Printer Friendly

'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay': Lottie Collins' act and the not-so-modern girl.

The cheers and catcalls which attended Lottie Collins's London performances of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' in 1891-2 have long since become legendary. After it became a hit in Gaiety Theatre burlesques and the music halls of the West End, a swag of reminiscences of this song-and-dance act were published in the early twentieth century. Some of these were written by ageing bohemians who were pleased to remember a glimpse of Collins's knickers as she high-kicked before appreciative fans. For these elderly fellows, Collins's 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was the act of the Naughty Nineties--the one that ushered in all those sylphlike Gaiety Girls and skimpily dressed Alhambra coryphees. The act was a 'Dionysian revel of the emancipated girl', one nostalgic gentleman claimed. It was part of what loosened the stays of the Victorian period and made way for modern approaches to sexuality. (1)

The idea that a Dionysian emancipation of women took place in the 1890s is hardly widely accepted today. It is not surprising, given this, that the 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' legend has been criticised over the years, most significantly by historian Peter Bailey. As he sees it, Collins's performance was not evidence of a 'Bacchanalian abandon' (as another nostalgic gentleman put it) which took hold in the Naughty Nineties. (2) Rather, it was a key instance of a carefully controlled feminine sexuality which would become increasingly prominent on the popular stage in the turn-of-the-century years. The well-born society girl who featured in 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was like the later heroines of musical comedies: 'not too bad and not too good', 'not too timid, not too bold'. She acted wickedly come-hither when the opportunity presented itself (hence the high kicks and flashes of underclothes). But she also knew how to keep herself in check when required. Rather than being an instance of let-it-all-hang-out liberation, Collins's 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' thus struck a fine balance between restraint and wantonness which would soon afterwards be presented as de rigueur for any up-to-date girl. For the modern young women of the 1890s, in other words, the ideal sexuality was achieved not by acting Naughty, but rather 'Naughty But Nice'. (3) Bailey's interpretation of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' may well be an accurate reading of Lottie Collins's performances and how they were received in London's West End. Collins herself insisted that she brought a self-control to the act which prevented it from going too far. (4) Even if one accepts that her performance was an embodiment of adroitly managed sexiness, however, there were plenty of other renditions of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' which played up the sex and soft-pedalled the self-control. The act was performed by many other singer-dancers besides Collins, some of these in places a long way from the West End. Among those places were the two cities I focus on here: namely, Sydney and Melbourne.

'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' first appeared Down Under in May 1892 as part of a tour by the London Gaiety Burlesque Company. Although Collins would later come to Australia in 1900-1, she was not present on this tour. The singer who performed 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was Alice Leamar, later to enjoy renown in the London halls for the racy number, 'And Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back'. (5) 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was also parodied or copied by Australian performers further down the food chain (as indeed it was in any large city on the transnational theatre circuit of the day). In each case, the lowborn patrons who flocked to see it were drawn because it re-asserted a feminine raunchiness which had featured in 'low' entertainments as far back as Australia's convict years. To young lower working-class women in particular, it exuded a raw feminine energy which would have been inappropriate in the up-to-date musical comedies of the 1890s, but was quite at home in the cheap saloon or sideshow.

Considering young Australian women's reception of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' provides us with an example of how the popular theatrical performances of this period could spill from the fashionable stage onto the mean streets and acquire new meanings along the way. It also shows us that the restrained sexuality which featured in the latest acts on the 1890s stage held little appeal for unruly young women from the lower working class. If one is interested in these women's sexuality and its relationship to popular theatre, it is thus important not to be preoccupied with the modern or new. As the Australian interest in 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' suggests, older forms of bawdy femininity and their embodiment in theatrical performance were more attractive to lowborn youth than self-consciously modern forms of sexuality.

