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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. When Kismet blew in to New York from the West coast, it brought two classic songs along. The music was based on the melodies of Russian composer Alexsandr Borodin, the lyrics were from George Forrest and Robert Wright. Kismet was a hit, helped by the first presentations of "Baubles, Bangles And Beads" and "Stranger In Paradise." The show opened in December of 1953. Alfred Drake was the male lead, but this was Richard Kiley's Broadway musical debut. It was Kiley who introduced "Stranger in Paradise." Kismet won six Tony awards and the Best Musical award from the Outer Critics Circle in 1954.

February of 1959 marked the opening of Redhead, starring Gwen Verdon and Richard Kiley, both of whom won Tony awards (Best Actress in a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical, respectively) for the show. The music was by Albert Hague, the lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and the book was by Herbert Fields, Dorothy Fields, Sidney Sheldon and David Shaw. Redhead won five Tony awards, including Best Musical, but is rarely produced today, probably because it was created specifically for the talents of Gwen Verdon. Ironically, it was originally designed for Beatrice Lillie and subsequently offered in turn to Ethel Merman and Celeste Holm (1917 - 2012) before being taken to Verdon. This was the first production Bob Fosse directed and choreographed, and he won the Tony for Best Choreography. He filled both roles in many other future productions.

The first (and only) time Richard Rodgers wrote lyrics for his own songs was for the score of No Strings, which opened in March of 1962. Samuel Taylor, who wrote the plays Sabrina Fair and The Happy Time, among others, was the librettist for this show. Although Joe Layton had choreographed other shows, this was his first assignment as a director, as well as handling the choreography. He won the Tony for Best Choreography. Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley were the stars. The show brought forth one hit song, "The Sweetest Sounds."

Man of La Mancha opened in November of 1965 and ran for almost six years. Richard Kiley was Don Quixote, a role that would from then on be associated with him. The book was written by Dale Wasserman, who adapted the original Cervantes story. Lyrics were by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. The show introduced a powerful, popular hit called "The Impossible Dream" (a.k.a. "The Quest"). Man of La Mancha won the Best Musical award from the Drama Critics Circle and tied for that honor with Wait A Minim! from the Outer Critics Circle. The show also won five Tonys, including Best Musical.

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