 years. He also served throughout the 1980s as dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre.

2015 Patti LuPone stars as a headstrong community theatre diva in the world premiere of Douglas Carter Beane's semi-autobiographical play Shows for Days at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse. Michael Urie co-stars as Car, the playwright's impressionable and wide-eyed alter ego.

Today's Birthdays: H. H. Frazee 1880. Frank Loesser 1910. Ruth Warrick 1915. Ralph Burns 1922. Arthur Storch 1925. James Patterson 1932. Brian d'Arcy James 1968. Emily Skinner 1970.

Watch highlights from a 2014 concert version of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, starring Nathan Lane, Patrick Wilson, Sierra Boggess, and Megan Mullally:


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