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Transcript
AMERICAN
EXPLORATIONS
(1624-1880)
CHAPTER 3
“THE MUSIC OF SOMETHING BEGINNING”
BROADWAY’S EARLY
YEARS
We date the start of the American Musical from “The Black
Crook” in 1866. But was it really the first Broadway musical?
The Dutch settled New Amsterdam in 1624
1664
The English renamed
the settlement New York
in honor of the King’s
brother, The Duke of York
And since High Street was
the widest street, they
named it Broadway
DUTCH DID NOT ENCOURAGE THEATRICAL
ENTERTAINMENT THAT THRIVED IN OTHER
COLONIES
Plays and comic operas were regularly performed in
Charleston, Philadelphia and Williamsburg which were
English colonies. New York was visited by a travelling
professional company in 1732.
FLORA (1735)
The first recorded performance
of a “musical” on American shores
was FLORA, which was produced
at the Dock Street Theatre in
Charleston, SC in 1735.
DOCK STREET THEATRE
DECEMBER 3, 1750
First recorded performance of a musical in New York City as
a performance of John Gay’s BEGGAR’S OPERA
1776 - JOHN STREET THEATRE
WAS BUILT IN NEW YORK
After the war, George Washington
frequently attended the theatres
in Philadelphia and New York
The John Street hosted THE
ARCHERS (1796) an early comic
opera
This continued a trend where
continental musicals were
presented by touring companies
or revived by native companies
EARLY WORKS WERE
SIMPLE ENTERTAINMENTS
No lasting trends
developed as
MASQUES
BURLETTAS
PARLOR OPERAS
and TOURS
were presented
THE BOWERY
From the 1790s onward, entertainments on Broadway found
a home in THE BOWERY
MINSTRELSY
Blackface performers were around for several decades
before the first minstrel shows were performed.
In the 1820s, white entertainer Thomas Rice “caused a
nationwide sensation with a
blackface song and dance act
that burlesqued negro slaves.” (52)
A born and bred New Yorker, Rice
knew little about southern slaves,
so his act was a gross stereotype.
His song Jump Jim Crow
became a hit song…
HIS ACT WAS WIDELY IMITATED…SO MUCH IN
FACT THAT HE ULTIMATELY WAS FORCED TO
BILL HIMSELF AS “THE ORIGINAL” JIM CROW
AFTER YEARS OF VARYING DEGREES
OF SUCCESS, THE FIRST “MINSTREL
SHOW” WAS PRESENTED IN 1843
The Virginia Minstrels
(Billy Whitlock, Frank
Pelham, Dan Emmett and
Frank Brower) donned
blackface and sat in a
semicircle with a
tambourine player on one
end and a “bones” player
on the other. Their first
show included songs and
dances interspersed with
comic sketches and
plantation “chatter.”
BY 1853, NEW YORK HAD 10
RESIDENT MINSTREL COMPANIES
The Virginia Minstrels
The Christy Minstrels
The Ethiopian Serenaders
The Virginia Vocalists
STANDARD FORM
Part one – THE MINSTREL LINE
• The full ensemble sat in a semi-circle. At the center sat the
whiteface host, always called "Mr. Interlocutor." Two blackface
comedians at either end (the endmen) were always called
"Bruder Tambo" (playing the tambourine) and "Bruder Bones"
(playing a pair of rattling rib bones or spoons). After an
opening number, the Interlocutor shouted, "Gentlemen, be
seated," and the endmen would lead the ensemble in a series
of jokes, songs and dances. Intermission was followed by . . .
Part two – THE OLIO
• Clean, family-friendly “variety show”
Part three – AFTERPIECE
• A one-act play with songs
AN EXAMPLE FROM "YES
SIR, MR. BONES" (1951)
Although clearly racist and unsophisticated, it was a true
American form, not one beholden to European models and
forms, this was one of its most significant contribution to the
modern musical.
DANCE FORMS WERE
INFLUENCE BY MINSTELSY
THE CAKEWALK WAS ONE
OF MANY POPULAR DANCE
FORMS.
BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO
MODERN MUSICAL - SONGS
STEPHEN FOSTER
Oh Susannah
Camptown Races
Old Black Joe
Old Folks at Home
Hard Times Come Again No More
DAN EMMETT
Turkey in the Straw
Jimmy Crack Corn
Dixie
AFTER THE WAR…
Black performers migrated to northern cities and performed minstrel
shows IN BLACKFACE. Their troupes were known as “Colored
minstrels” – Unfortunately, the presence of black performers only
served to perpetuate the stereotypes…
The Cohan and Harris' Minstrels (1909) was the last minstrel show to
play Broadway, but minstrel traditions remained in use for decades.
The offensive content of minstrelsy lived on too. The long-running
radio series Amos n' Andy featured two white actors impersonating
contemporary black characters that were direct descendants of "Zip
Coon" and "Jim Crow." Some blacks protested such stereotyping, but
listeners made it a top series for more than a decade. When Amos n'
Andy moved to TV in the 1950s, black actors were used – but the
spectacle of blacks demeaning themselves had become unsettling,
and the show was cancelled in 1953.
AMOS ‘N’ ANDY
TV CAST
AMERICAN VARIETY
This form probably began as a cheap rip-off of minstrelsy’s
OLIO, or from school pageants, talent shows, medicine
shows or even circuses….however obscure its beginnings, it
had a huge impact on the development of musical theatre…
VARIETY HOUSES OPENED
ALL OVER AMERICA
In saloons…in civic auditoriums…
Douglas Gilbert (American Vaudeville: Its Life and Times,
Whittlesey House, NY 1940 - paperback: Dover, NY 1960)
points out that any abandoned church, barn or warehouse
could be converted for variety use. The resulting spaces
were often shabby but almost always profitable. Owners
called them "palaces," "museums," "free and easies" and
"wine halls," but performers referred to them as "slabs,"
"dumps" and "honky-tonks." By any name, they were still
saloons.
