music hall

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music hall.

In England, the Licensing Act of 1737 confined the production of legitimate plays to the two royal theaters—Drury Lane and Covent Garden; the demands for entertainment of the rising lower and middle classes were answered by song, dance, and acrobatics, and later by pantomime and comic skits and sketches provided by keepers of inns and taverns. The atmosphere, amidst eating and drinking, was boisterous and gay. Following the abolition (c.1843) of the royal-theater patents, the rise of the music hall as a separate place of variety entertainment was rapid. Personalities, such as the English Joseph Grimaldi, Dan Leno, Beatrice Lillie, and Gracie Fields and the French Yvette Guilbert, Maurice Chevalier, and Edith Piaf became stars, beloved by their audiences. Like American vaudevillevaudeville
, originally a light song, derived from the drinking and love songs formerly attributed to Olivier Basselin and called Vau, or Vaux, de Vire. Similar to the English music hall, American vaudeville was a live entertainment consisting of unrelated songs,
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, the music hall went into a decline with the coming of radio and motion pictures.


See D. Howard, London Theatres and Music Halls, 1850–1950 (1971).

Music Hall


a type of variety theater. It derived from early 18th-century shows in English taverns, in which devices of farce, buffoonery, and grotesque were widely used.

One of the first music halls was organized at Vauxhall, a suburb of London. In 1890 the Alhambra Music Hall was opened in London, with variety and circus performers appearing in reviews; particularly successful were the comic clown acts. At first, music-hall performances were intended primarily to appeal to the broad masses of the people; however, European and American music halls later produced extravagant stage acts, grandiose spectacles (reviews), and vulgar erotic performances (with nude dancing girls).

The futurists devoted much attention to the music hall, contrasting its mechanical quality with dramatic theater. They attempted to justify the place of music halls in an industrial society. In the USSR the first music hall was opened in 1923 at the Moscow Aquarium Gardens. In 1926 a music hall was established on the present-day site of the Second State Circus (including the following reviews staged in 1934: How the 14th Division Entered Paradise by Dem’ian Bednyi and Under the Circus Dome by Il’f, Petrov, and Kataev). Music halls were also opened in Leningrad, Gorky, Rostov-on-Don, Baku, Taganrog, and other places. (They remained open until the mid-1930’s.) In the early 1960’s, the Moscow, Leningrad, and Georgian traveling music halls were established.


music hall

Chiefly Brit
a. a variety entertainment consisting of songs, comic turns, etc.
b. (as modifier): a music-hall song
2. a theatre at which such entertainments are staged
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