The first true producer of the American musical revue was a first generation German immigrant named FLORENZ ZIEGFIELD
Florenz Ziegfield, Jr. was the son of the head of the successful Chicago College of Music.
In 1893, “Flo’s” father opened a nightclub in Chicago designed to coincide with the opening of Chicago’s World Fair.
Flo travelled to NYC to find a headliner for the club.
Travelling about NYC, he found that the entertainment downtown was made up of:
Song and dance
European style operettas
Ziegfield combined all that he saw into a new type of American performance: Ziegfield’s Follies
In 1904, something BIG happened to make Broadway what it is today…
Times Square subway station opens. The IRT subway line brings New Yorkers rapid transit and access to the new theater district.
In 1910, Ziegfield took a characteristic RISK and cast Bert Williams, a black man, as one of the comics in his follies. This was the first instance of a black performer acting alongside white performers.
Other Performers of Note
George M. Cohan: the first “song and dance man”
Fanny Brice: one of the first female comedians (the musical “Funny Girl” is based on her story)