1983: ‘Cats’ Wins Tony for Best Musical
Though mocked by many, on this day in 1983, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats won the Tony Award for best musical. It was the second longest running show on Broadway history (the longest was Webber’s Phantom of the Opera). Based on a collection of poems from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, Cats ran on Broadway from 1982 until 2000 with Betty Buckley and Elaine Page in notable roles. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed during the entire run of the show! The show has been translated into more than 20 languages (how many ways can you say “meow”?), in 1998 it was made into a made-for-television film and during the Christmas season in 2019, it was turned into a hybrid computer animated motion picture. However, unlike the stage musical, did not do well at the box office.
1851: ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ Serial Story is Published in Newspaper
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous anti-slavery story, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or Life Among the Lowly) was first published as a 40-week serial in The National Era an abolitionist periodical beginning on this day in 1851. The story depicted the realities of slavery why also promoting the ideal that Christian love could overcome it. It is credited for helping start the beginning of the Civil War. The story was to only run for a few weeks, but Stowe ended up expanding the story a lot and it was a very popular read. Later, Publisher John P. Jewett approached Stowe about the possibility of printing the whole story as a book. She wasn’t convinced that anyone would read it in book form. The published book came out on March 20, 1852 and sold 3,000 copies on that day alone. Later, 300,000 copies of the book were sold during the first year. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln described her as “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”
1956: Elvis Presley Shocks Fans and Upsets Critics
After appearing on several episodes of CBS’s Stage Show in early 1956, Elvis Presley then appeared on The Milton Berle Show on NBC on April 3 while on deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego. His performance was a real hit with the sailors but his next performance on the show received raised eyebrows. It was on this day in 1956 that Berle asked Elvis to leave his guitar backstage saying, Let ‘em see you, son.” Well, he did. During the song “Hound Dog,” Elvis stopped part way through to show off his grinding skills and gyration talent which did not go unnoticed. Some critics claimed that he had no singing ability while others started referring to the singer as “Elvis the Pelvis,” something he was not fond of stating that it was “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin’ from an adult.” Ed Sullivan hated the performances and declared that the crooner was “unfit for family viewing.” However, he softened when Presley later made an appearance on The Steve Allen Show and the episode beat Sullivan’s in the ratings for the first time. Sullivan then welcomes Elvis to perform on his stage on September 9 of the same year.
- 1919: Richard Scarry (author and illustrator)
- 1951: Suze Orman (financial adviser)
- 1956: Kenny G. (saxophonist)
- 1971: Mark Wahlberg (actor)
- 1980: Mike Fisher (hockey player)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.