music hall

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 vaudeville, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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