Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 9

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: December 9
A scene from Dance of the Vampires.
A scene from Dance of the Vampires. Paul Kolnik

1902 Birthday of actor Margaret Hamilton, who appears on Broadway in plays including The Farmer Takes a Wife, The Dark Tower, Goldilocks, and a revival of Our Town, but who will forever be remembered as The Wicked Witch of the West in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

1903 U.S. premiere of George Bernard Shaw's drama of the Life Force, Candida, starring Dorothy Donnelly and Arnold Daly at the Princess Theatre.

1903 Jane Cowl makes her New York debut in Sweet Kitty Bellairs, a comedy by David Belasco.

1911 Mrs. Patrick Campbell stars as an opportunist trying to give her husband a Bella Donna at London's St. James's Theatre. J.B. Fagen adapted the play from Robert Hichens' novel. Also appearing are Lydia Branscombe and George Alexander. There are 253 performances.

1931 It looks like Springtime for Henry at the Bijou Theatre. Benn W. Levy's comedy offers a look at a man intrigued by his new secretary [a likely story!]. Leslie Banks, Helen Chandler, and Nigel Bruce appear in the 199 performance run.

1953 José Ferrer stars in a limited engagement of William Shakespeare's Richard III at New York's City Center. The cast also includes Vincent Price as the Duke of Buckingham, Maureen Stapleton as Anne, and Florence Reed as Queen Margaret.

1968 The National Repertory Theatre loses its control over the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. The new managers are the Circle in the Square company of New York.

1973 Hal Linden and Barbara McNair play Sid and Babe as an interracial romance in a revival of The Pajama Game, directed by George Abbott, also starring Cab Calloway and Tiger Haynes. It runs 65 performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

1974 Peter Ustinov and George S. Irving play the just-assassinated leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S.A., in Ustinov's oddball afterlife comedy, Who's Who in Hell, which runs 8 performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Also in the distinguished cast: Olympia Dukakis, Josef Sommer, and Beau Bridges.

1999 Ann Hampton Callaway, Everett Bradley, and Laura Benanti star in Swing!, a musical revue featuring swing music by various composers such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. The lively show runs for a substantial 461 performances and receives six 2000 Tony Award nominations including one for Best Musical.

2002 One of the most memorable flops of the new century opens at the Minskoff Theatre: Dance of the Vampires, a campy musical about vampires stalking the European village of Lower Belabartokovich. Jim Steinman, who wrote many songs for rocker Meat Loaf, rolls out his first full Broadway score. The production had been a long-running hit in Austria and Germany, but after six weeks of previews on Broadway it staggers on for 56 performances after critics hammer stakes into its heart. The show marks the (brief) return to Broadway of Phantom of the Opera star Michael Crawford as the bloodthirsty Count von Krolock.

2007 Mark Twain's 1890's farce Is He Dead? gets its long-delayed Broadway debut after the manuscript is rediscovered by a researcher, and playwright David Ives does a contemporary adaptation. Norbert Leo Butz, Jenn Gambatese, Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath, and John McMartin are featured in the cast.

2018 The world premiere of Jeremy O. Harris' Slave Play, directed by Robert O'Hara, opens Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. The play, which looks at race, gender, and sexuality in 21st-century America, transfers to Broadway the following year.

More of Today's Birthdays: Broderick Crawford 1911. Dina Merrill 1925. Dick Van Patten 1928. Buck Henry 1930. Judi Dench 1934. Michael Nouri 1945. John Malkovich 1953. Donny Osmond 1957. Mario Cantone 1959.

Watch Mandy Gonzalez talk to Seth Rudetsky about appearing in Dance of the Vampires on Broadway:

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