1879 The legendary Barrymore theatre family gets one more to add to its roster as Ethel Barrymore is born. Her father is actor Maurice Barrymore and her brothers are John and Lionel. Barrymore's triumphant career lasts almost five decades and includes leading roles in such plays as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet (as Ophelia), A Doll's House, and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. Barrymore gives many of her best-received performances in later life, notably as Gran in 1938's Whiteoaks and as Miss Moffat in the 1940 Emlyn Williams play, The Corn is Green. A theatre named in her honor stands at 243 West 47th Street on Broadway.
1880 Jacob J. Shubert, one of the three Shubert producing brothers, is born. Along with Sam and Lee, Shubert is responsible for some of the most popular Broadway entertainments, musical and non musical, during the first half of this century. While his brothers stress the business end of the business, it is J.J., as Jacob is called, who oversees most of the actual productions.
1887 Playwright and novelist Edna Ferber is born in Michigan. With George S. Kaufman, Ferber collaborates on The Royal Family and Dinner at Eight. Ferber's novel Show Boat is the basis for the groundbreaking Oscar Hammerstein II-Jerome Kern musical of the same name.
1988 Nell Carter and André De Shields Ain't Misbehavin' in the revival of the 1978 musical revue of Fats Waller's music. Co-conceiver Richard Maltby, Jr. directs the production, which opens on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre. The show lasts 176 performances.
1997 The Marx Brothers' "All Talking-Singing Musical Comedy Hit" The Cocoanuts is revived at Off-Broadway's American Place Theatre. The musical with book by George S. Kaufman and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin is adapted by Richard Sabellico for the American Jewish Theatre production.
2002 Hairspray, a stage musical adaptation of John Waters' cult film, opens on Broadway to raves. It goes on to win the lion's share of the 2003 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book, plus Best Leading Actor and Actress in a Musical for leads Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur. It stays at the Neil Simon Theatre for 2,642 performances.
2004 Charles Eaton, one of two surviving members of a once famous family of stage performers, dies at age 94. He was the most important performing male member of the clan once referred to as "The Seven Little Eatons," veterans of the Ziegfeld Follies. His sister, dancer Doris Eaton Travis (a highlight of Broadway's annual "Easter Bonnet" competitions)—the last remaining survivor—dies in 2010.
2012 Disney's Tony Award-winning musical The Lion King becomes the fifth longest-running show in Broadway history when it plays its 6,138th performance. The Lion King surpasses the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, which had previously held that position.
2013 Eric Anderson stars in Soul Doctor, a musical about the life and music of controversial Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, opening on Broadway at Circle in the Square. The production receives mixed-to-negative reviews, and closes after 66 performances.
Watch original Hairspray star Marissa Jaret Winokur talk to Seth Rudetsky: