Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: February 28

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: February 28
Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof.
Zero Mostel in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof.

1894 Birthday of playwright Ben Hecht, author or co-author of The Front Page, Twentieth Century, Jumbo, The Egoist, and The Great Magoo.

1915 Birthday of comedian Zero Mostel, who originates the roles of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the original movie version of The Producers.

1916 Novelist Henry James dies in London at age 73. Several of his novels become the basis for plays. Washington Square, which comes to life as The Heiress, is the most successful.

1939 That's tap dancing you hear. Dancer-choreographer-director Tommy Tune is born. He performs in shows such as Seesaw and My One and Only, and directs and choreographs Nine, Grand Hotel, and The Will Rogers Follies.

1955 Ben Bagley's Shoestring Revue has a big name cast. Chita Rivera, Bea Arthur, and Arte Johnson head the cast at the President Theatre in New York.

1959 Playwright Maxwell Anderson dies in Stamford, Connecticut. Among his many plays are Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, Anne of the Thousand Days, and The Bad Seed. He was 71 years old.

1979 Ernest Thompson's late-in-life drama On Golden Pond, which premiered Off-Broadway on September 13, 1978 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, transfers to Broadway. The play, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, runs 126 performances at the New Apollo Theatre. The play returns to Broadway three months after closing at the New Apollo, and runs for an additional 252 performances at the smaller Century Theatre.

1988 Robert Prosky and Sam Waterston play Russian and American negotiators trying to pull the world back from nuclear confrontation in Lee Blessing's Pulitzer finalist A Walk in the Woods, which opens at the Booth Theatre, beginning a 137-performance run.

1999 The Jason Robert Brown-Alfred Uhry-Harold Prince musical Parade, which opened at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater on December 17, 1998, closes after 85 performances. Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello starred in the show, based on the real-life Leo Frank case and tragic events that followed.

2002 Off-Broadway opening for Eve Ensler's drama Necessary Targets, about sexual violence against women during the early 1990s war in Yugoslavia.

2005 Jilline Ringle, a Barrymore Award-nominated actor-singer who was a bright spot in theatres and cabarets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cape May, New Jersey, dies at age 40 after an illness.

2008 Passing Strange opens at the Belasco Theatre after a successful Off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. A young black Californian who feels trapped by his suburban upbringing goes on a coming-of-age odyssey to Bohemian Amsterdam and Berlin in the musical narrated by the rock musician Stew, who co-composed the score with Heidi Rodewald. It runs 165 performances.

2013 Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg star in the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater world premiere of The Revisionist at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Written by Eisenberg, the play is about an antsy young novelist seeking refuge at a distant relative's flat in Poland.

2018 Harvey Schmidt, who earned his shining spot in theatre history as composer of the world's longest-running musical, The Fantasticks, dies at age 88. Along with lyricist Tom Jones, he also wrote the scores for 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!, and Celebration.

2019 The world premiere of John Logan and Tom Kitt's Superhero opens Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. Kate Baldwin, Kyle McArthur, and Bryce Pinkham star in the musical about a widowed mother, her comic book-loving son, and the mysterious stranger who lives in their building.

More of Today's Birthdays: Marcel Pagnol 1895. Molly Picon 1898. Vincente Minnelli 1903. Ketti Frings 1909. Charles Durning 1923. Gemze de Lappe 1925. Tom Aldredge 1928. Gavin MacLeod 1930. Kelly Bishop 1944. Mercedes Ruehl 1948. Bernadette Peters 1948. William Finn 1952. Brent Barrett 1957. John Turturro 1957. Robert Sean Leonard 1969.

Watch Tommy Tune perform "Fascinating Rhythm" in the 2015 Encores! staging of Lady Be Good at New York City Center:

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