Music hall is a typically British theatrical entertainment that was popular from the early Victorian era until the 1960s and involved a mixture of popular songs, comedy, speciality acts, and variety entertainment, Originating in public houses during the 1830s, music hall entertainment became increasingly popular with audiences, so much so that specialised music hall theatres were designed to allow people to have an evening out consuming food and alcohol and smoking tobacco in the auditorium while the entertainment took place.
All forms of entertainment were performed: male and female impersonators, mime artists and impressionists, trampoline acts, and comic pianists. The music hall gave rise to major stars such as Marie Lloyd, George Formby, Gracie Fields , Max Miller and Flanagan and Allen. During the First World War music hall played its part by staging charity events in aid of the war effort.
Music hall entertainment continued after the war, but became less popular due to upcoming jazz, swing, and big-band dance music acts. Licensing restrictions had also changed, and drinking was banned from the auditorium. Deemed old-fashioned and with the closure of many halls, music hall entertainment ceased and the modern-day variety began.
In the early 1950s, rock and roll, whose performers initially topped music hall bills, attracted a young audience who had little interest in the music hall acts while driving the older audience away. The final straw was competition from television, which grew very popular after the Queen’s coronation was televised – so much so that in 1957, the playwright John Osborne delivered this elegy
‘The music hall is dying, and with it, a significant part of England. Some of the heart of England has gone; something that once belonged to everyone, for this was truly a folk art.’
But the music hall’s greatest legacy is the art form that it inspired – the musical. On stage and screen classical and modern musicals have hit new heights of popularity and today are a larger part of mainstream entertainment than ever before. Just look at what’s currently showing in London’s West End now – Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia to name but a few. The longest running Les Miserables has clocked up over 13,000 performances and over 14 million of us a year will go to see a live musical. This shows no sign of abating if we are to judge by the enormous buzz surrounding Hamilton now in London after sell-out success on Broadway.
Musicals have the power to transport as well as entertain you and leave you with a song in your heart and a spring in your step as you head home – much the same perhaps as our Victorian ancestors after an evening at the music hall.
So it seems most fitting that the Blackmore is offering two matinee performances combining the joys of Musicals and Music Halls. This will include a mixture of a medley of the best of current musicals with an exuberant cast from our Blackmore Youth Theatre, the stars of tomorrow, and the many talents of our adult theatre troupe in a traditional programme of music hall song, dance and variety acts.
Add the chance to dress up if desired and the knowledge that the money raised from both these performances will go towards much needed restoration and improvements for The Blackmore Theatre.
We hope to see as many of you there as possible and look forward to some good old audience participation!
£5 for Under 16s
Tickets now on sale – please call Ticket Line 07484 509514