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Musical Theater Lecture One

Early History of Musical Theater: Vaudeville and Revues

Jessica López-Barkl

on 22 August 2017

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Transcript of Musical Theater Lecture One

Musical Theater Lecture One
A musical form featuring songs, dances, comedy sketches, and elaborate production numbers.

The first was The Passing Show (1894).

Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1907, the first of a series of annual revues (The Ziegfeld Follies) that featured scantily clad chorines known famously as “Ziegfeld’s girls.”

This format can still be found in events like the Radio City Music Hall shows.

Minstrelsy and Burlesque remain popular.

1866: The Black Crook, with music by Thomas Baker, is cited as the starting point of the modern American musical. It is a combination of melodrama and spectacle, the show used music, dance, spectacular scenery and costumes, and scantily clad chorus girls in the telling of the story.

Plays with musical passages to heighten emotional effects.

Melos, Greek, means ‘a song’.

Comes from France where music served as background for dialogue(in contrast to opera, where music is joined in dialogue).

Largely innocent young lovers suffer at the separation engineered by a scheming villain, but all ends happily.

Largely played to illiterate audiences with spectacular settings.

Early History of Musical Theater, Vaudeville and Revues.

Originally a variety show, was an entertainment with song-and-dance routines, jokes, and comic business.

Early variety shows were found in saloons and had singing waiters and dancing girls performing for all-male audiences.

Tony Pastor decided to lure family audiences with promises of clean amusement and took the variety show out of the saloon and into a legitimate New York theater in 1881.

Included: mimes, comedians, ventriloquists, acrobats, animal acts, and miniature musicals.

During the First World War.

Introduced by black musicians with individual songs interpolated into shows.

Composer and lyricist Irving Berlin becomes and international sensation with his song “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1914.

Rhythm in which the accompaniment is strict two-four time and the melody, with improvised embellishments, is in steady syncopation.

Comic operettas with contemporary characters and settings, wisecracking humor, and patriotic sentiments.
George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones (1904) includes
“The Yankee Doodle Boy”.

His song “Over There,” written in 1917, won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The story line, called the book.

Constructed to allow for interpolations of unrelated songs, dances, and specialty acts.

1879: HMS Pinafore has its American premiere and also marked the operetta as the most dominant musical form until the turn of the century.

Operetta: a short opera, usually on a light or humorous theme and typically having spoken dialogue.

A combination of sentimental ballads, comic dialogue, and dance interludes performed by actors in blackface.

Perpetuated exaggerated fictions of black life.
Included music played on the banjo, tambourine, violin, and a rhythm instrument called bones.

Stereotypical characters (shifty lazybones, the urban dandy, loyal uncle, warmhearted mother).
Jigs and other folk dances.

Send-ups of serious themes.

Parody/Satire are often treated as synonyms.
It tends to be broader than parody, mocking a style, class or genre.

Preponderantly a female production.

In the first 3rd, dance and song rendered by a female company was intermingled with low comedy
from male comedians; part 2 had specialty acts (in which the women did not appear); part three comprised a grand finale.

Often had belly dancers, opera, and strippers (though they never fully disrobed.

A play or film whose action and dialogue is
interspersed with singing and dancing.

Dates from the colonial period: English touring companies performed ballad operas
(plays with spoken dialogue interspersed with lyrics set to popular tunes).

After the American Revolution entrepreneurs, composers, and writers created their own comic operas imitating the French opéra comique, a type of performance that alternated spoken dialogue with verses set to popular tunes.

Permanent theaters emerge in city centers.

An Overview of Musical Theater
America's Art Form
Musical Theater
Minstrel Shows
After the Civil
Gilbert and Sullivan and the Operetta
Musical Librettos
The Dawn of the 20th
Operettas, Musical Revues, Vaudeville
Full transcript