Good, Clean Fun on The American Sound's Salute to Vaudeville, 6pm Sat. and 7pm Tues.
Animal acts, spectacular dance numbers, sing-alongs and a master of ceremonies whipping up laughs and applause with jokes and one-liners. No, it’s not the circus. It’s vaudeville. And its music is more fun than the barrel of monkeys that might have made its way into an animal act almost any old night on the Vaudeville stage.
Vaudeville shows were America’s first great variety shows, emerging from the genre called “variety,” performed by itinerant artists who danced, sang and acted their way across Europe from town to town. Variety made its way to America, where performers dispensed often bawdy entertainment for largely male audiences, with whom impresario Tony Pastor made the art form phenomenally popular in the 1880s.
About 10 years later, performer, theater owner and impresario Benjamin Franklin Keith aimed to attract larger audiences by creating a genre that would appeal to the fairer sex. So he literally cleaned up variety’s act, rechristened it vaudeville and became the Father of Vaudeville in America, popularizing it in New York City and in vaudeville circuits across the United States.
This week, enjoy a Salute to Vaudeville on The American Sound, 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Vaudeville star Louis Alter’s Manhattan Serenade will set the stage, and Paul Schoenfield’s piccolo trumpet concerto Vaudeville will give us something of the free-wheeling spirit of America’s early musical theater revues. Chanticleer will lead us in a vaudeville-style sing-along with songs by Stephen Foster, we’ll enjoy a march by vaudeville march king Russell Alexander and we’ll take in a classic by George Gershwin, who went from Tin Pan Alley song plugger to vaudevillian without so much as a prat fall.
Here's video of "Bessie Love" and "Gus Shy" in a typical vaudeville song-and-dance number from about 1930, in vaudeville's waning days:
Liven up the dead of winter and join me for The American Sound’s Salute to Vaudeville, 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday on Classical 101!