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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. A London import called Charlot's Revue opened in January of 1924 and introduced three British musical stars to American audiences: Jack Buchanan (1891 - 1957), Gertrude Lawrence (1898 - 1952) and Beatrice Lillie (1894 - 1989).

In 1926, the Gershwin brothers united with Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse and (only a little later) Howard Dietz to create and, in November, open Oh, Kay. Considered by many a landmark musical, the show featured the first public performances of several Gershwin hits, including "Do-Do-Do," "Maybe" and the very popular "Someone To Watch Over Me." In addition, while it was not her first professional appearance in America, the show certainly established Gertrude Lawrence (1898 - 1952) as a star. Among other hallmarks in her remarkable career, it was Lawrence who introduced Rodgers and Hammerstein to the story that led to their creation of The King and I, in which she played the original Anna.

In March of 1951, Rodgers and Hammerstein brought several of their most popular songs to the public's attention for the first time. The songs were wrapped in one of their most popular musicals, The King and I. Specifically, they included "I Whistle A Happy Tune," "Hello Young Lovers," "Shall We Dance?" and a tune that was originally written for South Pacific: "Getting To Know You." This was the only show the composers ever created for the talents of an individual performer. In this case the performer was Gertrude Lawrence, who had brought the idea for the show, based on a book titled Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Langdon, to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Despite their penchant for Americana in their works, the pair agreed it would make a worthy musical. Yul Brynner played the King.

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