The song 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' (sans the dance) was first performed by the black singer, Mama Lou, at a night club/brothel in St Louis, Missouri. It was heard there by the composer Henry Sayers, who quickly adapted it for a blackface farce called Tuxedo. Debuting in Boston in late August 1891, 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was thus one of the innumerable songs created by African Americans which was poached by whites and then made into a commercial success. At one performance of Tuxedo, the song was heard by Stephen Cooney, Lottie Collins's American husband, who promptly acquired the English rights for her. Collins had the lyrics changed to suit her, and then worked up the cancan-like dance that became inseparable from the song. She gave her first rendition of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' at the London Tivoli in November 1891, and afterwards in a pantomime at the Grand Theatre, Islington. By early 1892, she was high-kicking her way across the stages of the Pavilion, the Royal and the Tivoli, giving multiple turns at these music halls most nights. Her audience expanded in March 1892 when she performed the act in the burlesque Cinder-Ellen at George Edwardes's Gaiety Theatre. (6)

High-kicking dances were of course no novelty when Collins appeared as the knicker-flashing 'belle of good society' in 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay'. The Parisian can-can had been performed in England as far back as the late 1860s. American 'skirt dances' had similarly been in circulation for some time. (7) There was something about the way Collins thrust her leg skyward on the 'boom' in 'boom-de-ay', however--an action accompanied by the bang of a drum and the nonsensical lyrics of the chorus--that gave the act its stupendous popularity. So enthusiastic was its reception that Collins was showered with invitations to appear in America, which she took up in September 1892. Months before this, the Gaiety Theatre had also sent a company to Australia and New Zealand where the act was performed by Leamar. (8)

The Australian section of the Gaiety Burlesque Company's tour was not quite a critical or commercial success. (9) If nothing else, the Australian colonies were then heading towards depression, following a series of bank smashes, strikes, and the crash of the Victorian property market in 1890. (It is for this reason that the terms 'Gay Nineties' or 'Naughty Nineties' have no currency in Australia). In spite of the sombre economic outlook, however, excited audiences still queued to see the first burlesque, Faust Up To Date, which featured 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay'. Appearing first in Melbourne, then in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, the act immediately caught on. Each night, Leamar was subjected to exhausting calls for encores. Outside the theatres, upstanding persons were soon bemoaning the 'inevitable "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay"'. It was played by portside bands, by other professional and amateur performers, and sung in the open by ebullient passers-by. (10)

If one Australian observer is correct, Leamar's performance of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was broadly similar to Collins's. She sang the sections between the chorus with a simpering demureness, including the following verse:
   When in a train I chance to be,
   It's odd how men will sit next to me;
   It cannot be my fault, you see,
   If they presume to make too free.
   I cannot tell the reason why,
   I never make the least reply
   But, 'Oh, you should not!', and 'Oh, fie!'
   Yet when the tunnels come--oh, my!

She then exploded into the famous chorus with the expected swirl of petticoats and exuberantly kicking legs. So energetic was her conduct that one wit described her appearance as 'partly that of a spider getting enthusiastically off a hot stove and partly that of the native kangaroo ... trying to break a record over a series of fences, and singing as she goes'. (11) In spite of the obvious similarities between her performance and Collins's, however, there were circumstances which gave the act particular meanings in Australia which it had not possessed on the West End. To explain these, a digression is required.

When Leamar performed 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' in Australia, she shared the stage with the Gaiety Company's comic lead, E. J. Lonnen. He was well known in London for his rascally Cockney and Irish songs. These included 'Killaloe' and "Ave a Glass Along of Me'. Lonnen performed these numbers in Australia, and they went down a treat with his colonial fans. At the same time, however, he also introduced a couple of new numbers which he described as 'larrikin songs'. These were essentially similar to his Cockney acts, but were infused with a local flavour. (12)

Still heavily in use today, the word 'larrikin' was heard everywhere in 1890s Australia. With the same resonance as 'hooligan', it was used to describe rough youth who were thought to be running amok at the time. Abundant street fights, muggings and gang rapes had been committed by groups of such youth in the 1880s and early 1890s. Some of these groups of 'larrikin' youth gave themselves names a la Manchester's scuttlers, such as the 'Bouverie Forties' and the 'Miller's Point push'. Again like the scuttlers, young women as well as young men took part in their activities: drinking, dancing, fighting, and insulting people in the street. (13)

The two larrikin songs which Lonnen performed in Australia were 'I've Chucked up the Push for My Donah', and 'Down the Bay'. The first of these was cast in the same mode as Albert Chevalier's sentimental Cockney songs. It featured a lowborn fellow who had fallen in love with a 'donah wot I met at Chowder Bay' (a picnic ground on Sydney harbour), who was now throwing off his wild ways as the former member of a larrikin 'push', or gang. The lyrics for the second song have unfortunately not survived. It is likely, however, that it was more in Lonnen's rorty drinking-song vein, featuring a larrikin who was happy to keep up his hooligan tendencies. (14) The 'Bay' referred to in the title was undoubtedly also Chowder Bay.

