"Hollywood on the Hudson" is something you hear get thrown around a lot these days. From hit TV shows to Blockbuster films, it seems like more and more stars are popping up around the area.

But this is actually nothing all that new. One of the world's most iconic comedians had a performance in the Hudson Valley that would shape some of her career's most successful projects.

New York's Comedic Icon, Lucille Ball

Born about 6 hours west of the Hudson Valley in Celoron, New York, Lucille Ball began her acting pursuit early after dropping out of High School and moving to New York City in 1926 according to PBS.

It wouldn't be until 1951 that Lucille Ball would strike gold with "I Love Lucy". But there was a pivotal performance before "I Love Lucy" that would kickstart a long and successful road for Ball.

Paramount Pictures/ YouTube
Paramount Pictures/ YouTube

That performance happened at a modest venue called The Ritz Theater in Newburgh.

The Ritz of Newburgh

Throughout the 1920s, Vaudeville was all the rage. From the Dutchess Theater in Poughkeepsie, better known today as The Chance, The Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, and the East-West Theater Company in Newburgh, the Hudson Valley was brimming with entertainment.

READ MORE: From Uncertainty to Excitement: Poughkeepsie's The Chance and Its Promising Rebirth

Newburgh's East-West Theater Company was bought and turned into The Ritz Theater where many famous faces passed through. In the 1930s, stars like Ella Fitzgerlad, Peggy Lee, Louis Prima and more made stops in Newburgh. In the 1940s, Frank Sinatra made his debut at The Ritz Theater as a generally unknown singer supporting headliner Tommy Dorsey's swing band.

According to Safe Harbors of the Hudson, the Ritz Theater was often used as a testing ground for musical acts. If they did well and the audience had positive reactions, it meant the act was good enough for New York City's Paramount Theater.

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They explain,

Rumor has it that a sign posted backstage at the Paramount warned 'If you think this audience is tough, try Newburgh.'


Lucille Ball Takes on the Newburgh Audience

By 1941, Lucille Ball had broken into the on-screen acting world having starred in films alongside the Three Stooges in "Three Little Pigskins" and Kathryn Hepburn, and Ginger Rogers in "Stage Door".

But it was in 1941 that Lucille Ball would debut her first-ever live stage show featuring her then-husband Desi Arnaz. This turning point of a show happened in Newburgh at The Ritz Theater.

Ball was described as being "petrified" for her first live performance. But, the show went off without a hitch. The Newburgh News explained in their review of the performance that the show was a "tremendous hit with Newburgh theater-goers."

Not only was this Ball's first on-stage debut, but it was the first time she and her husband Desi Arnaz gave viewers a taste of their electric dynamic.

This performance would later earn The Ritz the title of " the birthplace of the 'I Love Lucy' Show" by PARADE Magazine.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz took their act around the country under their own Desilu Productions, earning the two enough momentum to star in what would become one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, 'I Love Lucy'.

21 Places You Might Run into a Celebrity in The Hudson Valley

Hollywood on The Hudson is real! It seems like there's a new celebrity sighting in the Hudson Valley. Here are a few of the hot spots that you may run into a celeb while walking around town.