Music Hall

Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. It involved a mixture of popular song, comedy, speciality acts and variety entertainment. The term is derived from a type of theatre or venue in which such entertainment took place. British music hall was similar to American vaudeville, featuring rousing songs and comic acts, while in the United Kingdom the term vaudeville referred to more working-class types of entertainment that would have been termed burlesque in America.

With its origins being found in saloon bars within public houses during the 1830s, music hall entertainment became increasingly popular with audiences, so much so, that during the 1850s, the public houses were demolished and music hall theatres were developed in their place. These theatres were designed chiefly so people could consume food and alcohol and smoke tobacco in the auditorium while the entertainment took place. This differed somewhat from the conventional type of theatre which, up until then, seated the audience in stalls with a separate bar-room. Early music halls included Canterbury Music Hall in Lambeth and The Middlesex, in Drury Lane, otherwise known as the 'Old Mo'.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the halls created a demand for new and catchy popular songs. As a result, professional songwriters were enlisted to provide the music for a plethora of star performers including, more notably Marie Lloyd, Dan Leno, Little Titch and George Leybourne. Music hall did not adopt its own unique style. Instead all forms of entertainment were performed: male and female impersonators, Lions Comiques, mime artists and impressionists, trampoline acts, and comic pianists such as John Orlando Parry and George Grossmith were just a few of the many types of entertainments the audiences could expect to find over the next forty years.

By the twentieth century, music hall was on the decline, made worse in 1907 by a dispute between artists, stage hands and managers, which inevitably ended in a strike. The halls recovered by the start of World War I and were used to stage charity events in aid of the war effort. Music hall entertainment continued after the war, but was becoming less popular due to upcoming Jazz, Swing, and Big Band dance music acts. Licensing restrictions had also changed with drinking being banned from the auditorium. A new type of music hall entertainment had arrived, in the form of variety, and many music hall performers failed to make the transition. Deemed old fashioned and with the closure of many halls, music hall entertainment ceased and the modern day variety began.

Read more about Music Hall:  Origins and Development, History of The Songs, Music Hall Comedy, Speciality Acts, Music Hall Performers, Cultural Influences of Music Hall: Literature, Drama, Screen, and Later Music, Surviving Music Halls

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