Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 15

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: June 15
Esther Hannaford with King Kong in the musical <i>King Kong.</i>
Esther Hannaford with King Kong in the musical King Kong. Jeff Busby

1894 Birthday of Robert Russell Bennett, orchestrator of Broadway classics including the original Sunny, Show Boat, Anything Goes, Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and The Sound of Music. In 2008, he was posthumously honored with a special Tony Award in "recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations."

1961 Bye Bye Birdie opens at London's Her Majesty's Theater. Chita Rivera, the star of the original Broadway production, reprises her role opposite Marty Wilde, Peter Marshall, and Angela Baddeley. The West End staging of the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical lasts 268 performances.

1965 Legendary theatre is made when the husband-and-wife team of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy open in The Cherry Orchard at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Variety hails the production as "the outstanding presentation of the Chekhov classic in a lifetime of theatregoing and would be a credit to any company." Cronyn and Tandy continue to grace the stage together for many years to come in such productions as Foxfire and The Gin Game.

1966 The New York Shakespeare Summer Festival is under way as Central Park's Delacorte Theater opens for its summer season. Among this year's productions: All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III, featuring such talents as Christopher Walken, Barbara Barrie, and Richard Jordan.

1980 The life and loves of Frank Harris are set to music in the musical Fearless Frank, opening at the Princess Theatre. The short-lived homage runs only 12 performances.

1983 Samuel Beckett is examined in three parts as his Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe, and What Where are presented Off-Broadway at the Harold Clurman Theatre. The evening of one-acts runs 350 performances until it closes April 15, 1984. Alan Schneider directs a cast that features David Warrilow, Rand Mitchell, Donald Davis, Daniel Wirth, and Margaret Reed.

1995 Michael John LaChiusa makes his Broadway debut writing additional music to Bob Telson's score to Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a musical directed by Graciela Daniele, based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez. It runs just 37 performances, but is nominated for Best Musical in the 1996 Tony Awards.

2000 Kelsey Grammer returns to Broadway for the first time since 1982 in the title role of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Though initially announced to run 60 performances at the Music Box Theatre, it closes 10 days later after receiving mixed to negative reviews.

2002 Robert Whitehead, who, over a 50-year career produced landmark stagings of everything from Arthur Miller to Euripides to Terrence McNally, dies at age 86, just two weeks after receiving a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

2003 After touring North America consistently since 1988, the third national company of Les Misérables, the Cameron Mackintosh-produced musical, takes a summer hiatus after its Utah engagement ends.

2011 Lend Me a Tenor The Musical, based on the hit Ken Ludwig stage comedy, opens in London at the West End's Gielgud Theatre. The musical features book and lyrics by Peter Sham and music by Brad Carroll.

2013 The world-premiere musical King Kong, a rock-fueled spin on beauty and the beast, opens at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia. It has a book by Craig Lucas and features a six-meter-tall puppet designed by Global Creatures that brings the massive silverback ape to life. Composer and arranger Marius de Vries created and oversees a score that features revamped versions of 1930s Broadway classics like "Get Happy," "I Wanna Be Loved By You," and "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," as well as new and existing songs from Robert Del Naja from Massive Attack, Sarah McLachlan, Justice, Guy Garvey from Elbow, and The Avalanches. A version of the musical, with a different creative team, opens on Broadway in 2018.

More of Today's Birthdays Mickey Katz 1909. Laurie Anderson 1947. Simon Callow 1949. Polly Draper 1955. Julie Hagerty 1955. Helen Hunt 1963. Adam Rapp 1968. Neil Patrick Harris 1973. Rob McClure 1982.

Watch highlights from the 2013 Australian production of King Kong:

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