revue

Definition

Theater

  • A form of variety popular in Britain and America betweenthe world wars, in which a group of performers presented a programmeof songs, dances, and sketches. In this it differed from English musichall and US vaudeville, which featured a series of different acts.

    Revue was first introduced at the Théâtre dela Porte-Saint-Martin in Paris in the late 19th century and subsequentlybecame the rage at the Folies-Bergères. The first English revuewas Under the Clock (1893) by Seymour Hicks (1871 - 1949),although Pot-Pourri (1899) was the first to be so designatedon the playbill.

    Broadway's first revue was The Passing Show (1894),which ran for 12 seasons; it opened in London in 1914, inauguratinga series at the Palace Theatre by Alfred Butt (1878 - 1962). Thefashion for costly spectacles was set by the Ziegfeld Follies,which became the longest-running annual revue (1907 - 57) withits chorus girls and stars like Fanny Bryce and Bert Williams. AlJolson made his name in 1911 with his black-faced revue LaBelle Paree at the new Winter Garden Theatre.

    In Britain, the smaller-scale intimate revue arrivedin 1914 with Odds and Ends, presented at the Ambassadors Theatreby Charles Cochran. In the 1920s such shows were presentedregularly at the Hippodrome Theatre by Albert de Courville (1887 - 1960)and at the Alhambra by André Charlot (1882 - 1956). GertrudeLawrence, Beatrice Lillie, and Jack Buchanan made Charlot's Revueof 1924 a Broadway hit, although electrical problems with theneon sign often billed it as Harlot's Revue of 1924. NoëlCoward starred in his own This Year of Grace.

    In America, George White's Scandals an intimate versionof Ziegfeld's Follies, ran from 1919 to 1931; it emphasizedcomedy, featuring stars like Eddie Cantor and W. C. Fields. EarlCarroll's Vanities ran from 1923 to 1932 and The GreenwichVillage Follies from 1919 to 1928. New York's longest-runningrevue was Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin (1938),which logged 1404 performances at the 46th Street Theatre.

    In Britain the success of the satirical revue Beyond theFringe helped to bring about the demise of the more expensivetype of stage revue (which briefly found a new home on television).So-called continuous revue or non-stop variety,such as Revuedeville at the Windmill Theatre (withits famous nudes) died out at much the same time.

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