1833 Birthday of master actor Edwin Booth, a major interpreter of Shakespeare and brother to actor Junius Brutus Booth and presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. Broadway's Booth theatre is named for him.
1906 Alla Nazimova makes her Broadway debut in the title role of Hedda Gabler at the Princess Theatre. A major interpreter of Ibsen's female central characters for three decades, she plays Hedda a total of four times on Broadway, and inspires two generations of actors.
1922 George S. Kaufman and Marc Connolly send up the nascent Hollywood phenomenon in the comedy Merton of the Movies, about a bumpkin who stumbles his way into becoming a movie star. It runs 398 performances at the Cort Theatre.
1929 Val Gielgud, John's brother, premieres his new play, Chinese White, at the Arts Theatre in London.
1930 Grand Hotel, by W.A. Drake and Vicki Baum, opens a 459-performance run at the National Theatre. The story of guests and employees at a Berlin hotel, whose lives intersect at random producing unexpected results, is later made into a film and, in 1989, a Broadway musical.
1963 Movie star Kirk Douglas stars as rebellious mental patient Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, based on the Ken Kesey novel. The Cort Theatre production is a flop, running just 82 performances. But an Off-Broadway production in the late 1960s proves a huge hit, leading to an Oscar-winning film, and a Tony-winning 2001 Broadway revival.
1973 Gigi, a stage musical based on the story by Colette and on the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe-scored film version, has an unlucky thirteen week life span at the Uris Theatre, despite a cast including Agnes Moorehead, Alfred Drake, and Daniel Massey. A 2015 revival of the musical, starring Vanessa Hudgens in the title role, has a similarly short run.
1974 Athol Fugard's double-bill of South African dramas Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island opens a 159-performance run at the Edison Theatre. Stars John Kani and Winston Ntshona share the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Play.
1997 Disney opens its second musical on Broadway: The Lion King, an adaptation of its animated film musical, with a score by Elton John, Lebo M, Tim Rice, and others. Making spectacularly innovative use of masks and puppets designed by director Julie Taymor, the show wins the 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical.
1997 Banquo and a banquet are yours for the taking at a special performance of Macbeth, opening at Off-Broadway's New Perspectives Theatre Company. A medieval banquet is served to audience members during the course of the play. The play-cum-banquet takes place at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The three course meal is created by Vibeke Fazakerley, the founder of the historical catering firm Primary Sauces in North London, England. Her sourcebooks for this particular meal include a 12th century Danish translation of the oldest-known European cooking document; the first course consists of Rostyd Beef, Buttered Wortys, Fysshe Hattes, and Brede.
2001 Roadside, the latest musical from Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, opens Off-Broadway at the York Theatre Company. It closes in late December within a month of the closing of their first musical, The Fantasticks, after a phenomenal 42-year run.
2003 There is as much drama offstage as on at one of the most talked-about shows of the fall, Taboo. Three-time Tony host Rosie O'Donnell makes her Broadway producing debut with the parable about the price of fame. Set in the '80s punk club world, the musical biography of rocker Boy George (George O'Dowd) has an original score by O'Dowd, incorporating two of his period hits. In a twist, O'Dowd appears on stage playing, not himself, but fellow party boy Leigh Bowery. Newcomer Euan Morton plays Boy George. After receiving savage reviews, the production runs 100 performances, with financial support by O'Donnell.
2008 Billy Elliot, the hit London musical based on the 2000 film about a working class boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, opens on Broadway at the Imperial Theare. The show has music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, who wrote the film. The demanding part of Billy is rotated among young actors David Alvarez, Kiril Kulish, and Trent Kowalik. The cast also features London star Haydn Gwynne as the dance teacher, with American stars Gregory Jbara and Carole Shelley as members of Billy’s family. It runs 1,312 performances.
2010 After a heralded summer run as part of Shakespeare in the Park, the Public Theater production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino as Shylock, opens on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. Director Daniel Sullivan stages the dark take on the tale of greed, love, faith, and vengeance, which brings a brutal pathos to Shakespeare's comedy.
2012 Broadway audiences are transported to Victorian-era London to help resolve Charles Dickens' final—and unfinished—tale as Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood opens on Broadway at Studio 54. The Rupert Holmes musical stars Stephanie J. Block as Drood, alongside Chita Rivera as Princess Puffer, Jim Norton as Chairman, Will Chase as John Jasper, Gregg Edelman as Reverend Mr. Crisparkle, Jessie Mueller as Helena Landless, Betsy Wolfe as Rosa Bud, and Andy Karl as Neville Landless.
More of Today's Birthdays: John Drew, Jr. 1853. Hermione Baddeley 1907. John La Touche 1914. Madeleine Sherwood 1922. Richard Mulligan 1932. Joe Mantegna 1947. Frances Conroy 1953. Whoopi Goldberg 1955. Jordan Roth 1975.
Watch highlights from the 2012 Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood: