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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. On September 5, 1896, Joe Weber and Lew Fields opened "Weber and Fields Music Hall" after re-working the old Imperial Music Hall in New York City. The variety-show duo wished to try their hand at music-hall entertainment, which, like variety, was another predecessor of vaudeville. Their first mounting was a spoof of In Old New York - The Heart of Maryland, called The Art of Maryland. This show was dropped within a week as the duo substituted their first major success, The Geezer. Their act had moved from variety to vaudeville to burlesque, as they made great fun of topical stories, characters and rival New York City entertainments. Joe Weber (born Joseph Morris Weber) and Lew Fields (born Moses Schoenfeld) were born seven months and a few blocks apart in the Bowery section of New York City in 1867. Childhood pals, they began performing together in 1877, telling jokes with the Dutch dialects they'd heard and funny suits they'd observed in their neighborhood. They had played in variety houses, burlesques and revues prior to trying the music-hall scene, but everything was based on comedy, much of which in their day was designed to poke fun at something or somebody. Burlesque, which has a specific target for comic arrows, and revues, which were less discriminating, were the favorite spoof forms of the day, and Weber and Fields made spoofs a fine art. The music halls of their day were a little different type of theatre, since most music halls were attached to a tavern, and food and wine were served during the performances! Weber and Fields were soon to have an impact on that form of theatre as well. Like Harrigan and Hart before them, their "Dutch knockabout" (low, physical humor) created hilarity for their audiences.

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