About The CollectionBrowse IndexSearchMy GallerySite MapHelp
Dance and Dancers Music Theatrical Production

About The Collection > Theatrical Productions

> Drawings
> Film
> Gag Books
> Musical Theatre
> Revues
> Vaudeville

During the early years of the twentieth century, American theatre evolved from melodrama and vaudeville to the dramatic play and the comedy of manners. At the same time, spectacle in the form of the circus, the rodeo, and touring troupes of celebrated sin gers or dancers played a large part in popular entertainment. People went to the theatre to be diverted for an evening just as we go to the movies or watch television. Many of the productions were as ephemeral as today's sitcoms or cop shows. Although man y of the most popular shows have since disappeared into obscurity, the keysheets shown here from the early decades of the century bring those evenings alive to us again.

At the turn of the century, a new form of American musical theatre, inspired by operetta, revues, and even vaudeville, combined elements of music, theatre, and dance. Hit shows like Little Johnny Jones (1904), Watch your Step (1914), and Sally (1920) laid the groundwork for the future musical comedy. Black musicals such as Bandana Land (1906) and Shuffle Along (1921) introduced black entertainers to white audiences in a new context. Revues such as the annual Ziegfield Follies, George White's Scandals, and the Music Box Revue continued to draw large crowds.

While photography gives us a visual record of moment in time, drawings and caricatures by skilled artists often do more to capture the actual spirit of a performer's work.

Manuscripts record the private side of creativity. For example, comedians, who played a major role in burlesque, vaudeville, and revue, customarily jotted down their routines in gag books for their personal use.

Live entertainment was the order of the day, but lurking in the wings were the media of the future - sound recording and film. The development of electrical recording after 1925 and the sound film in 1928 would change forever the way Americans experience the performing arts. These digital images can take us back to an earlier time before movies, TV and CDs when people made their own music and filled the theatres to see their entertainers in person.


Copyright 2001 The New York Public Library | Library for the Performing Arts | Copies & Permissions