Edwardian Musical Comedy - History - Examples


The Arcadians is generally regarded as the masterpiece of the genre The composers were Monckton and Talbot, both at the height of their powers (which makes Talbot's frequent omission from the credits even more iniquitous). The story, about the havoc wreaked when truth-telling Arcadians arrive in corrupt London, neatly parallels the position of Edwardian musical comedies in theatrical history, with operetta-singing Arcadians, representing the past, meeting with music hall-singing Londoners, representing the future. It is this tension that makes the shows of this period so enjoyable: sophistication with the common touch.

Florodora (1899) by Leslie Stuart and Paul Rubens made a splash on both sides of the Atlantic, as did A Chinese Honeymoon (1901), by British lyricist George Dance and American-born composer Howard Talbot, which ran for a record setting 1,074 performances in London and 376 in New York. The story concerns couples who honeymoon in China and inadvertently break the kissing laws (shades of The Mikado). Later enormously popular hits included Chu Chin Chow (1916), which ran for 2,238 performances (more than twice as many as any previous musical), Theodore & Co (1916), The Boy (1917), Yes, Uncle! (1917) and The Maid of the Mountains (1917, the second longest-running Edwardian musical, with 1,352 performances). Audiences wanted light and uplifting entertainment during the war, and these shows delivered it.

George M. Cohan's sentimental Little Nellie Kelly (1922) was considered a late example of Edwardian musical comedy.

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