Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 28

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 28
Florence Lacey, Jerry Herman, and Lee Roy Reams in <i>An Evening With Jerry Herman</i>
Florence Lacey, Jerry Herman, and Lee Roy Reams in An Evening With Jerry Herman Carol Rosegg

1920 Two of Broadway's greatest songwriting talents make their mainstem debuts: lyricst Lorenz Hart, age 25, and composer Richard Rodgers, age 18, open their first musical, Poor Little Ritz Girl, at the Central Theatre. The pair had missed the show's out-of-town tryout, and were surprised to discover at the New York opening that producer Lew Fields cut half their score, and inserted new songs by Alex Gerber and Sigmund Romberg.

1969 Broadway composer Frank Loesser dies at age 59. First a Hollywood lyricist, Loesser began to write his own music in 1942. He's remembered for his wide variety of musical styles displayed in the five musicals he composed for Broadway: Where's Charley?, Guys And Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, Greenwillow, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Among the most enduring songs written by Loesser are such Broadway and popular standards as "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," "Standing on the Corner," and "I Believe in You."

1998 An Evening With Jerry Herman opens at Broadway's Booth Theatre. Featuring the composer himself, along with Florence Lacey and Lee Roy Reams, the musical revue highlights some of Herman's greatest songs from his musicals, both hits (Hello, Dolly!, Mame, La Cage Aux Folles) and flops (Mack & Mabel and Dear World). After failing to find an audience during the slow summer months, however, the show is forced to close in late August, about a month earlier than originally announced.

1999 Second Stage Theatre presents Cheryl L. West's Jar the Floor at its new Eighth Avenue space. The cast of the play about four generations of African-American women features Regina Taylor, Irma P. Hall, and Lynne Thigpen. Marion McClinton directs the Off-Broadway production.

2000 Jesus Hopped the A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis opens at Off-Off-Broadway's Center Stage. The LAByrinth Theater Company's production starring John Ortiz alongside David Zayas, Elizabeth Canavan, Sal Inzerillo, and Ron Cephas Jones is helmed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, fresh from his stint in Broadway's True West. The "prison/court room/comic drama" transfers to Off-Broadway's East 13th Street Theatre later that year.

2002 Our Sinatra, the Off-Broadway revue saluting the music of Frank Sinatra, closes after 1,096 performances.

2005 Thar she blows! Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, Florida, presents the first major professional U.S. production of Moby Dick! The Musical. Cameron Mackintosh originally produced the quirky show—in which students at a girls' school put on a benefit musical based on the Herman Melville novel—in London's West End in 1993. The show is by Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye.

2012 The world premiere of All the Way, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan's dramatization of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first year in office, opens at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The cast includes Jack Willis as LBJ, Kenajuan Bentley as Martin Luther King Jr., and Peter Frechette as Sen. Hubert Humphrey. The play opens on Broadway in 2014, with Bryan Cranston in the lead role, winning Tony Awards for both Best Play and Actor in a Play.

Today's Birthdays: Joe E. Brown 1892. Rudy Vallee 1901. Darryl Hickman 1931. Jacques d'Amboise 1934. Georgia Engel 1948. Michael Hayden 1963.

Watch highlights from the 2014 Encores! production of Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella:

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