Less than two years before the London Gaiety company arrived in Australia, a violent skirmish had taken place at Chowder Bay. The skirmish began in a dance pavilion between members of larrikin groups known as the 'Woolloomooloo push' and the 'Gipps Street push'. After police and artillerymen arrived, however, it became a free-for-all in which both groups attacked the authorities with hails of bottles and stones. Over the next days, more than forty offenders were charged for participation in the 'Chowder Bay riot'. A few of these were young women in their late teens or early twenties, who had been caught either punching each other or haranguing police. Other unruly events involving larrikins of both sexes had taken place at the same dance pavilion back in the 1880s. As a consequence, Chowder was often referred to as the paradigmatic site for larrikin uproar in Australian popular culture, providing the context for Lonnen's larrikin songs. (15)

Whether at the Chowder Bay pavilion or cheap saloons in the inner suburbs, the wildness of larrikin dancing was the subject of frequent commentary in the late colonial years. It was thus inevitable that Leamar's frenetic moves in 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' would evoke associations with rough Australian youth. By the time she appeared in Sydney in September 1892, the Gaiety Company had also become renowned for Lonnen's larrikin numbers. This made it even more likely that Leamar's antics were regarded as an exhibition of larrikin proclivities. As if to underline this point, Lonnen performed his own version of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' in drag during some of the Gaiety shows. (16)

The larrikin connotations of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' were certainly not lost on the waggish paper, the Bulletin, after the Gaiety Company opened in Sydney. According to the Bulletin, Sydney's Her Majesty's Theatre was packed when Faust Up to Date began there. This 'vast audience' was not very discriminating, the paper continued. It 'manifested itself in a reckless tendency to cheer for everybody and everything; but later on it gathered itself together to screech to the bitter end for Lonnen and Alice Leamar'. A few nights later, 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was dropped from the performance, possibly because Leamar was fatigued in the antipodean spring heat. By 1 October it had been reinstated, however, because the gallery had roared in protest, cursing 'in plain and fancy Woolloomooloo'. (17)

The Bulletins reference to the gallery shouting 'in Woolloomooloo' was meant to imply that a fair number of larrikins were present to see Faust Up To Date. Woolloomooloo was another Sydney locale renowned for its larrikins--indeed, a larrikin song by that name was performed by a local comedian as a parody of Lonnen's 'Killaloe'. The same intimation was made by the reviewer for the Bird O'Freedom, a lowbrow Sydney paper. One of the Bird's specialties was to publish theatre reviews by 'Billy the Offis Boy', couched in annoyingly misspelt prose. 'I wint [to Faust Up To Date]', this Offis Boy said, 'and never seede such a krush since pore Billie Barloh left'. He then described the Gaiety Company as the 'Gaytea Push', evoking an association with larrikin youth. (18)

Whether or not larrikins really saw Leamar perform is an open question. The Bird and the Bulletin were probably right to imply that some did so. At the same time, however, the shilling tickets to the gallery of Her Majesty's Theatre would have been out of reach for many lower working-class adolescents in those difficult financial times. But regardless of how many larrikins actually saw Leamar's 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay', the act's association with larrikinism still framed the way it was received by Australian crowds. Some of them would also have seen the act in less ritzy venues: at a rumbustious blackface minstrel performance at St George's Hall in Melbourne, for example, where gallery tickets cost sixpence. (19) And not only that: any act of the popularity of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' would have appeared in travelling sideshows or pub singing rooms (I say 'singing rooms', because Australia possessed only a tiny number of music halls). (20) One itinerant sideshow was indeed performing in the early 1890s in the inner-industrial Melbourne suburb of Richmond, a place rife with larrikin groups. A police report from mid-1895 indicated that this show included 'girl high kickers' and that it had been doing the rounds of Melbourne for some time. Lastly, the fact that high-kicking was a familiar dance-move in brothels would have made 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' ripe for imitation there. An account of a young girl high-kicking in a Melbourne wine saloon-cum-brothel appeared in the press in the mid-1890s. (21)

