Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Black Crook

This month we are looking at the development of American musical theater over the last 150 years. Last time we looked at a few types of early theater. Today, let’s look closer at one famous work, The Black Crook (1866), which started as two separate works that, when combined, found success.

The Black Crook originated as a melodrama by Charles M. Barras. Considered old-fashioned, it was a supernatural tale similar to Weber’s Der Freischutz. Despite the lack of intrigue, the New York theatre Niblo’s Garden booked the show. For more about Niblo’s Garden, check out the video below!

Around the same time, a European dance troupe that was scheduled to perform at the Academy of Music found themselves without work when the Academy burnt down. Thus, they combined their ballet with the melodrama to produce a show known for its scenic effects and scantily dressed dancers. The show ended up taking in over a million dollars and running 475 consecutive shows at Niblos’s, exceeding any production prior to it in New York! In order to keep the show fresh, new ballets were periodically added. Following its Broadway run, The Black Crook toured the country.

Join me next week as we move into the early 20th century!