Shubert Vaudeville

In 1907, Lee and J.J. Shubert, who’d begun their careers fighting the theatrical syndicate founded by Marcus Klaw and Abe Erlanger, decided to team up with their old adversaries and form a new vaudeville circuit to rival the lucrative new one being started by Keith, Albee and others. The venture only lasted a few months — Keith and Albee bought them out. But that wasn’t the last of it.

In 1920, the Shuberts attempted once again to set up a rival circuit, called Shubert Advanced Vaudeville. The plan of this new outfit was to outbid Albee for all his major acts for a short time until he went broke – at which time, presumably, they could buy his theatres and pay the acts whatever they wanted. But Albee was not to be so easily cowed. He called the Shuberts’ bluff by matching all their bids, no matter how high, and threatening to blacklist all those who went to the Shuberts. Strapped for acts, Advanced Vaudeville hung on for a few years by switching to unit shows (as Weber and Fields and others had done in the 1880s and 90s), a move that was feasible since they owned all of the theatres. Weber and Fields themselves traveled with one of these Shubert units, as did the Marx Brothers, Ed Wynn, James Cagney and Fred Allen. But this strenuous gambit defeated the whole purpose of switching to vaudeville which was its increased cost effectiveness. The Shuberts caved and went back to producing regular Broadway musicals.

By the way, the Shubert Archives are one of most interesting performing arts archives in the city, and the gang there were especially helpful to me in researching my book. Look them up to learn more about the history of the Shubert Organization. They are right here.

To find out more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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10 Responses to “Shubert Vaudeville”

  1. [...] say that they passed the Palace on their way to higher heights. In that year, they were hired by the Shuberts for the musical Over the Top with Ed Wynn and Joe Laurie, Jr. The Passing Show of 1918 with Willie [...]

  2. [...] 1907, they teamed up with their old adversaries the Shuberts and William Morris to form the U.S. Amusement Company, a major vaudeville circuit that would rival [...]

  3. [...] a tour of the midwest on the Keith Circuit, a couple of Broadway shows for the Shuberts, and some films, she told her booker that she wanted vaudeville engagements only in the following [...]

  4. [...] comedy. He was cast in the 1927 Hammerstein musical Golden Dawn. In 1929, he did Boom Boom for the Shuberts with Jeanette McDonald. He worked in various Shubert shows for three years. Then his friend and [...]

  5. [...] closed to them, the only way out was for them to attempt their own full-length stage show. The Shuberts (and a backer whose girlfriend was in the chorus) helped finance their first revue called I’ll [...]

  6. [...] the competition was rigged. A few years of club dates and vaudeville followed, then roles in the Shubert operettas Blossom Time and The Student [...]

  7. [...] 1911 the Shuberts took over Dockstader’s Minstrels, including Al.  They booked him in a musical at the Winter [...]

  8. [...] musical show with a jazz band. Unfortunately, they worked up this last act for the renegade Shubert Advanced Vaudeville circuit, which folded. Keith of course blacklisted them. It was 1923 and they were finished in [...]

  9. [...] 1904 they went on to success in Berlin and London. In 1905, they were a hit in New York, where the Shuberts were so impressed, they offered to produce her if she would stay in the U.S. and learn English. She [...]

  10. [...] minstrels. And from here it was just a short hop to many revues and book shows for the Shuberts (including Vera Violetta, the show that made a star of Jolson) and Ziegfeld until pneumonia stole [...]

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