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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. November of 1932 saw the Broadway musical debut of Vivian Vance, who later starred on television as Lucille Ball's sidekick, Ethel Mertz, in the TV show I Love Lucy. She had come to New York from Kansas to study with Eva LeGallienne. The show was Music In The Air by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. Another famous name in this production was future film star Marjorie Main in her lyric stage debut; she had acted in straight plays since 1928 and started performing in movies in 1931. Music In The Air had "a cast of thousands" (89 actors) that included Al Shean and Walter Slezak. Shean was by then a well-known comedian, having been half of the Gallagher and Shean comedy team; Shean was also uncle to the Marx Brothers. Slezak was a film actor in Germany for ten years before coming to America, where he worked concurrently in film and theatre; Music In The Air was his second New York musical. A cast of this size would also include the famous "George Spelvin" (or Georgette Spelvin), a fictitious name often used by actors who wish to remain anonymous. Perhaps the person using that stage name was famous, perhaps not; but we'll never know.


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