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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: February 21


1879 John Wellington Wells deals his magic and spells for the first time on Broadway with the American premiere of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Sorcerer at the old Broadway Theatre.

1928 A killer octopus threatens a group stranded in a lighthouse in Ralph Murphy and Donald Gallagher’s oddly-titled thriller Sh, the Octopus. It runs 47 performances at the Royale Theatre and is later filmed.

1938 Wine of Choice proves bitter for a woman smitten with a dedicated Marxist who has no time for love. The Theatre Guild produces the S. N. Behrman comedy, with a cast that includes Alexander Woollcott. It runs 43 performances.

1958 Portofino gives the first of its three performances at the Adelphi Theatre. Helen Gallagher stars in the show, written by Louis Bellson, Will Irwin, Richard Ney, and Sheldon Harnick.

1961 The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley is revived for the first time since the 17th century. London’s Royal Court Theatre production stars Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, and Zoe Caldwell. Tony Richardson directs.

1972 Moonchildren beam into the Royale Theatre in New York. Michael Weller captures the Flower Power sweeping America’s colleges. This production closes after only two weeks.

1991 Neil Simon preserves his stronghold on Broadway as Lost in Yonkers opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The Tony and Pulitzer-winning comedy/drama stars Mercedes Ruehl, Irene Worth, and Kevin Spacey.

2002 Elaine Stritch opens her solo show Elaine Stritch at Liberty at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre. The show wins the 2002 Tony Award for Best Special Event.

2008 The Menier Chocolate Factory’s hit London production of Sunday in the Park With George comes to Studio 54 with London leads Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell. Directed by Sam Buntrock, the production is notable for the use of animated drawings (designed by Timothy Bird) to illustrate the progress of the painting that forms the show’s centerpiece.

2019 Joel Grey directs a revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof—performed entirely in Yiddish—Off-Broadway at Stage 42. The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene production began life in an extended run at the the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan. Steven Skybell stars as Tevye, opposite Jennifer Babiak as his wife Golde, and Jackie Hoffman as village gossip and matchmaker Yente.

Today’s Birthdays: Sacha Guitry (1885-1957). Rue McClanahan (1935-2010). David Geffen (b. 1943). Tyne Daly (b. 1946). Alan Rickman (1946-2016). Christine Ebersole (b. 1953). Kelsey Grammer (b. 1955). Andréa Burns (b. 1971). Tituss Burgess (b. 1979). Corbin Bleu (b. 1989).

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