Geoffrey Wheeler presents a series about the history of American vaudeville.
1/3. Like Music Hall in Britain, vaudeville was a product of its time. At its peak, tens of thousands of performers travelled from town to town earning their living. Among those who learned their trade in vaudeville were future international stars such as Fred and Adele Astaire, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and jazz singer Ma Rainey.
Like Music Hall in Britain, vaudeville was a product of its time - increasing urbanisation and a desire to present entertainment which would appeal to the whole family, led to the development of vast vaudeville circuits, spanning thousands of miles of barely settled American territory.
Thousands of performers travelled from town to town, earning their living.
Among those who learned their trade in vaudeville were future international stars such as Fred and Adele Astaire, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and jazz singer Ma Rainey.
Memphis, a city where vaudeville performers mixed with a new generation of musicians producing the exciting new sounds of jazz and blues.
Even in the days of segregation, black and white performers were able to mingle freely in the buzzing creative atmosphere of Beale Street, the long-gone Palace Theater, and the still-thriving Orpheum.
A look at how some of the finest vaudeville theatres reinvented themselves in order to survive after vaudeville itself withered and died in the 1930s.
The Boston Opera House, the Orpheum in Memphis, and the Pantages in Minneapolis are now flourishing theatrical and musical venues, but it took millions of dollars of investment and many long years of painstaking restoration and rebuilding, as well as a change of attitude towards the preservation of the past.