The term Vaudeville dates back to the 1730’s and was originally coined after light-hearted songs that were composed in the valley of Vire, a town in northwest France.
Essentially, Vaudeville was a variety show of popular entertainment beginning in the 1890’s and consisting of pantomime, dialogue, animals, magic acts, comedians, singing, dancing, acrobatics and juggling. In a sense, it was a hybrid form of entertainment lying somewhere between a circus and a musical.
Vaudeville went through several transformations during its time, from clean variety through to more male-oriented entertainment. At its peak, it produced household American names such as the comedian W C Fields and cowboy Will Rogers.
But soon Vaudeville was competing with talking films and later television. Its official decline probably occurred in the early 1930’s, but Vaudeville more than likely dwindled slowly away until it finally died around the end of the Second World War.
Today, Vaudeville is occasionally revived from time to time, but is rarely seen.