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A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance, and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932.Though most famous for their visual spectacle, revues frequently satirized contemporary figures, news or literature. Similar to the related subforms of operetta and musical theatre, the revue art form brings together music, dance and sketches to create a compelling show. In contrast to these, however, revue does not have an overarching storyline. Rather, a general theme serves as the motto for a loosely-related series of acts that alternate between solo performances and dance ensembles.
Due to high ticket prices, ribald publicity campaigns and the occasional use of prurient material, the revue was typically patronized by audience members who earned more and felt even less restricted by middle-class social mores than their contemporaries in vaudeville. Like much of that era's popular entertainments, revues often featured material based on sophisticated, irreverent dissections of topical matter, public personae and fads, though the primary attraction was found in the frank display of the female body.
Revue comes from the French word for "review", as in a "show presenting a review of current events".
George Lederer's The Passing Show (1894) is usually held to be first successful American "review". The English spelling was used until 1907 when Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. popularized the French spelling. "Follies" is now sometimes (incorrectly) employed as an analog for "revue", though the term was proprietary to Ziegfeld until his death in 1932. Other popular proprietary revue names included George White's "Scandals", Earl Carroll's "Vanities", and John Murray Anderson's Greenwich Village Follies.
Revues are most properly understood as having amalgamated several theatrical traditions within the corpus of a single entertainment. Minstrelsy's olio section provided a structural map of popular variety presentation, while literary travesties highlighted an audience hunger for satire. Theatrical extravaganzas, in particular, moving panoramas, demonstrated a vocabulary of the spectacular. Burlesque, itself a bawdy hybrid of various theatrical forms, lent to classic revue an open interest in female sexuality and the masculine gaze.
Revues enjoyed great success on Broadway from the World War I years until the Great Depression, when the stock market crash forced many revues from cavernous Broadway houses into smaller venues. (The shows did, however, continue to infrequently appear in large theatres well into the 1950s.) The high ticket prices of many revues helped ensure audiences distinct from other live popular entertainments during their height of popularity (late 1910s–1940s). In 1914, the Follies charged $5.00 for an opening night ticket ($130 in 2020 dollars); at that time, many cinema houses charged from $0.10 to 0.25, while low-priced vaudeville seats were $0.15.Among the many popular producers of revues, Florenz Ziegfeld played the greatest role in developing the classical revue through his glorification of a new theatrical "type", "the American girl". Famed for his often bizarre publicity schemes and continual debt, Ziegfeld joined Earl Carroll, George White, John Murray Anderson, and the Shubert Brothers as the leading producing figure of the American revue's golden age. Revues also had a presence in Germany during the 1930's and 1940's, with films such as "Frau meiner Träume" being made.
Revues took advantage of their high revenue stream to lure away performers from other media, often offering exorbitant weekly salaries without the unremitting travel demanded by other entertainments. Performers such as Eddie Cantor, Anna Held, W. C. Fields, Bert Williams, Ed Wynn, the Marx Brothers and the Fairbanks Twins found great success on the revue stage. One of Cole Porter's early shows was Raymond Hitchcock's revue Hitchy-Koo (1919). Composers or lyricists such as Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, and George M. Cohan also enjoyed a tremendous reception on the part of audiences. Sometimes, an appearance in a revue provided a key early entry into entertainment. Largely due to their centralization in New York City and their adroit use of publicity, revues proved particularly adept at introducing new talents to the American theatre. Rodgers and Hart, one of the great composer/lyricist teams of the American musical theatre, followed up their early Columbia University student revues with the successful Garrick Gaieties (1925). Comedian Fanny Brice, following a brief period in burlesque and amateur variety, bowed to revue audiences in Ziegfeld's Follies of 1910. Specialist writers and composers of revues have included Sandy Wilson, Noël Coward, John Stromberg, George Gershwin, Earl Carroll, and the British team Flanders and Swann. In Britain predominantly, Tom Arnold also specialized in promoting series of revues and his acts extended to the European continent and South Africa.
