Wednesday, January 16, 2013

50 Years Ago in 1963

1963 Long Running Broadway Shows

I recently stumbled on an article about celebrities turning 50 this year. The list included the likes of Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Michael Jordon, John Stamos, Edie Falco, Vanessa Williams et al. The article was of interest because I personally know quite a few people who are also turning 50 this year. Between the number of celebrities and people I know, I had to ask a recent quinquagenarian - what the heck was going on in1963?

The birth rate in 1963 wasn't unusually high relative to the year before and after it. So, I am not quite sure why so many new quinquagenarians. However, several noteworthy events occurred in 1963. Some are nicely summarized in the MarketWatch article 10 ways 1963 changed your life. To name a few: 
  • The first James Bond film opened in the US;
  • Push button phones came on the scene; 
  • Beatlemania;
  • "I Have a Dream" speech; and
  • JFK's assassination. 

Naturally, as a fan of the theater, I became curious about the Broadway shows that opened in 1963. An IBDB search revealed 71 productions opened. The productions that ran the longest were:

Longest running Broadway shows that opened in 1963

Around half of the 71 productions played 50 or fewer performances, including a Danny Kaye revue, a Martha Graham dance show, the Jack Benny show, and a Maurice Chevalier concert. Man and Boy and The Milk Train Doesn't Live Here Anymore which had NYC stage revivals in 2011 both opened that year. William Inge's Natural Affection also opened that year; the playwright's Picnic from 1954 just opened this week on Broadway. Edward Albee's adapted The Ballad of the Sad Cafe opened in October; now his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which opened the prior October and played into the Spring of 1964, is enjoying a strong 50th anniversary revival on Broadway.

The biggest hit and flop for the 62/63 season according to Peter Filichia's Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season (1959-2009) were:
The Biggest Hit: Oliver! (our first British megahit) 
The Biggest Flop: Hot Spot (a Peace Corps musical)
From a Tony Award perspective, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? took home best play and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (beating Oliver!) took home best musical at the 17th Tony Award show. The following year, John Osborne's Luther took home best play (beating Barefoot in the Park) and Hello, Dolly! took home best musical beating She Loves Me.

Needless to say, I learned quite a bit as I reflected on 1963. Who knew that zip codes were put in place then and that had Whitney Houston (Google's most search term in 2012) not pass away last year, she would have celebrated 50 this summer. Remember the song On Broadway, well The Drifters made it a hit in '63. And finally, I discovered a few new plays that haven't been revived on Broadway since 1963; I'll certainly be adding them to my reading list.

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