Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: December 13

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: December 13
Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie.
Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

1925 Birthday of actor Dick Van Dyke, who appears on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie and The Girls Against the Boys, and creates memorable TV and film roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Poppins, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

1929 Birthday of Christopher Plummer, who wins Tony Awards for his performances in Cyrano and Barrymore, receives Tony nominations for J.B., Othello, No Man's Land, King Lear, and Inherit the Wind, and memorably plays Capt. Von Trapp in the film The Sound of Music.

1934 Opening night of musical revue Calling All Stars, featuring Mitzi Mayfair, Phil Baker, and, in her Broadway debut, comedian Martha Raye.

1951 Henry Fonda is at the Point of No Return. Paul Osborn adapted the John P. Marquand novel about an executive who always followed the rules then decided to be his own man. H. C. Potter directs.

1959 A Clean Kill written by Michael Gilbert, starring Peter Copley and Rachel Roberts, details the unnerving possibility of a pharmacist planning a murder. Directed by Alastair Sim, the thriller runs at London's Criterion Theatre for 142 performances.

1970 Maureen Stapleton is The Gingerbread Lady in Neil Simon's first drama. This story of an alcoholic singer's decline is staged by Robert Moore at the Plymouth Theatre. The production runs for 193 performances.

1979 Oklahoma! comes back to Broadway at the Palace Theatre, starring Laurence Guittard as Curly and Christine Andreas as Laurey.

1979 The Negro Ensemble Company presents Home by Samm-Art Williams, who is also in the cast. This show, about a young black man's resistance to fight in the Vietnam war, plays at the St. Marks Playhouse for 82 performances before transferring to Broadway.

1998 Nicole Kidman makes her Broadway debut in David Hare's The Blue Room, a transfer from London's Donmar Warehouse. Though nudity is brief for her and co-star Iain Glen, U.K. critics panted over the production's sexual wattage, one scribe going so far as to call the show "pure theatrical Viagra."

2009 Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music returns to Broadway with Catherine Zeta-Jones making her Broadway debut as Desirée Armfeldt and Angela Lansbury as her mother Madame Armfeldt. Directed by Trevor Nunn, the production was previously seen at London's Menier Chocolate Factory and in the West End. Zeta-Jones wins a Tony Award for her performance, and the production runs 425 performances.

2018 A new stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, with a script by Aaron Sorkin, opens at Broadway's Shubert Theatre. Jeff Daniels takes on the central role of Atticus Finch in the staging, which frames the Alabama-set story as a memory play as Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger) recalls the 1930s trial in which her father defended a black man accused of raping a white girl. Keenan-Bolger wins a Tony Award for her performance.

More of Today's Birthdays: Edward Childs Carpenter 1872. Marc Connelly 1890. Van Heflin 1910. Lillian Roth 1910. Robert Prosky 1930. John Davidson 1941. Maurice Hines 1943. Robert Lindsay 1949.

Watch highlights from the 2009 Broadway revival of A Little Night Music:

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