With its redolence of tent shows and brothels, 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' (as Billy the Offis Boy called it) had more vulgar connotations for Australian larrikins than it did for those who saw Collins in London and found her act to be artfully self-controlled. This vulgarity was not shocking to these colonial rowdies, however--it was no more rude than others performed in pubs and bawdy-house bars. The can-can had been performed at the Scandinavian Music Hall in Sydney in the late 1860s, for example, not long after it appeared in London. (22) For the sorts of people who took part in the Chowder Bay riot, there thus appear to have been three main reasons for the attractions of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay', each of which had more to do with a gleeful recognition of its 'lowness' than its novelty value. Firstly, there was the sheer catchiness of the dance and the nonsense syllables of the song's chorus. Secondly, the act gave a higher prominence to the ribald femininity these people already enjoyed in other entertainment forums. Lastly, its links to larrikinism turned it into a rough youth anthem capable of being flaunted in the public sphere.

Some of the parodies of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' suggested ways in which the song allowed male larrikins to flaunt their youthful disreputability in colonial streets. One can easily imagine a drunken group on a street corner singing:
   I've socked some rum to-day,
   I've socked some run to-day,
   I've socked some rum to-day, &c.

According to Flora Thompson, the lyrics to one of the verses were also changed by adolescent boys in England--the sort that lounged about in public and hassled female passers-by. They may well have been sung along similar lines by male larrikins, who were notorious for heckling female pedestrians:
   Lottie Collins has no drawers
   Will you kindly lend her yours? (23)

As the pleasurable remembrances of old theatregoers attests, 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay's titillating effects on men has long attracted commentary. What tends to be glossed over in this commentary is that the act's raucous physicality also commended it to boisterous girls. Trying to kick the moon on the 'boom' in the chorus was plain adrenalin-pumping fun. While the boys may have been turning 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' into a drinking song, these girls were literally kicking up their heels to it--and at the same time delivering a vulgar 'up yours' to social propriety. In August 1892, for example, the Bird O'Freedom reported that a group of young women had been indulging in 'an alfresco skirt dance to the huge delight of a mob of larrikins' in Potts Point, close to Woolloomooloo. When large numbers of Sydney police were sent to the mining town of Broken Hill during a strike, the paper further suggested that rough youth were rejoicing at the liberties it allowed.


It ran a cartoon of a group of men and women in larrikin garb dancing 'Ta-rara-boom-de-ay' on the footpath. A few years later, three drunken young women and a man were arrested in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton for holding a high-kicking competition one Saturday night. Dancing involving wild kicks and frenetic footwork had been conspicuous in low dance saloons at least as far back as the 1860s. Thanks to the popularity of 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay', however, it appears to have become even more associated with 'leg-acrobatics' at 'larrikin assemblies' in the 1890s than before. (24)

By now, it should be clear that 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' was interpreted as far from 'naughty but nice' by unruly youngsters from Australia's inner-industrial zones. For these young people, the act did not promote the refined flirtatiousness which came to predominate in musical comedies. As Bailey shows, the advent of the musical comedy around the time that Collins performed 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' represented a key moment in the sexualisation of British femininity. With their glamorous 'come-hitherness', the elegantly-dressed heroines of musical comedy were celebrated as an embodiment of modern femininity on the West End, making way for the more overtly sexualised embodiments which followed in later years. (25) Since young larrikin women were uninterested in concepts of elegant seductiveness, however, their own responses to 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' cannot be seen as part of this history. They fit more easily into a history which harks back to the riotous libertinism of the early-to-mid nineteenth century; the period in which disorderly women were shipped as convicts to Australia, and raucous pubs appeared on the Victorian goldfields. The example of young larrikin women also attests, in turn, to the continuing significance of this roisterous libertinism among lower working-class youth at the turn of the century.

The point I am seeking to make here is essentially one about class that Bailey himself makes, although my aim is to make it more emphatically. The musical comedies of the 1890s were not attended by large numbers of blue-collar workers. The 'naughty but nice' sexuality which came to prominence in this period was tailored to middling and middle-class audiences, and thus had little relevance to those further down the social scale. (26) We should not be surprised by this: unruly members of the lower working class had neither a need for a 'loosening of the stays' nor a 'refined' sexiness at the end of the century, after all, they had never subscribed overly to Victorian codes of respectability, and were thus unlikely to regard entertainments which gave a new respectability to sexualised femininity as especially exhilarating.

