AMERICAN EXPLORATIONS (1624-1880). Chapter 3 “The Music of something beginning”. Broadway’s early years. We date the start of the American Musical from “The Black Crook” in 1866. But was it really the first Broadway musical? The Dutch settled New Amsterdam in 1624. 1664.
“The Music of something beginning”
The first recorded performance
of a “musical” on American shores
was FLORA, which was produced
at the Dock Street Theatre in
Charleston, SC in 1735.
Old Black Joe
Old Folks at Home
Hard Times Come Again No More
Turkey in the Straw
Jimmy Crack Corn
America's most prestigious variety house was Koster and Bial's on West 23rd Street in New York City. This elegant auditorium was the most desired booking in pre-vaudeville show business, but it was few women went along when their husbands caught a show there. Every town in the USA had something that passed as a variety house, including the raunchiest settlements in the Wild West. Neither the shows nor their fans were known for their sophistication.
It was the first Broadway musical to become a nationwide hit.
Produced with lavish stage effects, these musicals spoofed anything from literary classics to contemporary celebrities, poking fun simultaneously at any number of targets.
Edward E. Ricedominated the genre, becoming America's first prominent stage composer and producer.
PICTURED - Henry E. Dixey as Adonis (1884), a marble statue that comes to life and does not find human existence all it is cracked up to be.
Burlesque musicals continued to thrive through the 1890s. Rice's final production was Excelsior Jr. (1895), another Longfellow spoof that enjoyed a profitable run thanks to a stellar performance by Fay Templeton.
Playbill for Clorindy by E.E. Rice
One act musical pantomimes had been a London and Broadway staple since the 1700s, sharing the bill with other entertainments. By the mid-1800s, American pantomimes placed figures from Mother Goose stories in varied settings, then gave a mischievous fairy an excuse to transform them into the characters taken from commedia dell’ arte…
Playbill from HUMPTY DUMPTY, an 1873 revival starring George L. Fox.
The American Grimaldi
Pantomime survived in England as a form of Christmas entertainment, but faded from American stages by 1880. American audiences were looking for something more intimate than burlesque and less childish than pantomime. The time was right for an innovation – the form we now know as "musical comedy."