This Week in Theatre History: January 25-30

POSTED January 25, 2021

Throughout this week in theatre history from January 25 to 30, the decades span from the early 1900s to the 2000s. This week there’ll be a musical based on a dark true story, the opening of an odd philosophical play, and the birth of a silver screen star.

First on January 25, 2000, Andrew Lippa’s musical “The Wild Party” began previews at the Manhattan Theatre Club. The show was based on Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 poem of the same name. Lippa’s “The Wild Party” was the first of two musicals of the same name and source material that opened in the 2000 New York season. Actors such as Brian d’Arcy James, Taye Diggs, and Idina Menzel starred in the show.

Then on January 26, 1975, Edward Albee’s play “Seascape” opened on Broadway at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre. The play tells the philosophical tale of giant talking lizards from the sea share their knowledge with a human couple. The play only lasted for 63 performances; however, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Frank Langella also won the Tony Award for Featured Actor in a play as the head lizard of the giant lizard society.

Later on January 27, 2006, a theatre tradition died out as Western Union discontinued its telegram and commercial messages services after 145 years. Until 2006, it was a tradition to send telegrams to theatres to congratulate the cast and crew on their opening night show. While many are thrown away, some people keep them such as Leonard Bernstein who kept the 140 messages he received on the opening night of “West Side Story”. Some came from leading stars of the day like lyricist Richard Rodgers.

A century earlier on January 28, 1908, the musical comedy “The Soul Kiss” produced by Florenz Ziegfeld opened at the New York Theatre. In the show, J. Lucifer Mephisto meets with a statue model who bets a million dollars that her sculptor boyfriend will be faithful for a year. That leads to the devil tempting him in order to win the bet. Some of the main stars include Ralph Hertz, the ballet dancer Adeline Genée, and Cecil Lean. The vaudeville musical performed for 15 weeks with 122 performances.

On January 29, 1998, the awaited musical “The Capeman” by Paul Simon opened up on Broadway. Based off the life of Puerto Rican murderer Salvodor Agron, the 16 year old became the youngest prisoner sentenced to death row after the murder of two teenagers. Simon found research in those who knew Agron and received help in developing songs based in Latin music. The show opened surprisingly with mostly negative reviews. Many enjoyed the music but the show suffered due to the book by Derek Walcott. The musical lasted for 68 performances but out-of-town critics and non-white New Yorkers generally enjoyed the show.

At last on January 30, 1911, actor Hugh Herbet Hipple or better known as Hugh Marlowe was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began his days on the stage in the 1930s at Pasadena Playhouse in California. He had a few appearances on stage. like in “Flight to the West”, but he shined more on the silver screen in the 40s onward. Some films he was a part of include “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “All About Eve”, and “How to Steal the World”.


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