The fact that the sexual content of fin de siecle entertainments appeared novel to middling rather than lower working-class observers exposes the class bias implicit in the notion that the 1890s bore witness to a 'New Spirit of Pleasure' which modernised Victorian attitudes to sexuality. This brings me to another important point, this time about scholarship on modernity. If we understand modernity to be a change in people's subjective experiences as a result of modernising forces (for example, industrialisation and the commercialisation of leisure), then we need to avoid applying that concept too broadly to turn-of-the-century Western societies. The fact that lower working-class girls were interested in 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' because of its old-school disorderly femininity strikes a note of caution here. It suggests that we need to be careful about placing too much emphasis on what was new about feminine sexuality and entertainment in this period of history. (27)

If recent works by Len Platt, Barry Faulks and others are anything to go by, an interest in the intersection between popular theatre and modernity is currently a la mode. (28) This parallels work on feminine modernity and modern sexualities among gender scholars over the past decade and more. It is certainly the case that this interest has yielded valuable perspectives on gender and popular culture. (29) At the same time, however, it is important to recognise that a preoccupation with modern entertainments also possesses an implicit class bias--at least insofar as it applies to the pre-moving picture years. The idea of being elegantly up-to-date had as little meaning for deliberately rough women in this period as did a review of a musical comedy by the bourgeois press. Many entertainments appealed to these women because they belonged to a familiar world of boisterous femininity and sensual pleasure (one that could be found at the Scandinavian Music Hall in the 1860s, for example) rather than because they offered an intimation of a shiny new world. By focusing too much on what was modern about turn-of-the-century theatre and sexuality, we thus risk missing other aspects of these things that were meaningful to contemporaries--especially to lower working-class young women in the Australian colonies.


(1) J. B. Booth, The Days We Knew (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1943), p. 46; Holbrook Jackson, The Eighteen Nineties (London: Grant Richards Ltd, 1913), p. 31. For other remembrances, see: Amy Koritz, 'Moving Violations: Dance in the London Music Hall, 1890-1910', Theatre Journal, 42:4 (1990), 421-3.

(2) W. Macqueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On (London: W. H. Allan, n.d.), pp. 337-8.

(3) Peter Bailey, 'Musical Comedy and the Rhetoric of the Girl', in Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 175-93.

(4) Lottie Collins, cited in Bailey, p. 187; see also J. E. Crawford Flitch, Modern Dancing and Dancers (London: Grant Richards, 1912), p. 97.

(5) On Collins's 1900-1 tour: Richard Waterhouse, From Minstrel Show to Vaudeville: The Australian Popular Stage, 1788-1914 (Sydney: New South Wales University Press, 1990), pp. 122, 127. On Alice Leamar: Roy Busby, British Music Hall: An Illustrated Who's Who From 1850 To The Present Day (London: Elek, 1976), p. 100. On 'And Her Golden Hair...', see Lise Sanders, Consuming Fantasies: Labour, Leisure and the London Shopgirl, 1880-1920 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006), p. 179; Bailey, 'Musical Comedy', p. 184.

(6) David E. Chinitz, T. S. Eliot and the Cultural Divide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 39-40; Busby, British Music Hall, p. 39; 'A chat with Lottie Collins', Era, 10 August 1895, p. 14; Era, 21 November 1891, p. 16; The Times (London), 14 March 1892, p. 8.

(7) Crawford Flitch, Modern Dancing, pp. 71-80, 91-102.

(8) Koritz, 'Moving Violations', p. 423; The New York Times, 17 September 1892, p. 7.

(9) John West, 'Gaiety Theatre Companies', in Philip Parsons (ed.), Companion to Theatre in Australia (Sydney: Currency Press, 1995), pp. 240-1.

(10) Argus (Melbourne), 16 May 1892, p. 6; 30 May 1892, p. 3; West Australian, 12 July 1894, p. 6.

(11) West Australian, 29 July 1892, p. 5; Bulletin (Sydney), 17 September 1892, p. 8; Australian Melodist (Melbourne, n.d.), 20, pp. 6-8;

(12) Brisbane Courier, 20 August 1892, p. 5; 16 August 1892, p. 8; Edgar Waters, 'Some Aspects of the Popular Arts in Australia, 1880-1915', M. A. Thesis, Australian National University, 1962, pp. 213-4.

