This Week in Theatre History: December 7-12
POSTED December 7, 2020
During this early week in December 7th to the 12th, there’ll be the starring tv adaptation of “Angels in America”, plus the opening of two very short lived shows, and the opening of one of New York’s famous theatre halls.
Beginning on December 7, 2003, the first TV adaptation episode of “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner premiered. The show stars those such as Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson for the award winning play. Angels in America is a play that follows the stories of several characters while exploring themes such sexuality, religion, and the AIDS crisis. The miniseries was the most watched cable film in 2003 and received the first program in Emmy Award history to sweep every major category and won all 4 acting categories.
Second up on December 8, 1991, was the opening of one of Broadway’s biggest flops “Nick & Nora” opened at the Marquis Theatre and closed 9 performances later. The show is based off of “The Thin Man” characters Nick and Nora Charles who are attempting to solve the murder of a bookeeper in Hollywood. Despite the well-known cast and writers, the musical failed due to high costs, an extended preview period, and several script, song, and cast replacements. Against the odds, “Nick & Nora” was nominated a Tony for Best Original Score however William Finn’s “Falsettos” won that award.
Traveling back to December 9, 1974, the afterlife comedy “Who’s Who in Hell” by Peter Ustinov comes onto Broadway. Inspired by 70s politics, the show presents the President of the United States and the Chairman of the U. S. S. R. were recently assassinated by a young man who was then also killed. The three meet in a room that will lead them to heaven or hell. This play follows the track of Ustinov’s other plays “The Love of Four Colonels” and “Romanoff and Juliet” where political comments were taken in a humorous way. “Who’s Who in Hell” only lasted for 8 shows before closing on December 14, 1974.
Next up on December 10, 2006, the rock musical Spring Awakening opened onto Broadway. Based on a 1891 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, the show tells the story of 1890s German teenagers discovering and understanding adolescent sexuality. The show’s cast contained several Broadway stars such as Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Frozen) and Lea Michele (Glee, Les Miserables). The musical won an amazing amount of awards and it would have a praised revival in 2015. The 2015 revival of Spring Awakening was done in American Sign Language and English simultaneously which made it the first Broadway show to give interpretation to deaf/blind theatregoers.
On December 11, 1943, the New York City Center of Music and Drama opened with a concert by the New York Philharmonic. The Center was originally built in 1923 as the Mecca Temple for the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystics Shrine. After the shriners weren’t able to pay taxes on the building. The building was made into city property allowing for it to be transformed into a center for performing arts. Now the hall is used for dance company performances, the “Encores!” musical theater productions, and the Fall for Dance Festival.
Finally on December 12, 1932, the Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus version of “Alice in Wonderland” was produced at the Civic Repertory Theatre. The show starred Burgess Meredith, Joseph Schildkraut, and Eva Le Gallienne herself as the White Queen. This version of “Alice in Wonderland” would be the most successful adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland.” The production lasted for 127 performances and has been adapted into film and television.