music hall


Media Studies

  • noun a type of entertainment, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that consisted of a variety of singing, dancing and comic acts


  • A highly popular form of variety entertainment that flourishedin Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It had its originsin the 'Free and Easy' of public houses in the song-and-supperrooms of early Victorian London. Food, drink, and song were themusic hall's first ingredients. Singers, comedians, dancers, and otherperformers took 'turns' entertaining the patrons, who came from theworking classes. The first music hall proper, the Canterbury MusicHall, was opened in 1852 by the so-called 'Father of the Halls'Charles Morton, a native of Hackney. He went on to open theOxford Music Hall in 1861 and ran several others.

    The music halls flourished at the turn of the century, whenleading performers included Harry Lauder, Marie Lloyd,Dan Leno, Little Tich, and George Robey. After WorldWar I new media such as films, radio, and, later, television, helpedto bring about their demise.

    Music halls once outnumbered regular theaters in London andthe provinces but have now disappeared or become civic theaters, cinemas,or bingo halls, keeping on the traditional names such as Palladium,Palace, Alhambra, Coliseum, Empire, and Hippodrome. They have, however,left a legacy of popular song and memories of great entertainers whosefame depended upon the individuality of their acts.