P.T. BARNUM
THE AMERICAN
MUSEUM
America's most prestigious variety
house was Koster and Bial's on West
23rd Street in New York City. This
elegant auditorium was the most
desired booking in pre-vaudeville show
business, but it was few women went
along when their husbands caught a
show there. Every town in the USA had
something that passed as a variety
house, including the raunchiest
settlements in the Wild West. Neither
the shows nor their fans were known
for their sophistication.
MUSICALS OF THE
PRE-CIVIL WAR YEARS
By 1850, original musicals were commonplace fare on Broadway, but no one was calling
them "musicals" yet.
The Magic Deer (1852) advertised itself as "A Serio Comico Tragico Operatical Historical
Extravaganzical Burletical Tale of Enchantment" -- just to make sure potential ticket
buyers got the point. At the time, most Broadway theatre companies ran varied
repertories, so it was rare for a single production to rack up more than a dozen
performances. In most cases, the scripts for these disposable entertainments are longsince lost, so we cannot be sure exactly what they were like.
Seven Sisters
As New York City's population boomed, the demand for more ambitious entertainments
grew. Riding the crest of this new cultural wave, actress-manager Laura Keene became
one of the first nationally recognized stars of the American stage -- and the first
American woman to succeed as manager of her own troupe. With a strong business
sense and versatile stage talents, she produced and starred in a series of popular
comedies and musicals in her theatre at 622 Broadway (just above Houston Street).
After setting Broadway's first "long-run" musical record with a 50 performance hit
called The Elves (1857), Keene astounded everyone in New York when her "musical
burletta" Seven Sisters (1860) racked up an unprecedented 253 performances.
Keene starred as one of seven female demons who come up from hell to go sightseeing
in New York. Surviving programs list a score cobbled from now-forgotten songs, plus
the minstrel classic "Dixie" for a slam-bang finale.
LAURA KEENE
1826-1873
THE BLACK CROOK
WHY A LANDMARK?
It was the first Broadway musical to become a nationwide hit.
ANOTHER REASON
Not only was it a
nationwide hit, that
spawned numerous
revivals…it also
introduced dance,
comedy, story and
spectacle into an
American-produced
musical
extravaganza.
It inspired a demand
for extravaganza on
American stages…
1870S-1880S:
BURLESQUES AND PANTOMIMES
Full length burlesque musicals were almost as lavish as
extravaganzas, but aimed their comedy at specific targets,
with a bit of sex appeal thrown in.
The first Broadway burlesques appeared in the 1840s, with
story lines that allowed lower class audiences to laugh at the
habits of the rich -- or at the high-minded plays and operas
the rich admired.
Burlesque moved to a new level of popularity when English
star Lydia Thompson and her troupe of "British Blondes"
came to Broadway in a mythological spoof entitled Ixion
(1868 - 104).
SOON COPYCAT
PRODUCTIONS AROSE
UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF MALE ENTREPENEURS, THE
FORM FLOURISHED…
BURLESQUE
EXTRAVAGANZAS
Produced with lavish stage effects, these
musicals spoofed anything from literary
classics to contemporary celebrities, poking
fun simultaneously at any number of targets.
Edward E. Rice dominated the genre,
becoming America's first prominent stage
composer and producer.
PICTURED - Henry E. Dixey as Adonis
(1884), a marble statue that comes to life
and does not find human existence all it is
cracked up to be.
EVANGELINE (1874)
ADONIS (1884)
Burlesque musicals
continued to thrive
through the 1890s.
Rice's final production
was Excelsior Jr.
(1895), another
Longfellow spoof that
enjoyed a profitable
run thanks to a stellar
performance by Fay
Templeton.
Burlesque musicals continued to thrive through the 1890s.
Rice's final production was Excelsior Jr. (1895), another
Longfellow spoof that enjoyed a profitable run thanks to a
stellar performance by Fay Templeton.
Playbill for Clorindy by E.E. Rice
PANTOMIMES:
CLOWNING AROUND
One act musical pantomimes had
been a London and Broadway
staple since the 1700s, sharing the
bill with other entertainments. By
the mid-1800s, American
pantomimes placed figures from
Mother Goose stories in varied
settings, then gave a mischievous
fairy an excuse to transform them
into the characters taken from
commedia dell’ arte…
Playbill from HUMPTY DUMPTY,
an 1873 revival starring George L.
Fox.
GEORGE L. FOX (1825 - 1877)
The American Grimaldi
HUMPTY DUMPTY
The most successful American pantomime was Humpty Dumpty
(1868 - 483), with comic actor George Fox in the title role. The
plot (if you can call it that) turned young Humpty and his
playmates into harlequinade characters romping through such
diverse settings as a candy store, an enchanted garden and
Manhattan's costly new City Hall.
With a lavish ballet staged by David Costa (choreographer of
The Black Crook), there was plenty of visual spectacle to offset
the knockabout humor.
The score was sometimes credited to "A. Reiff Jr.," but it was
largely assembled from existing material, a mish-mosh of
recycled Offenbach and old music hall tunes. But no one paid
much attention to the songs – Fox's buffoonery was the main
attraction. Humpty Dumpty set a new long-run record, was
revived several times and inspired a series of sequels.
Pantomime survived in England as a form of Christmas
entertainment, but faded from American stages by 1880.
American audiences were looking for something more
intimate than burlesque and less childish than pantomime.
The time was right for an innovation – the form we now know
as "musical comedy."