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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
2009
First On Stage
Cast & Crew

Content Researcher/Author
Wayne Hamilton, MFA

Programmer
Jim Moore
ReadyWebWare.com

Opening Graphics
Dan Schletty & Richard Schletty
SchlettyDesign.com

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. Wildcat, starring Lucille Ball (1911 - 1989), opened in December of 1960. Ball introduced the hit tune "Hey, Look Me Over." Playwright N. Richard Nash supplied the libretto, Cy Coleman the music and Carolyn Leigh the lyrics. This was Coleman's first complete score for a book musical; he went on to a distinguished career, earning fourteen Tony nominations and winning three for Best Original Score.

Neil Simon wrote his first libretto for a book musical when Little Me opened in November of 1962. Ironically, the star of this show was Sid Caesar, Simon's old boss. Caesar had not performed in a musical since Make Mine Manhattan in 1948. He made up for his absence from Broadway musicals by playing no less than seven roles in Little Me. Simon's book was based on a novel by Patrick Dennis, who also played a part in Little Me. The music was by Cy Coleman and lyrics were from Carolyn Leigh. One of their songs became a hit: "I've Got Your Number."

January of 1966 brought Sweet Charity to Broadway. Conceived, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse as a vehicle for his wife and star Gwen Verdon, the show had music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and a book by Neil Simon. It also introduced two hits: "If My Friends Could See Me Now" and "Big Spender." The original production of Sweet Charity was also the first and only Broadway musical appearance for future TV comedienne Ruth Buzzi (Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In), though she had previously appeared in numerous musical revues off-Broadway.

The Will Rogers Follies boasted several veterans on its creative staff: book by Peter Stone, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune. The show opened in May of 1991 and ran for nearly a thousand performances, winning six Tonys, including Best Musical, plus the Drama Critics and Drama Desk awards for Best Musical. Keith Carradine, who had been a replacement player in the original production of Hair, played the title role. Gregory Peck recorded his voice in the role of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., which was featured in performances. Although Peck had appeared in three straight plays on Broadway during the 1940s, this was his first non-appearance in a Broadway musical.


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