Light entertainment popular in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It consisted of 10–15 unrelated acts featuring magicians, acrobats, comedians, trained animals, singers, and dancers. The form developed from the coarse variety shows held in beer halls for a primarily male audience. Tony Pastor established a successful “clean variety show” at his New York City theatre in 1881 and influenced other managers to follow suit. By 1900 chains of vaudeville theatres around the country included Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit, of which New York's Palace Theatre was the most famous (1913–32). Among the many entertainers who began in vaudeville were Mae West, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Milton Berle, and Bob Hope. See also music hall and variety theatre.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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