Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 21

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 21
Lillias White and Sahr Ngaujah in Fela!
Lillias White and Sahr Ngaujah in Fela! Monique Carboni

1951 Birthday of Lillias White, whose Broadway appearances include Effie White in Dreamgirls, Miss Jones in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti in Fela! In 1997, she wins a Tony Award for her performance as Sonja in The Life.

1955 The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company opens its production of Much Ado About Nothing at London's Palace Theatre. John Gielgud directs and stars, opposite Peggy Ashcroft. Much Ado is followed on July 26 by a production of King Lear.

1971 Fiddler on the Roof, which opened September 22, 1964, surpasses Hello, Dolly! as Broadway's longest running musical with 2,845 performances. The production finally closes its doors July 2 of the next year.

1976 A revival of Guys and Dolls features a cast composed entirely of African-American actors, led by Robert Guillaume, Norma Donaldson, and Ken Page. It runs 239 performances

1980 Peter Pan grows up—and gets married. The Tony nominated star of Broadway's then-current revival, Sandy Duncan, takes just enough time off from Neverland to marry A Chorus Line dancer Don Correia.

1998 Boxer-turned-TV star Tony Danza, known for his work on Taxi and Who's The Boss, takes over the lead role of Eddie in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. He succeeds Tony-winning Best Actor Anthony LaPaglia in the Tony-winning Best Revival of a Play about a man afraid of losing his niece and the security of his own sexuality.

1998 At 8:30 in the morning, a construction elevator falls from a high floor of the Conde Nest building on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd street, causing the scaffolding on the outside of the half-erected building to plummet to the ground. Damage caused by the accident forces nearby Broadway productions Cabaret and Side Man to cancel their performances. Side Man is able to resume July 28, but Cabaret is not be as lucky. Its home at the time, the Kit Kat Klub, proves to be inaccessible for nearly a month following the accident. By the time Cabaret resumes performances August 20, new leading ladies Jennifer Jason Leigh and Blair Brown are in the cast, with original stars Natasha Richardson and Mary Louise Wilson having missed their planned final performances. Come November, Cabaret moves out of the Kit Kat Klub into a larger venue twelve blocks away called Studio 54.

2006 Mako, the Japanese actor who earned a Tony Award nomination for playing the Reciter in the original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures, dies at age 72 at his home in Somis, California.

2008 Gladys Nederlander, a theatre producer and member of the powerful theatrical family that owns and operates theatres across the United States, dies in New York City. She was 83.

2011 The question of why mortals cling so passionately to life hangs in the air of the Maury Yeston-Thomas Meehan musical, Death Takes a Holiday, opening in a world-premiere Off-Broadway engagement at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre. Understudy Kevin Earley plays the title role on opening night, when British star Julian Ovenden becomes ill with laryngitis. Ovenden attempts to return to the role on August 2, but after being unable to get past the opening moments of the show, announces his permanent withdrawal from the production the following day.

2012 Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh lead the Sydney Theatre Company production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, opening at New York City Center for a ten-performance run as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Directed by Tamás Ascher, the production stars Blanchett as Yelena with Roxburgh in the title role.

2015 Theodore Bikel, a stage and film actor who played Captain von Trapp in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music, dies at age 91. Bikel received Tony nominations for his performances in The Sound of Music and The Rope Dancers, and played the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof more than 2,000 times on tour and at various venues.

More of Today's Birthdays: Don Knotts 1924. Jonathan Miller 1934. Penny Fuller 1940. Patricia Elliott 1942. Edward Herrmann 1943. Garry Trudeau 1948. Robin Williams 1951.

Watch highlights from the 2011 Off-Broadway production of Death Takes a Holiday, starring Julian Ovenden:

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