(13) Melissa Bellanta, '"The Larrikins' Hop": Larrikinism and Late-Colonial Popular Theatre', Australasian Drama Studies, 52 (2008), 131-47; Simon Sleight, 'Interstitial Acts: The Larrikin Repertoire and Public Space in Late-Victorian Melbourne', Australian Historical Studies, 40: 2 (2009), 230-48; Andrew Davies, The Gangs of Manchester: The Story of the Scuttlers (Preston: Milo Books, 2008).

(14) 'I've Chucked Up the Push....', reproduced online on Warren Fahey's Australian Folklore site: (accessed 23 January 2010); Argus, 27 December 1892, p. 7.

(15) Sydney Morning Herald, 7 October 1890, p. 5; 8 October 1890, p. 4; 6 November 1891, p. 3; Argus, 11 January 1882, p. 6; 23 May 1883, p. 5.

(16) Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 1892, p. 2. John Sheridan also performed a parody in drag at Melbourne's Theatre Royal, a theatre whose gallery was notorious for its larrikins: Argus, 14 May 1892, p. 12.

(17) Bulletin, 24 September 1892, p. 6; 1 October 1892, p. 8.

(18) Australian Melodist, 20, pp. 25-6; Bird O'Freedom, 25 October 1892, p. 5.

(19) Argus, 21 May 1892, p. 12.

(20) Waterhouse, From Minstrel Show to Vaudeville, pp. 42, 117.

(21) Bulletin, 1 October 1892, p. 8; Public Records Office of Victoria, Melbourne, Police Correspondence, Series 807/P/O Unit 25 File B6212, Reports re Catherine Frederickson; Argus, 12 December 1896, p. 13.

(22) Waterhouse, From Minstrel Show to Vaudeville, p. 42.

(23) Bird O'Freedom, 25 October 1892, p. 5; Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford (New Hampshire, 2009), p. 520.

(24) Bird O'Freedom, 13 August 1892, p. 1; 17 September 1892, p. 1; Argus, 29 December 1903, p. 3; Mercury (Hobart), 18 February 1899, p. 25. On wild dancing at low saloons in 1860s Australia: Marcus Clarke, A Colonial City: High and Low Life, L. T. Hergenhan (ed.) (St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press 1972), p. 145.

(25) Bailey, 'Musical Comedy', pp. 128-50; see also Bailey on the Victorian barmaid, also in Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City, pp. 151-74.

(26) Bailey, 'Musical Comedy', pp. 182, 191-2. While Bailey notes that musical comedies attracted a predominantly middling and middle-class clientele, he still tries to imply that they had a wider impact. He does this by suggesting that the working-class girls discussed by Kathy Peiss in her landmark work on turn-of-the-century New York may have benefitted from the musical comedy (Bailey, p. 193, n. 49). Many of the New York girls discussed by Peiss were into 'tough dancing' and other brashly sexual behaviours, however, something quite different from the 'innocent libertinism' exhibited in musical comedies. It is far more likely that they were influenced by entertainments in New York's cheap amusement venues, and that they had either little interest and/or little opportunity to attend middlebrow musical comedies: Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn of the Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986).

(27) My definition of modernity here is one used by many scholars following Walter Benjamin: e.g. Mary Gluck, Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005).

(28) Len Platt, Musical Comedy on the West End Stage, 1890-1939 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Barry Faulks, Music Hall and Modernity: The Late-Victorian Discovery of Popular Culture (Athens, U.S.: Ohio University Press, 2004); Sally Debra Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-de-Siecle Paris: Staging Modernity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

(29) See for example: Deborah L. Parsons, Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women, the City, and Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Angela Woollacott, To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism, and Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Jill Matthews, Dance Hall to Picture Palace: Sydney's Romance With Modernity (Sydney: Currency Press, 2005).
COPYRIGHT 2010 Sage Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Bellanta, Melissa
Publication:Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Previous Article:Staging criminality and colonial authority: the execution of thug criminals in British India.
Next Article:'Aint you coming to our concert tonight?' The court and alley Concerts of late-Victorian Britain.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters