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Vaudeville the mainstay of theatre

Photo caption: A characteristic scene from one of vaudeville’s lavish production, probably about 1910.

Source: Billy Rose Theatre Collection (New York Public Library)

More than 900 theatres in the country were playing vaudeville.  Vaudeville began as burlesque, using spectacular scenery, beautiful and scantily clad women, music and comedy to attract large, predominantly male, audiences.  Burlesque was little more than a collection of musical acts and parody, with heavily sexual overtones.

Early in the century, burlesque began to be transformed into modern vaudeville, which had greater family appeal.  Like burlesque, vaudeville was a collection of variety acts that also featured sketches and short plays, often featuring leading actors.  Vaudeville was one of the most popular forms of entertainment from the turn of the century until around 1930.