With the introduction of talking pictures, in 1927, studios immediately began filming acts from the stage. Such film shorts gradually replaced the live entertainment that had often accompanied cinema exhibition. By 1928, studios began planning to film feature-length versions of popular musicals and revues from the stage. The lavish films, noted by many for a sustained opulence unrivaled in Hollywood until the 1950s epics, reached a breadth of audience never found by the stage revue, all while significantly underpricing the now-faltering theatrical shows. A number of revues were released by the studios, many of which were filmed entirely (or partly) in color. The most notable examples of these are The Show of Shows (Warner Brothers, 1929), The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929), Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 (Fox Film Corporation, 1929), Paramount on Parade (Paramount, 1930), New Movietone Follies of 1930 (Fox, 1930) and King of Jazz (Universal, 1930). Even Britain jumped on the bandwagon and produced expensive revues such as Harmony Heaven (British International Pictures, 1929), Elstree Calling (BIP, 1930) and The Musical Revue Of 1959 (BIP, 1960).
Revues are often common today as student entertainment (with strong traditions in many universities in UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark). These use pastiche, in which contemporary songs are re-written in order to comment on the college or courses in a humorous nature. While most comic songs will only be heard within the revue they were written for, sometimes they become more widely known—such as "A Transport of Delight", about the big red London bus, by Flanders and Swann, who first made their name in a revue titled At the Drop of a Hat .
The Rolling Thunder Revue was a famed U.S. concert tour in the mid-1970s consisting of a traveling caravan of musicians, headed by Bob Dylan, that took place in late 1975 and early 1976.
Towards the end of the 20th century, a subgenre of revue largely dispensed with the sketches, founding narrative structure within a song cycle in which the material is culled from varied works. This type of revue may or may not have identifiable characters and a rudimentary storyline but, even when it does, the songs remain the focus of the show (for example, Closer Than Ever by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire). This type of revue usually showcases songs written by a particular composer or songs made famous by a particular performer. Examples of the former are Side By Side By Sondheim (music/lyrics Stephen Sondheim), Eubie! (Eubie Blake) Tom Foolery (Tom Lehrer), and Five Guys Named Moe (songs made popular by Louis Jordan). The eponymous nature of these later revues suggest a continued embrace of a unifying authorial presence in this seemingly scattershot genre, much as was earlier the case with Ziegfeld, Carrol, et al.
With different artistic emphases, the revue genre is today above all upheld at traditional variety theatres such as the Le Lido, Moulin Rouge and Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin, as well as in shows in Las Vegas.
It is a current and fairly longstanding tradition of medical, dental, legal and veterinary schools within the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to put on revues each year, combining comedy sketches, songs, parodies, films and sound-bites.
Each year, the revue of each of the five medical schools of the United Hospitals-the five medical schools within London- compete in the competition known as the UH Revue in an attempt to win the Moira Stuart Cup. It has been won by all medical schools at least once, with St George's and The MDs Comedy Revue both knocking up the most victories, winning the trophy six times each. As well as performing at their respective universities, shows will often be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.The Cambridge Medics Revue, St George's Medics Revue, and Birmingham Medics Revues have all performed at the Festival, with St. George's Medics Revue having been performing annually at the Fringe for 18 years and have sold-out their show for the last seven years. The BSMS Medic Revue has performed sellout shows in the Brighton Fringe Festival since 2008. The MDs Comedy Revue performed at the Fringe for the first time in 2015, to a sell-out audience. The Cambridge clinical school also now run a competing revue to the undergraduates, called variably Revue and Integration or Revue and Imitation.
The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 American epic musical drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Hunt Stromberg. It stars William Powell as the theatrical impresario Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr., Luise Rainer as Anna Held, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke.
Eddie Cantor was an American "illustrated song" performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter. Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this "Apostle of Pep" was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. Some of his hits include "Makin' Whoopee," "Ida ," "If You Knew Susie," "Ma! He's Makin' Eyes at Me," “Mandy,” "My Baby Just Cares for Me,” "Margie," and "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm ?" He also wrote a few songs, including "Merrily We Roll Along", the Merrie Melodies Warner Bros. cartoon theme.
