Burlesque shows were a popular form of entertainment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, people may think of burlesque as a glorified striptease but the shows were different in the early days. Drawing from vaudeville theater, American burlesque shows included a variety of short skits and performances, comedians, and music, as well as, attractive young women. Many of the burlesques playing in Elmira theaters from the 1890s through the 1920s were even meant for the whole family.
Elmira Star-Gazette, February 19, 1916
from the Opera House in Elmira, |
September 17, 1890 featuring Reeve’s Celebrated
English Operatic Burlesque Company in an entirely
original satire of Goethe’s immortal poem Faust
Advertisement for Sam T. Jack’s Own Burlesque Co.
featuring “Mostly Girls” and “Liotta, Clothes in Light,”
Elmira Star-Gazette, November 9, 1899
I found no report on the actual quality of the shows at the Lyceum but other poorly reviewed shows may have turned the public off to further attendance and made them the stuff of open ridicule. In 1913, the Elmira Telegram ran a scathing review of the “Merry Burlesquers” show at the Colonial Theater. The entertainingly acerbic article criticized the age of the chorus girls, lamenting that it was a difficult to see the elderly matrons so scantily clad at their time of life, and called the show’s leading woman the “largest in captivity.” In closing, the reviewer wrote, “a number of our married men were present at both performances without their wives. However, there were no wrecked homes in Elmira because of the ‘Merry Burlesquers’ and all wives should be pleased to have the troupe play here again.”
Review of the “Merry Burlesquers” at the
Colonial Theater, Elmira Telegram, May 18, 1913
Advertisement for Jimmie Cooper’s Revue at the
Lyceum, November 13, 1923, Elmira Star-Gazette