Posted by: runawayrose | December 16, 2009

History of the Music Hall

The first real music hall did not open its doors until 1852, but the origins start a little further back.

The entertainment started in the 1830s in saloons and taverns in public houses. These were basically spin-offs of entertainment that came from fairs and pleasure gardens which had started to die out.

The music hall that we are familiar with was built on the sites that were formerly occupied by these public houses.

What distinguished a music hall from a theatre was that you were seated at tables, instead of sitting in stalls, and you could drink and smoke while watching the show. What also separated it from regular theatres was the attendants. A music hall was more directed at the middle and working classes, which had catchy songs with ‘dumbed down’ verses.

However, there were music halls for the upper class and you could tell from the outside that it was so. An upper class music hall is a more beautiful building with stained glass windows while a middle class music hall was more dingier and covered with posters at the entrance. An upper class music hall had entertainment like a watered down ballet and an actress reading selections from famous plays or poems, while a middle class music hall had entertainment like specialty acts, comedians and songs.

The lowest class of music hall is leaps and bounds different from even the middle class music hall. You would not be able to tell from the outside what lies inside. There is no glamorous building, nor any posters decorating the outside. You would most likely have to enter the building through a side staircase leading from the street. Some of the entertainment would be no different from the upper class music halls, such as the music and comedy. The skits, however, were more directed at the lower class with characters that the audience could relate to.

By the 1870s a ‘star system’ was in place, with many actors and actresses gaining fame through the music hall. The music hall only gained more popularity as the century wore on in to the next.

The music hall started its decline in the 1920s thanks to radio and film. After World War II, it has television to compete with. By the late 1950s, the music hall was dead.

Posted by: runawayrose | December 8, 2009

How Do I Begin?

A first post for a blog is always frustrating. How does one begin?

Let me tell you what I intend to do here in this corner of the web: I intend to explore anything and everything pertaining to theatre from the mid 19th century until the 1920s in both Europe and North America. The music hall was a big part, but I am also including straight theatre.

I will do profiles of certain actresses (and sometimes the fellas) and the shows, of course, along with events and the theatres themselves. I will also review any kind of media – fiction or non-fiction – having to do with the subject.

I’m no expert. I intend to use this blog to keep track of my research as I learn about this most splendid period of time and I hope anyone who comes across this blog learns, as well!

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