Ray Henderson was an American songwriter.
The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.
Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke, better known as Billie Burke, was an American actress who was famous on Broadway and radio, and in silent and sound films. She is best known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. was an American Broadway impresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat. He was known as the "glorifier of the American girl". Ziegfeld is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Gustave Edwards was an American songwriter and vaudevillian. He also organised his own theatre companies and was a music publisher.
The Will Rogers Follies is a musical with a book by Peter Stone, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Cy Coleman.
Sally is a musical comedy with music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Clifford Grey and book by Guy Bolton, with additional lyrics by Buddy De Sylva, Anne Caldwell and P. G. Wodehouse. The plot hinges on a mistaken-identity: Sally, a waif, is a dishwasher at the Alley Inn. She poses as a famous foreign ballerina and rises to fame through joining the Ziegfeld Follies. There is a rags to riches story, a ballet as a centrepiece, and a wedding as a finale. "Look for the Silver Lining" continues to be one of Kern's most familiar songs. The song is lampooned by another song, "Look for a Sky of Blue," in Rick Besoyan's satirical 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine.
African-American musical theater relates to the historic musical theater of the African American community, particularly prominent in New York City during the first half of the 20th Century.
Doris Eaton Travis was an American dancer, stage and film actress, dance instructor, owner and manager, writer, and rancher, who was the last surviving Ziegfeld Girl, a troupe of acclaimed chorus girls who performed as members in the Broadway theatrical revues of the Ziegfeld Follies.
Belle Baker was an American singer and actress. Popular throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Baker introduced a number of ragtime and torch songs including Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" and "My Yiddishe Mama". She performed in the Ziegfeld Follies and introduced a number of Irving Berlin's songs. An early adapter to radio, Baker hosted her own radio show during the 1930s. Eddie Cantor called her “Dinah Shore, Patti Page, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland all rolled into one.”
Will Vodery was an American composer, conductor, orchestrator, and arranger, and one of the few black Americans of his time to make a name for himself as a composer on Broadway, working largely for Florenz Ziegfeld.
John W. Steel was an American tenor. He was featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 and 1920 and Irving Berlin's Music Box Revues of 1922 and 1923.
London Calling! was a musical revue, produced by André Charlot with music and lyrics by Noël Coward, which opened at London's Duke of York's Theatre on 4 September 1923. It is famous for being Noël Coward's first publicly produced musical work and for the use of a 3-D stereoscopic shadowgraph as part of its opening act. The revue's song "Parisian Pierrot", sung by Gertrude Lawrence, was Coward's first big hit and became one of his signature tunes.
The Passing Show was a musical revue in three acts, billed as a "topical extravaganza", with a book and lyrics by Sydney Rosenfeld and music by Ludwig Engländer and various other composers. It featured spoofs of theatrical productions of the past season. The show was presented in 1894 by George Lederer at the Casino Theatre. It was one of the first musical revues on Broadway and led the fashion for such productions. The Casino Theatre produced a revue each summer thereafter for several seasons.
"A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" is a popular song written by Irving Berlin in 1919 which became the theme song of the Ziegfeld Follies. The first verse and refrain are considered part of the Great American Songbook and are often covered as a jazz standard.
George White was an American theatrical and film producer and director who also was an actor, choreographer, composer, dancer, dramatist, lyricist and screenwriter, as well as a Broadway theater-owner.
Noel Francis was an American actress of the stage and screen during the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Texas, she began her acting career on the Broadway stage in the mid-1920s, before moving to Hollywood at the beginning of the sound film era. Originally cast in films for her song and dance abilities, when musicals began to fall out of favor, she became better known for her tough girl characters. However, by the mid-1930s, she was being typecast into smaller roles, and made an attempt at a comeback on Broadway. When that failed, she returned briefly to Hollywood to make several B films, before retiring in 1937.
The Earl Carroll Vanities was a Broadway revue that Earl Carroll presented in the 1920s and early 1930s. Carroll and his show were sometimes controversial.
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