What is Vaudeville?

When most people think of vaudeville, it conjures up images of painted-on facial expressions and skits: but it's so much more than these old ideas.  Vaudeville is a dynamic and beautiful type of entertainment ranging from burlesque and comedy to song and dance.  This art has been kept alive by modern artists and is one of the most thrilling experiences anyone can enjoy!

When Did It Start?

Known as the original variety show, vaudeville started in France in the 1890s and was highly popular until the 1930s when war and the influx of televisions took over public consciousness.  The original shows were made in response to traveling circuses, offering instead some skilled acting and singing and the chance for visitors to relax and laugh.

What Did It Include?

Comedy skits are the central part of vaudeville.  Not only are these skits used to fill time between musical performances, but they also help stretch the show out and allow the guests to laugh and enjoy themselves.  Unfortunately, part of this history is tied into minstrelsy when vaudeville became popular in the United States, including these performances, but this is no longer a part of the modern performances. Most performers will openly discuss how it's moved away from this part of its past.

Burlesque has always been a part of vaudeville, teasing fun dances allowing both male and female performers to show off a more sensual side while mainly remaining clothed.  Although burlesque has since become its own thing, it's still considered a large part of modern vaudeville.

Magic acts were also every day in these shows, attempting to stupify and amaze the audience with tracks that shouldn't be possible.  These would range from daring feats to simple card tricks and would progress as the show went on.

How Common Is It Now?

Many modern vaudeville shows work hard to set themselves apart.  More commonly dinner theater, these two hours shows follow a lot of what was performed in the originals while putting modern twists and fun to keep it exciting and new.  Breathing life into this theater genre isn't easy, so most of these performances are only found in large cities, and few travel the country.

You can still find the parts that made up the whole in magic shows, burlesque, and comedy and improv performances, but if you want to see it all in one go, you may have to travel for it.

Where Can I Watch A Performance?

Suppose you want to travel, New York, Los Angeles, and most large cities.  If you can't find one specifically called vaudeville, consider seeking out 'variety shows' instead.  If you want to throw a vaudeville party, it's still possible, though!  Instead, consider hiring burlesque performers like Vixen Deville and finding musicians, comedians, and improv professionals.  As long as you're clear with the performers that it's a one-night gig and you pay them fairly, you can create a show unlike anything else.

Although vaudeville is mainly gone, you can still find elements of it everywhere in modern life.  The show Saturday Night Live is the closest you can get to real vaudeville, even though it may seem entirely modern.