Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: July 6

1939 A young Hollywood hopeful is forced to watch her own career fizzle as her boyfriend’s blossoms in Lew Brown‘s musical Yokel Boy. Lois January and Buddy Ebsen star in the new show, opening at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. There are 208 performances.

1944 Birthday of Tony Award winner Claude-Michel Schönberg, who begins his career in France as a record producer and singer, and later collaborates with Alain Boublil as composer and co-book writer of the long-running musicals Les Misérables and Miss Saigon.

1970 American actor Marjorie Rambeau dies at age 81. Most of her career was spent performing in stock companies, with credits including productions at the Burbank and Belasco Theatres in Los Angeles. Rambeau made her New York stage debut in 1913’s Kick In and subsequently appeared there in Cheating Cheaters and Eyes of Youth. She was twice nominated for an Academy Award.

1972 Actor Brandon de Wilde dies in Lakewood, Colorado. Born in 1942, he is only 30 years old at the time of his death. Winning the Donaldson Award for his performance in Carson McCullersThe Member of the Wedding at the age of seven, de Wilde became the youngest actor ever to receive that honor.

1999 Composer-lyricist Paul Gordon and librettist-director John Caird‘s musical Jane Eyre, based on the Charlotte Bronte novel, opens at Southern California’s La Jolla Playhouse. The story of an impoverished governess who falls in love with her employer opens on Broadway on December 10, 2000. Despite a handful of major Tony Award nominations, a Drama Desk Award for star Marla Schaffel, and a donation by songwriter Alanis Morrisette of $150,000 to keep it running, the show ends its journey June 10, 2001.

2000 The high-altitude comedy, The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair, begins performances at New York City’s 78th Street Theatre Lab. The ensemble-created piece explores the real-life Larry Walters, who launched himself to 16,000 feet in an aluminum lawn chair, with the help of 50 surplus weather balloons, where he was spotted by passing aircraft.

2001 Brooke Shields returns to Broadway as Sally Bowles in the Cabaret revival. Also today, pop singer, ’80s icon, and future Tony Award-winning composer Cyndi Lauper stars in David Henry Hwang‘s new musical Largo, which has a brief run at New York Stage and Film’s summer season at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theatre.

2004 Buddy Ebsen, the folksy star of television’s The Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones, who began his career as a popular Broadway dancer (and leading man in Yokel Boy), dies in Los Angeles at age 95. Ebsen’s seven-decade career began in New York, when he was cast in the chorus of the 1928 Eddie Cantor vehicle Whoopee! He danced with his sister Vilma in that and several other Broadway shows, as well as in clubs and on the vaudeville circuit. Ebsen was successful enough to be cast in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, where his co-stars included Fanny Brice and Eve Arden. He missed his chance at movie immortality when he withdrew as the Tin Man in the MGM musical The Wizard of Oz after developing an allergic reaction to the silver face paint.

2011 The London premiere of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman‘s musical Road Show opens at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Directed by John Doyle, the production stars Michael Jibson and David Bedella as brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner.

2016 John McMartin, a character actor who was equally adept in musicals and plays, dies at age 86. His career on the New York stage stretched from the 1959 Off-Broadway musical Little Miss Sunshine to the 2014 Broadway drama All the Way. A five-time Tony nominee, his notable roles included Oscar in the original 1966 Broadway production of Sweet Charity, and Ben in the original 1971 production of Follies.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Aleksander Pushkin 1799. Margaret Phillips 1923. Susan Johnson 1927. Donal Donnelly 1931. Ned Beatty 1937. Geoffrey Rush 1951. Christopher Ashley 1964.

Watch Lea Salonga, Stephanie J. Block, Jeremy Jordan, and more celebrate the songs of Miss Saigon and Les Misérables writers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg:

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