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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. Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire (Fred's sister) made their first Broadway appearance in a revue titled Over the Top, which opened in December of 1917. For the majority of their careers together, Adele received most of the attention and was considered the stronger, more appealing dancer of the pair. They started early under the tutelage of their mother; before coming to New York, they had a ten-year career on the Keith vaudeville circuit. Eventually, Adele (1897 - 1981) married into the English aristocracy and Fred (1899 - 1987) made his fame in movie musicals.

Ira Gershwin created lyrics for brother George's music in Lady, Be Good, a "jazz musical." It opened in December of 1924 and was the first complete musical score by Gershwin in the jazz style. The cast included Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire, and sets were by Norman Bel Geddes. Songs included "Fascinatin' Rhythm" and "The Man I Love" as well as the title tune. This was an influential musical, as it was a positive role model for the jazz musical style.

The Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin classic "'S Wonderful" became a standard in November, 1927 in the score of Funny Face. The cast included Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire.

Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz provided the score for The Band Wagon in June of 1931. This show saw the first performance of the song titled "Dancing In The Dark." The song was performed by John Barker, and the cast included Frank Morgan, Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire. It was Adele's last production before she married and retired from show business.

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