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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
2009
First On Stage
Cast & Crew

Content Researcher/Author
Wayne Hamilton, MFA

Programmer
Jim Moore
ReadyWebWare.com

Opening Graphics
Dan Schletty & Richard Schletty
SchlettyDesign.com

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. Sid Caesar's Broadway debut was in a revue called Make Mine Manhattan in January of 1948. Caesar got into show business as a sax player (he studied at Juilliard) for top dance bands, then moved on to being a comic. He also had one of the best shows on television in the 1950s, with writers like Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks on his staff (at the same time) and with Imogene Coca and Nanette Fabray making regular appearances. He won several Emmys and went on to work in many films. Moreover, he sang the lead role in Little Me on Broadway in 1963; ironically, the libretto for Little Me was written by Neil Simon.

New Faces of 1952, a revue, is notable because it marked Broadway debuts, though not entertainment-business debuts, for future stars like Carol Lawrence, Paul Lynde and Ertha Kitt. It was also the first time Mel Brooks wrote material for the lyric stage.

A first and a flop occurred in April of 1957. The first book musical by Mel Brooks ended after eight weeks. Brooks co-wrote Shinbone Alley, an odd story about the relationship between a cockroach and a cat, with Joe Darion, who also provided lyrics for George Kleinsinger's score. The piece starred Eddie Bracken and Ertha Kitt.

College football was back on Broadway in March of 1962 when All American opened. There were two hit songs introduced in the show; one was called "Once Upon A Time" and the other "If I Were You." Ray Bolger and Anita Gillette starred, Charles Strouse wrote the music, Lee Adams the lyrics and Mel Brooks the book.


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