1898 Birthday of Gertrude Lawrence, longtime acting partner of Noël Coward (Private Lives, Tonight at 8:30) and star of musicals by the Gershwin brothers (Oh, Kay!, Lady in the Dark). She has her greatest success with her final show, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, in which she originates the role of Mrs. Anna.
1927 From Brighton Beach to Biloxi to Broadway, Bronx boy Neil Simon is born. He becomes one of America’s most prolific (and produced) playwrights with such plays as The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite, Barefoot in the Park, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Lost in Yonkers, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and The Dinner Party. He is also an accomplished librettist, writing the books for the musicals Little Me, Sweet Charity, They’re Playing Our Song, and The Goodbye Girl.
1942 This Is the Army, Irving Berlin‘s sequel to his World War I-era hit Yip, Yip, Yaphank, opens on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre. Featuring a cast of 300 soldiers, the revue includes Berlin himself singing his hit song “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.” Proceeds from ticket sales are used to benefit the Army Emergency Relief Fund, leading Kate Smith to reportedly send a check for $10,000 to pay for her two $27.50 opening-night tickets.
1999 Celebrating its 40-year anniversary as a theatre group, the San Francisco Mime Troupe presents Division Street, a musical about the urban housing crisis, in parks across the San Fran area. The Troupe was founded in 1959 by R.G. Davis, and in 1987 won the Regional Theater Tony Award for sustained excellence.
More of Today’s Birthdays: Pat Rooney (1880–1962). Irving Caesar (1895–1996). Philip Rose (1921–2011). Shirley Knight (1936–2020). Douglas Sills (b. 1960). Edie Falco (b. 1963). Ute Lemper (b. 1963). Tracy Letts (b. 1965). John Lloyd Young (b. 1975).
Look Back at the Shows Neil Simon Brought to Broadway