“America’s Greatest Show”

Jeffrey Magee

in Irving Berlin's American Musical Theater

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398267
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933358 | DOI:

Series: Broadway Legacies

                   “America’s Greatest Show”

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When Berlin teamed up with producer Sam H. Harris in 1920, the partnership launched a new theater called the Music Box and a series of revues named after it. The Music Box Revues carved out a unique niche in an era saturated in revues by emphasizing music as much as girls, comedy, and scenic spectacle. The song “Say It with Music” embodied the theme, on which Berlin elaborated with numerous musical scenes that extended far beyond the boundaries of conventional popular song form. The Music Box Revues continued to feature Berlin’s characteristically all-encompassing theatrical style that included minstrel numbers, operatic scenes, ballets, comic sketches, and several numbers that contemporaries recognized as jazz, beginning with his 1921 hit “Everybody Step.”

Keywords: Sam H. Harris; revue; Music Box; minstrel; opera; ballet; jazz

Chapter.  19134 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music ; Popular Music

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