Edwardian Musical Comedy

Edwardian Musical Comedy



Description of the genre

Edwardian musicals span the late Victorian era and capture the optimism, energy and good humour of the new century and the Edwardian era. The Gaiety Theatre's well-loved burlesques were coming to an end, and so were the run of phenomenally successful Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Light romantic comic operas like "Dorothy" showed that audiences were ready for something new.

The first Edwardian musical comedy was "In Town" (1892), and the last was, perhaps, "The Maid of the Mountains" (1916). [Ganzl, Kurt, "Musicals", London: Carlton (1995), p.56. ISBN 0 74752 381 9; Hyman, Alan, "The Gaiety Years", London: Cassell (1975), p. 64. ISBN 0 304 29372 5] According to critic Andrew Lamb, "The British Empire and America began to fall for the appeal of the [Edwardian] musical comedy from the time when "A Gaiety Girl" was taken on a world tour in 1894." [Lamb, Andrew. [http://www.jstor.org/stable/3052183 "From Pinafore to Porter: United States-United Kingdom Interactions in Musical Theater, 1879–1929",] "American Music, Vol. 4, No. 1", British-American Musical Interactions (Spring, 1986), pp. 34-49, University of Illinois Press, retrieved September 18, 2008] The major composers of the genre were Sidney Jones ("The Geisha"), Ivan Caryll ("Our Miss Gibbs"), Howard Talbot ("A Chinese Honeymoon"), Leslie Stuart ("Florodora"), Paul Rubens ("Miss Hook of Holland") and, most popular of all, Lionel Monckton ("The Quaker Girl"). The shows were a mixture of the prosaic, many being set amongst the working class of London, and the exotic, with most of the British Empire appearing in one or another of these shows. Often, they were both, featuring stolid British types and their misunderstandings and adventures with strange 'Johnny Foreigners'. Generally, the book, lyrics and music were each written by different people, which was a first for the musical stage, although now this is the usual way of doing things.

-singing Londoners, representing the future. It is this tension that makes the shows of this period so enjoyable: sophistication with the common touch.

Edwardian musical comedies were frequently built around a resident company of artists, as the Savoy Operas had been, which included a number of the greatest stars of the musical stage - including such actresses as Marie Tempest, Gertie Millar, Lily Elsie, Ellaline Terriss and Phyllis Dare, leading men such as Hayden Coffin, Harry Grattan and Rutland Barrington, and comics such as George Grossmith, Jr., Huntley Wright and Edmund Payne.


The Edwardian musical comedy was very much a British phenomenon, but some of the shows repeated their success abroad, both in America and in Europe. Most notable among these was "The Geisha", which proved even more popular on the European continent than "The Mikado" or "Dorothy" had. [Ganzl (1995), pp. 66-67.]


Music from Leslie Stuart and Owen Hall's "Florodora" (1899) multi-listen item
filename=Florodora - In the shade of the palm.ogg
title=In the shade of the palm
description=A circa 1902 Edison Records recording by Frank C. Stanley.
multi-listen item
title=Tell me pretty maiden
description=A circa 1908 Edison Records recording by the "Edison Sextette" (Ada Jones, George S. Lenox, Corinne Morgan, Grace Nelson, Bob Roberts and Frank C. Stanley).



* [http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/fraser.charlton/edmuscom/page12/edmuscom_what.html Article on the rise of Edwardian musical comedy]
* [http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/guided_tours/musicals_tour/first_musicals/musical_comedy.php Description of Edwardes' musicals]
* [http://www.musicals101.com/usafter.htm Info from the comprehensive musicals 101 site]
* [http://www.hobbyist.co.uk/postcards/earlybritishmusicals/index.htm Description of books about Edwardian musicals and people associated with them]

External links

* [http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/fraser.charlton/edmuscom/index.html Synopses, libretti and MIDI files of Edwardian Musical Comedies]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/british British Musical Theatre] pages - biographies, synopses and MIDI files
* [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-main.html Stage Beauty] - an extensive website dedicated to the female stars from the golden age of English Theatre
* [http://www.halhkmusic.com/ Edwardian Musical Shows - MIDI files, cast lists, and usually also lyrics, of over 100 musicals]
* [http://www.halhkmusic.com/victorian.html Edwardian light opera site]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/british/musicals.html Listing of English musicals with links]

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