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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 musical created entirely by one man fared far better than Frank Loesser had with writing music and lyrics for Most Happy Fella: The Music Man by Meredith Willson. Willson's piece, which was based on a story by Franklin Lacey, opened in December of 1957, starring Robert Preston in his first Broadway musical. Preston had been a minor player in films and had turned to straight plays when the opportunity came for him to play Harold Hill, a role that brought him fame and stardom. Barbara Cook played the original Marian. Willson's work introduced a number of hit songs, including "Seventy-six Trombones," "Trouble," "Lida Rose" and "Till There Was You." West Side Story opened in the same season as The Music Man. It was set in modern-day New York and confronted the audience with some unpleasant realities of city living. But when it came time for awards to be given out, The Music Man walked away with the lion's share of honors. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1958, winning eight, including Best Musical, Best Actor in a musical (Robert Preston), Best Supporting or Featured Actor and Actress in a musical (David Burns and Barbara Cook), Best Authors of a musical (Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey), Best Producers of a musical (Kermit Bloomgarden, Herbert Greene and Frank Productions), Best Composer and Lyricist of a Musical (Meredith Willson), and Best Conductor and Musical Director (Herbert Greene). The Music Man also won Best Musical honors from both Critics Circles. That season, West Side Story won Tonys for Best Scenic Designer (Oliver Smith) and Best Choreographer (Jerome Robbins).

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!