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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. After dancing in New York City clubs, Ruby Keeler (1909 - 1993) appeared in her first musical, Bye, Bye Bonnie, at the tender age of 18. That same year, 1927, saw Keeler in two other musicals, Lucky (in which she played a leading role) and The Sidewalks of New York. To top off the year, Florenz Ziegfeld asked her to appear in his new musical, titled Whoopee!, but she left the show before its New York opening. Legend has it that Keeler left the cast of Whoopee! because she had fallen in love with Al Jolson during a screen test in Los Angeles. She married Jolson in 1928 and he convinced her to opt out of the Ziegfeld production. Her fame, of course, comes from her participation in the fabulous film musicals of the 1930s, including the theatrical-insiders' favorite, 42nd Street, Keeler's second film.

Florenz Ziegfeld mounted Show Girl in July of 1929. Given his historical glorification of females, one would think that this would have been one of his greatest productions; alas, it was not to be. However, it did include music written by George Gershwin and Jimmy Durante, who also played a part in this, his first Broadway musical. Lyrics were by Gus Kahn and Ira Gershwin; the show featured Duke Ellington as the pit leader. The cast was outstanding; in addition to Durante, the show included his sidemen Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson, along with Eddie Foy, Jr. and Ruby Keeler. Finally, one Gershwin standard had its first public performance in this show: "Liza."

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