Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 16 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 16

Happy birthday, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast of Hamilton Joan Marcus

1908 or 1909 or 1912 There's no birthday like Merm's birthday. Ethel Zimmermann is born in Astoria, New York. In years to come, she acts and belts all over town as Ethel Merman. She gives all three birth years.

1912 No word is ever spoken in Sumurun, billed as "a wordless play in nine tableaux" set in a sheik's harem, which opens at the Casino Theatre and runs 62 performances. Max Reinhardt's production is imported from Berlin's Deutsches Theatre.

1933 George M. Cohan scripts and stars in comedy Pigeons and People. The intermissionless production plays 70 performances at the Harris and Lyceum Theatres in New York before heading out on tour.

1935 Actually, the opening night is September 16, but the play is Night of January 16. The Ambassador Theatre is the site of a nightly trial in Ayn Rand's drama. Members of the audience are sworn in and endings are written to suit either a guilty or innocent verdict. Walter Pidgeon and Doris Nolan are in the courtroom.

1958 Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft are Two for the Seesaw at the Booth Theatre. The comedy about a married man and the younger woman who helps him "find" himself runs 750 performances. William Gibson penned the script. It is later adapted into a film starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine and still later into the Broadway musical Seesaw.

1964 Say Hello, Dolly! Carol Channing stars as the musical Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi at the St. James Theatre. Adapted by Michael Stewart from Thornton Wilder's play The Matchmaker, it has music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Gower Champion directs and choreographs. It runs 2,844 performances, which makes it, briefly, the longest-running Broadway musical ever.

1967 Zoe Caldwell plays a teacher who instructs her students in how to have peak moments in their lives in Jay Allen's drama The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which opens at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre and continues for 379 performances. Maggie Smith wins an Academy Award for her performance in the film adaptation.

1980 Tony, Pulitzer, Grammy, and Emmy winner Lin-Manuel Miranda is born in New York. He both writes and stars in the Tony Award-winning musicals In the Heights (music and lyrics) and Hamilton (book, music, and lyrics).

2000 Smokey Joe's Cafe, the longest-running revue in Broadway history, closes after 2,036 performances. The musical features words and music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

2006 McHale's Restaurant, the unofficial watering hole for Broadway's tech folk and their friends, closes after decades at the corner of 46th Street and Eighth Avenue. It is demolished to make way for one of the new high-rises springing up across the Theatre District.

2014 The first Broadway revival of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal opens on Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre. Rebecca Hall stars as real-life murderer Ruth Snyder, who was executed for killing her husband in 1928.

2020 Les Misérables officially reopens London's newly restored and renamed Sondheim Theatre. The show would temporarily close later that year due to the COVID pandemic and then resume performances on September 25, 2021. 

More of Today's Birthdays: Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937). George Kelly (1887-1974). Irene Bordoni (1885-1953). Debbie Allen (b. 1950). Liz Larsen (b. 1959).

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