Mark Twain once famously said that there were five kinds of actresses- bad, fair, good, great and Sarah Bernhardt. Sarah was born to a family of modest income in Paris, October 22, 1844. Her Dutch mother was only 16 when she gave birth to Sarah and early in her life studied to be a nun in a convent in Versailles but her love of the theater led her to study acting at the Paris Conservatoire, the most prestigious such school in France.
George M. Cohan (July 3, 1878 Providence, Rhode Island- November 18, 1942 New York City) is considered by most scholars of theatre and vaudeville to be the most important figure in the history of musical theater. He was not particularly talented in the classic sense-- his dancing was more hoofing and his singing voice had trouble reaching notes and ended up speaking the lines much of the time. Nor was he a great technical musician. But Cohan grew up performing in vaudeville and was already a veteran by age 8.
Helene Anna Held (Warsaw, 1873?– New York, August 12, 1918), known as Anna Held, was one of the most inventive, beautiful and engaging stars of the beginning of the 20th century. Her birth date is uncertain, variously reported to have occurred in Warsaw or Paris anywhere from 1865 to 1878. She is usually thought to be Polish and she was fond of telling stories about her past that may or may not have been true. A birth date in the 1870s seems to fit best with earliest visuals we have for her in which she appears to be a young lady not long out of her teens.
The Shop Girl is considered by many scholars to be the first real direct antecedent of the modern Broadway musical. It premiered at the Gaiety Theatre in London in 1894. Producer George Edwardes developed the idea of a musical comedy which was not a burlesque but rather a full coherent story. The star was Ada Reeve who became pregnant and was replaced with Kate Cutler.