By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Sam Maher, Steve Luber and Anne Bradley
11 Nov 2013
1924 The original New York production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms opens at the Greenwich Village Theatre. Starring Walter Huston, Charles Ellis and Mary Morris, it will run for 49 weeks.
1937 The actors play in street clothes against an almost bare, brick backdrop in a production of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, which opens tonight at the Mercury Theatre. The production proves especially popular with the younger audiences because they "rejoiced over this bizarre business because it was in fashion," reports Burns Mantle in his "The Best Plays of 1937-1938". Playing Brutus is a young Orson Welles, also the producer and director. The production runs almost five months, racking up 157 performances.
1943 The songwriting team of Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe make their Broadway debut with a now-forgotten musical, What's Up?, which stars Jimmy Savo and was directed by George Balanchine. It runs just 63 performances at the National Theatre. But the team goes on to write Brigadoon, Camelot and My Fair Lady, among other shows.
1963 Christopher Plummer stars as a Hitler-like man who goes from nothing to dictatorial power, in the U.S. premiere of Bertolt Brecht's Arturo Ui. Despite Direction by Tony Richardson, incidential music by Jule Styne, and an impressive gathering of supporting talent, the production expires after just 8 performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
1985 The Golden Land, a revue recalling the golden days of the Yiddish theatre, opens at the Second Avenue Theatre and will run for 277 performances.
1990 Nigel Hawthorne weeps on stage and goes on to win a Tony Award for his performance as "Chronicles of Narnia" author C.S. Lewis in the drama Shadowlands, opposite Jane Alexander. It runs 169 performances at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
2000 Comic actress Lily Tomlin, still seeking answers to meaning in human existence, brings her 1985 solo hit, Jane Wagner's The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, back to Broadway tonight. Wagner re-approaches the show with a fresh eye in anticipation of the new millennium, according to a statement. In it, Tomlin portrays a teen punk, a wise bag lady, hookers, a fitness freak, a husband, a lesbian editor and others. The show will run 184 performances.
2001 Times Square's legendary "Polish Tea Room" (formally the Cafe Edison) is the setting for Neil Simon's latest comedy, 45 Seconds From Broadway, which has Lewis J. Stadlen, Judith Blazer and Marian Seldes popping off lots of theatrical insider jokes. Nevertheless, it stays just 73 performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, which is just across the street from the Edison's back door.
2004 New York sees a rare Tennessee Williams play premiere. The one-act play The Fat Man's Wife its NY debut as part of Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway Williams multiple-bill Five by Tenn featuring Robert Sella, Kathleen Chalfant and Penny Fuller.
2010 The Broadway bow of The Pee-wee Herman Show, starring Paul Reubens as Pee-wee, officially opens at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The cast includes three performers who created their characters in the original production of the work at the Groundlings Theatre in 1981: John Moody as Mailman Mike, John Paragon as Jambi the Genie and Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne.