Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment. It was especially popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. A typical vaudeville performance is made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts have included popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. A vaudeville performer is often referred to as a vaudevillian.
Vaudeville developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque. Called “the heart of American show business,” vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades.
American Vaudeville Museum Excellent website with biographies and photographs of dozens of vaudeville performers from W.C. Fields to Sarah Bernhardt and Sophie Tucker.
Encyclopedia.com Entry on vaudeville.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Brief history of vaudeville and burlesque.
Library of Congress Excellent article examining American vaudeville on film, including animal acts, burlesque, comic sketches, dance, acrobatics and dramatic pieces.
Library of Congress Useful article examining the historical context of the typical American vaudeville show line-up and motion pictures as vaudeville acts.
Library of Congress Useful article examining theatre playbills and programmes of vaudeville, burlesque, early musical and minstrel shows (includes images).
Library of Congress Article discussing the characteristics of three late 19th Century unpublished vaudeville playscripts.
Library of Congress Scripts to several hundred original vaudeville sketches (scanned and difficult to read).
Library of Congress Excellent site examining Bob Hope’s career in vaudeville.
Library of Congress Large historical collection of vaudeville theatre programmes (scanned images).
Musicals 101 Excellent history of Vaudeville by John Kenrick in four parts – the early days, typical vaudeville acts, star performers in vaudeville and the final years. Offers photographs, statistics and other useful facts.
Musicals 101 Useful history of American variety entertainment.
Musicals 101 Brief history of the American black and white minstrel show.
Musicals 101 Several images of vaudeville stars and venues.
Obscure Stages Bibliography of vaudeville resources.
Rick Easton Very good history of Vaudeville.
Vaudeville Memories Archived version of a useful vaudeville fansite with comprehensive directories of links to other sites.
Vintage Vaudeville and Ragtime Show Fansite with virtual vaudeville show involving performer biographies, audio archives and images.