Before there was the glorious musical On the 20th Century in 1978, there was first its source, a Broadway comedy from 1932 simply titled Twentieth Century. It’s the story of a down-on-his-luck producer/director, Oscar Jaffe, who finds himself, after a disastrous opening night of his latest show in Chicago, fleeing…

Larry Blyden, Alan Alda and Barbara Harris in “The Lady or the Tiger”, Act Two of “The Apple Tree” (1966).

At the close of Friday’s column, I posed a few questions about The Apple Tree (1966) that I promised to answer in this second part, which I will. …

The transcendent Barbara Harris in two of her many guises in “The Apple Tree” (1966).

If you’re as much a fan of original cast recordings as I am, you might find yourself inexplicably humming or singing tunes to yourself (or even out loud) with no rhyme or reason as to why it’s in your head. …

Sidney Poitier (with Claudia McNeil) in the Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959).

Though most are familiar with his remarkable career, it might come as a surprise that Sidney Poitier had to overcome the handicap as a young man of arriving in America and barely speaking English. In 1943, at age fifteen, his family came to Miami from their native Bahamas. A year…

The poster for the original Broadway production of “Oliver!” (1963).

Whenever I think about the musical Oliver!, I’m struck by how over the years its exclamation point feels so earned due to its worldwide success. After wowing audiences in 1960 with its tryout in Wimbledon, England, it moved quickly to the West End where it became the longest running British…

Ruth Gordon (1934).

On this date in 1944, a hit comedy opened at the Music Box Theatre titled Over 21. A semi-autobiographical play, it marked the debut of a writer who was already a renowned Broadway and film star: Ruth Gordon. Forty-eight at the time and having already been on the Broadway stage…

Patricia Morison and Alfred Drake in “Kiss Me, Kate” (1948).

Seventy-three years ago tonight, the original Broadway production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate opened at the New Century Theatre (now demolished). The musical, a clever show-within-a-show about a troupe of eccentric actors performing Taming of the Shrew, provided a late career triumph for the composer (he was fifty-seven). His…

Harvey Evans (1941–2021).

On Christmas Eve, Broadway veteran Harvey Evans passed away at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of eighty (he would have turned eighty-one on January 6th). One of the best-loved members of the New York theatrical community with fifteen Broadway shows to his credit (all…

A Grinch-like David Merrick, as drawn by Al Hirschfeld.

If you’re like me, a handful of familiar Broadway show songs routinely play in your head the full month of December. Atop my tune stack is always “We Need a Little Christmas,” Jerry Herman’s felicitous tune from Mame (though sung in the show at Thanksgiving). Visions of Rentand its infectious…

Edward G. Robinson’s commemorative 32 cent U.S. postage stamp, issued in 2000.

It would have been virtually impossible for me to have ever seen the actor Edward G. Robinson (1893–1973) on the stage, as when he played Broadway for the last time, it was in Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Nightin 1957 — the year I was born. Renowned as a film…

Ron Fassler

Author, playwright, director, actor, theatre critic and historian, his book, “Up in the Cheap Seats,” is available at Amazon.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store