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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. In May of 1960 a musical opened off-Broadway in New York and ran for forty-two years and 17,162 performances. It holds the record as the longest-running musical in the world. This musical is The Fantasticks, written by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. Jones provided the book and lyrics, Schmidt wrote the music. The show introduced a song called "Try To Remember," which achieved some public popularity. That song, like two others from the piece, "Much More" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," were recorded by other entertainers outside the theatre. The Fantasticks won the Vernon Rice Award for Best Off-Broadway show in its opening season. In 2000, United Artists released a limited-edition film of the show starring Joel Grey and Barnard Hughes. The original cast consisted (entirely) of Jerry Orbach, Rita Gardner, Kenneth Nelson, William Larson, Hugh Thomas, Tom Jones (the librettist/lyricist), George Curley and Richard Stauffer. Orbach (1935-2004) was a popular television actor in the latter part of his career.

Robert Horton was a successful television actor who made his Broadway musical bow with 110 in the Shade by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, which opened in October of 1963. Though this was his only Broadway musical experience, Horton continued performing in musicals into the 1980s. The show was also the debut vehicle for Lesley Warren, though her middle name (Ann) appeared in later productions. Will Geer also appeared in this musical.

Gower Champion directed Robert Preston and Mary Martin in I Do! I Do! by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. After opening in December of 1966, the two-character show ran for over a year and introduced one hit song to the public: "My Cup Runneth Over."

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