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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. Late in April of 1968, Hair re-opened, this time on Broadway. It ran for 1,844 performances, so it was a solid hit. Some critics have called this production the first to successfully use rock music in a Broadway musical, even though rock themes and structures had been used earlier in Bye Bye Birdie and Your Own Thing. The best argument for that claim might be that the rock music in Hair may have been more consistently used throughout a production than ever before; in other words, all the music was rock music. The show did result in two hit songs: "Aquarius" and "Good Morning, Starshine." Two other songs also achieved some popularity and were recorded by rock groups outside the theatre: "Easy to Be Hard" and the title song. However, developers of material for the lyric stage did not immediately begin creating other rock scores. Another claim is that Hair was the first to employ complete nudity in a Broadway musical. This has been a subject of debate and will not be confirmed here; however, more nudity on the Broadway lyric stage followed. Galt MacDermot wrote the music for the show and Gerome Ragni and James Rado wrote the lyrics. Rado and Ragni also played the two male lead roles in the original production. Singer Melba Moore and actress Diane Keaton both debuted on Broadway in this production.

The opening of Purlie in March of 1970 saw the first performance of Cleavon Little in a book musical on Broadway. Though the music was uplifting and exciting, especially during the song "Walk Him Up The Stairs," no hits emerged from the piece, which was written by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose and Peter Udell. Music was from Gary Geld. Little won a 1970 Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Melba Moore's performance won her not only a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, but also a Theatre World award.

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