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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. When A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened in May of 1962, it was the first complete score (music and lyrics) for a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim. The cast was populated by veterans like Zero Mostel, Jack Guilford and John Carradine. It was Carradine's lyric stage debut, and it was the first book musical for both Guilford and Mostel. Guilford was nominated for a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical, but fellow cast member David Burns won that award. Mostel won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Forum won the Best Musical Tony award. Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart wrote the book and won Tonys, as did Producer Harold Prince and Director George Abbott. One song became a hit: "Lovely."

Fiddler on the Roof opened in September of 1964 with a libretto by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. A solid hit, the show compiled a run of 3,242 performances, breaking the recently set record of Hello, Dolly!. Fiddler won the Tony and the Drama Critics Circle awards for Best Musical, along with eight additional Tonys. The cast included Zero Mostel, Beatrice Arthur and Bert Convy. Future film and TV star Adrienne Barbeau made her Broadway debut as a replacement player during the long run. Popular songs introduced in the show included "If I Were A Rich Man," and "Sunrise, Sunset."

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