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First On Stage
Years ago, while teaching college courses in the History of American Musical Theatre, my research exposed numerous instances of innovation in the art form (“this was the first time…”) as theatrical technologies, along with musical styles and forms, evolved. I began to “collect” such phrases, which later included people, theatrical venues and other occasional oddities, into the collection and organized the data chronologically.
At this site, we focus on historical firsts. Innovation creates history, and this is a collection of innovative events, decisions and inventions. Among other things, the collection includes initial appearances of popular shows, songs and performers. Here, you’ll find descriptions of theatrical firsts in America from 1665 to 2000. Each “historical first” appears in bold type.
Generally, the New York opening is considered the finished form of any work (even if subsequent changes occur during the New York run). For the sake of maintaining some historical perspective, this site covers events through the 1999-2000 season.
Ongoing additions to the site include textual entries and pictures of people and theatrical venues. One project will soon offer links to audio files of songs in the public domain; other improvements may occur as they are invented or suggested.
We owe much to those who have assisted in the development and presentation of this material. Please see our “Cast & Crew” page. To everyone who appears there, I offer my deepest thanks.
Perhaps you will find something here that will initiate your own research. You might want to have an item considered for inclusion at the site (if so, please contact me). You might wish to correct an error that you find here (if so, by all means contact me). You may even find items that will pique your curiosity and motivate you to seek answers. We hope that this site will bring you closer to the theatrical art form that has proven time and again to be our most beloved: the musical.
Wayne Hamilton, MFA
First On Stage
Cast & Crew

Content Researcher/Author
Wayne Hamilton, MFA

Jim Moore

Opening Graphics
Dan Schletty & Richard Schletty

Content Contributors/Advisors
Bobby Golibart
Gerald F. Muller, DMA
Alan Pickrell, Ph.D.
First On Stage

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First On Stage Interesting Facts and Trivia about Broadway Musicals, Musical History, Musical Theater, People, Performers, and Songs. A collection of historical firsts in American musical theatre. Hilarities was not so hilarious in its two-week run on Broadway, after opening in September of 1948, but it was a vehicle for the debuts of Morey Amsterdam and Connie Stevens, both fresh from the night club scene. Amsterdam went on to play one of Dick Van Dyke's sidekicks on TV, while Stevens became a recording and television star.

April of 1960 brought the opening of Bye Bye Birdie. Dick Van Dyke (after a 16-performance debut in a Broadway revue called The Girls Against The Boys) and Chita Rivera starred. So Bye Bye Birdie was Van Dyke's Broadway debut in a book musical. It was Charles Nelson Reilly's Broadway debut and Michael J. Pollard's Broadway musical debut (he had already appeared in two straight plays on Broadway), and comic Kay Medford appeared in this show. Bye Bye Birdie introduced some popular songs, including "How Lovely To Be A Woman" "A Lot Of Livin'" and "Put On A Happy Face." Paul Lynde sang the funny and memorable lament of modern-day parents, "Kids." Michael Stewart wrote the book, his first for a musical, Charles Strouse the music and Lee Adams the lyrics, their first hit. Gower Champion directed, his first time in that role for a book musical. The show ran for a year and a half. Some historians also cite Bye Bye Birdie as the first show to employ the rock idiom. It won the Outer Critics Circle's Best Musical award in 1960 and the Tony for Best Musical and 6 other categories in 1961.

Comic Shelly Berman had his first appearance in a book musical on Broadway when A Family Affair opened in January of 1962 (he had, with Dick Van Dyke, appeared in the ill-fated, 16-performance revue The Girls Against The Boys in 1959). Other performers in the show included Rita Gardner, Larry Kert, Eileen Heckart, Morris Carnovsky and, in her Broadway debut, Linda Lavin. The book for A Family Affair was by James Goldman and William Goldman and the music was by John Kander, his first complete Broadway score.

Ladies and gentlemen, this first selection was randomly generated for your edification and delight!