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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. The first musical for which Marc Connelly (1890 - 1980) provided lyrics was an amateur production of The Lady of Luzon, which opened in Pittsburgh in June of 1913. His Broadway debut came with Hip! Hip! Hooray! in 1915. "Cherub-faced writer/director Marc Connelly started out as a New York theatre critic. Eternally stagestruck, Connelly launched his formal theatrical career in musicals, then as a playwright, collaborating with George S. Kaufman on such Broadway hits as Dulcy, Merton of the Movies and Beggar on Horseback, all of which were later adapted to film. In 1930, Connelly won a Pulitzer Prize for his all-black stage production The Green Pastures; he was engaged by Warner Brothers to direct the 1936 film version of this play, though most of the 'traffic cop' duties on the set were performed by co-director William Keighley and cinematographer Hal Mohr. From time to time, Connelly was brought west to work as a screenwriter, though he tended to take an imperious attitude towards Tinseltown. Connelly spent most of the 1950s teaching drama courses at Yale University, then made his on-camera debut in Tall Story, repeating his Broadway stage performance; it was the first of several acting appearances for Connelly over the next decades, most of these confined to television. The author of several memoirs, Marc Connelly was at one time married to silent film actress Madeline Hurlock, who divorced him to marry another Pulitzer-winning playwright, Robert E. Sherwood." (Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide)

The first musical by composer Zoel Parenteau premiered in September of 1916. The score of The Amber Empress was well received by critics, but the show was considered a failure. Parenteau, an early collaborator of Marc Connelly's (who also contributed to The Amber Empress), wrote only one other unsuccessful score and a couple of songs for other musical productions before he gave up writing for musicals.

The first collaboration between Marc Connelly and George S. Kaufman was in 1917 with a musical they called Miss Moonshine. Years (and several additional collaborations between the two) later, in September of 1924, the show opened on Broadway as Be Yourself. The new show had music by Milton Schwarzwald and Lewis Gensler. Along with lyrics from Connelly and Kaufman, some lyrics were provided by Ira Gershwin.

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