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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. A revue called Cranks was created by John Cranko. It opened in November of 1956. Though it lasted a scant five weeks, the show was the vehicle for the Broadway debut for a performer who was destined for greater things: Anthony Newley. Anthony Newley (1931 - 1999) was a British-born actor, singer, composer, lyricist and playwright. He began his career as a child actor when he played the role of the Artful Dodger in a 1948 film version of Oliver Twist. He had a successful career as a songwriter, recording artist and nightclub singer before he collaborated with Leslie Bricusse to write the score, lyrics and book for the hit musicals Stop The World -- I Want To Get Off (which he also directed and played the leading role in both London and New York productions) Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory and The Roar of The Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd.

In October of 1962, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse opened Stop the World - I Want to Get Off. Newley starred in the leading role. One of their songs became very popular and was recorded by a number of singers, "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" Newley once said he couldn't understand why his own recordings of songs he wrote were never popular in America. But, he said, when Sammy Davis Jr. recorded one of his songs, it became a hit in the States.

Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse returned to Broadway in May of 1965 with The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, a minimalist production that introduced two new popular songs: "On A Wonderful Day Like Today" and "Who Can I Turn To?" The show was choreographed by Gillian Lynne, her first Broadway musical. The show was nominated for seven Tony awards and cast member Joyce Jillson won the Theatre World award. The previous Newley/Bricusse show (Stop the World - I Want to Get Off) was born in London and moved to Broadway. The plan was to take Greasepaint to London after its Broadway birth, but plans changed and a London opening was scrapped after a disappointing New York run that lasted less than six months.

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