Oregon Festival of American Music 2015: "Swanee"
In October 24, 1881 Bowery theatre manager and devoted family man Tony Pastor opened at the Fourteenth Street Theater what he claimed to be the first "clean" variety show in New York City on the hunch that a vastly broader audience could be reached by banning liquor at his shows and making the lyrics respectable. He was right, as many other impresarios were discovering, and over the next decade a new form of variety, called "vaudeville" exploded across the country, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities. The key to its genius (a guiding principle it shared with Tin Pan Alley) was its commitment to reaching middle America. As Groucho Marx often quipped, "If it plays in Peoria, it will play anywhere." And that's exactly what vaudeville wanted to do! Vaudeville shows featured a bit of everything presented in a series of unrelated acts--magic, plays, acrobatics, LOTS of comedy, and a wide range of music from classical and opera to the latest hits from Tin Pan Alley. Hugely successful until it finally succumbed to the advent of talkies at the end of the 1920s, vaudeville, at its height, supported over 250,000 artists and was the launching pad for most of the 20th century's top entertainers, ranging from Fred & Adelle Astaire and Charlie Chaplin to W. C. Fields, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Eddie Cantor, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers and thousands more. "Everything I know," declared James Cagney, "I learned in vaudeville." Bill Hulings, Shirley Andress and Ian Whitcomb front the Emerald City Jazz Kings in an afternoon of some of the best from 1920s vaudeville representing its most iconic stars--Al Jolson, Nora Bayes, Sophie Tucker, Fannie Brice and Eddie Cantor…along with more than a few nods to the non-musical elements of the form!
Date & Time
- August 12, 2015
- 1:30PM - 3:00PM