Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 11 | Playbill

Playbill Vault Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: May 11 On this day in 1965, Liza Minnelli opens in her Broadway debut, Flora, the Red Menace, subsequently winning a Tony Award.
Liza Minnelli and cast of Flora, the Red Menace Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

1903 In The Runaways, with a book by Addison Burkhardt and a score by Raymond Hubbell, the hero is transported to a tropical island and will be made a king. The catch? He must marry the queen. The show runs nearly 21 weeks at Broadway's Casino Theatre.

1920 American author, critic, and playwright William Dean Howells dies in New York City. In his criticism, he championed the work of James A. Herne and Clyde Fitch. His plays include Yorick's Love, The Garroters, and The Mouse Trap (not to be confused with Agatha Christie's play of the same name). He was 83 years old.

1938 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart contribute music and lyrics for I Married an Angel at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. George Balanchine choreographs the story of a banker who looks for Ms. Right from above. Dennis King and Vera Zorina are featured for the 42-week run.

1959 Carol Burnett begins the path to her Broadway debut as Once Upon a Mattress premieres Off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre. George Abbott directs, and Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer provide the songs. Following a six-month run at the Phoenix, the production transfers to Broadway's Alvin Theatre, earning Tony nominations for Burnett's performance and for Best Musical.

1965 Liza Minnelli makes her Broadway debut at the age of 19 in Flora, The Red Menace, opening at the Alvin Theatre. Minnelli wins a Tony Award for her performance in the title role of the musical, which has songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and direction by George Abbott.

1983 Alan Lay Lerner and Charles Strouse adapt Robert E. Sherwood's play Idiot's Delight into the musical Dance a Little Closer, opening at the Minskoff Theatre. Len Cariou, Liz Robertson, and George Rose star. Following 25 previews, it plays a single performance, closing on opening night.

1994 A revival of the musical Grease opens on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Featured in director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun's cast are Megan Mullally, Rosie O'Donnell, and Billy Porter.

1999 Singer Gladys Knight joins the cast of the Leiber and Stoller revue, Smokey Joe's Cafe. She ends her stint in the stage show May 22, but returns for another go at it August 17–29.

2002 The original London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot's Cats closes after a record run of 21 years, on the anniversary of its opening night.

2005 West End opening night for smash musical Billy Elliot. With a score by Elton John, the production wins four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. It stays at the Victoria Palace Theatre for almost 11 years, playing a total of 4,600 performances.

2010 Doris Eaton Travis, the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who inspired 21st century audiences with her pluck, good will—and fancy footwork—at 12 of 13 annual Easter Bonnet Competition performances for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, dies at age 106.

2012 Paul Gross heads the cast of the world premiere of John Guare's Are You There, McPhee? at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey. Sam Buntrock directs the play about a playwright who is sucked into the tangle of the lives of a pair of abandoned children.

2016 Bobby Steggert stars as legendary French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the new musical My Paris, opening at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, it has music and lyrics by Charles Aznavour, book by Alfred Uhry, and English lyrics and musical adaptation by Jason Robert Brown.

Today's Birthdays: Irving Berlin (1888-1989). Martha Graham (1894-1991). Phil Silvers (1911-1985). Natasha Richardson (1963-2009). Mort Sahl (b. 1927). Boyd Gaines (b. 1953). George Dvorsky (b. 1959). Charlotte d'Amboise (b. 1964).

Watch Tony winner Billy Porter in the revival of Grease:

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