Our New Series Takes Us Back in Time
The Stage Door Cabaret series is an out-of-the-box way of addressing the challenges of operating a 900-seat theater during a pandemic and as we went about creating it, we realized The Music Hall has interesting histories on both parts of the series’ title “Stage Door” and “Cabaret”!
First things first, we have to be honest with you. The doors you enter the cabaret events through are actually the loading dock doors; the stage doors are the smaller ones right next to them. But they still lead to the stage!
But these doors still have some history behind them! They were reportedly designed to fit a team of elephants, and in fact, several horses galloped on stage during Buffalo Bill’s trick riding shows! In recent memory, we had to open the Upper Doors to get a full-size 24-foot long replica of Shackleton’s lifeboat, the James Caird, on stage as a special surprise for Telluride By The Sea attendees following the regional premiere of the 2000 film, The Endurance!
As we were going about our research for our curtain speeches and this blog, we even found a note about a train on stage! On November 23, 1901, Lincoln J. Carter presented “The Fast Mail” and this note along with: full-sized locomotive and 14 freight cars. Upon further reading though, it was all a stage trick involving a roll of canvas, smoke, wire brushes on iron drums, and the clang of a bell! But one could see the size of those doors and think it was completely possible to have a train on stage.
For those of you who have not attended a cabaret-themed event before, there is a rich history with origins back to Paris in the late 1800s at the infamous Le Chat Noir and increased popularity here in the States right before the Roaring Twenties. Cabarets brought intimate, elegant environments for culture seekers to watch artists the likes of Barbra Streisand and Harry Belafonte perform before they became Broadway stars.
In Music Hall history, many early acts to swing through the theater were forms of cabaret entertainment with dance, music, and essayists and poets. In fact, dancing girls from Chez Paree, one of the most well-known cabarets in Chicago, graced the stage on February 21, 1943, for “Follies Parisienne.”
This is all a teeny tiny part of The Music Hall’s 142-year history, though. Our beloved Historic Tours will return in 2021, which features a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater, visits to the backstage area where 1901 Vaudeville era “technology” is still in use, the antique front of house dating to 1878, and the enchanting lobby renovated with great flair in 2008. Stay tuned for more!