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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 show called Old Dutch, which was a 1909 collaboration of Lew Fields and Victor Herbert, featured a song that was mimed onstage by two youngsters while adults sang the song. The song was "U, Dearie." The female of the two young people, in her first professional performance, was Helen Hayes (1900-1993), who was often called "The First Lady of the American Theatre". She performed professionally until 1971. The book for Old Dutch was by Edgar Smith and the lyrics by George V. Hobart. The show was staged by Ned Wayburn. Victor Herbert, of course, wrote the music.

The annual Tony Award ceremony is the creation of The American Theatre Wing (ATW). The ATW was established in 1917, just before America entered World War I. Seven ladies of the theatre (Rachel Crothers, Louise Closser Hale, Dorothy Donnelly, Josephine Hull, Minnie Dupree, Bessie Tyree and Louise Drew) met to discuss the creation of an organization to aid in war relief. The Stage Women's War Relief organization was born and began operation within the next few weeks; it became one of the most significant and active relief organizations in the world. The Theatre Wing established the Tony Awards as a memorial to actor/director Antoinette Perry (1888 - 1946). The first awards ceremony took place in April of 1947. The first Tonys went to the following individuals (the musical winners appear in bold type):
  • Actors (Dramatic) - Jose Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac) and Fredric March (Years Ago)
  • Actor, Supporting or Featured (Musical) - David Wayne (Finian's Rainbow)
  • Actress, Supporting or Featured (Dramatic) - Patricia Neal (Another Part of the Forest)
  • Actresses (Dramatic) - Ingrid Bergman (Joan of Lorraine) and Helen Hayes (Happy Birthday)
  • Author - Arthur Miller (All My Sons)
  • Choreographers - Agnes DeMille (Brigadoon) and Michael Kidd (Finian's Rainbow)
  • Composer - Kurt Weill (Street Scene, a musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1929 play)
  • Costumes - Lucinda Ballard (Happy Birthday, Another Part of the Forest, Street Scene, John Loves Mary, The Chocolate Soldier [revival])
  • Director - Elia Kazan (All My Sons)
  • Scenic Designer - David Folks (Henry VIII)
  • Special Awards - Dora Chamberlain (for unfailing courtesy as treasurer of the Martin Beck Theatre)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ira Katzenberg (for enthusiasm as inveterate first-nighters)
  • Jules Leventhal (for the season's most prolific backer and producer)
  • Burns Mantle (for the annual publication of The Ten Best Plays books)
  • P. A. MacDonald (for intricate construction for the production of If the Shoe Fits)
  • Vincent Sardi (for providing a transient home and comfort station for theatre folk at Sardi's for 20 years)

  • The Sarah Siddons Society is a non-profit organization promoting theatre excellence. The Society was founded in 1952 by theatre-loving Chicagoans. Since then, the Society has presented the annual Sarah Siddons Award to an actor for an outstanding performance in a Chicago theatrical production. The first winner was Helen Hayes; the first male recipient was Brian Dennehy for the 1998-99 season. The winner receives a statuette of Sarah Siddons (1775 - 1831), one of the great tragediennes of the English stage.

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