Varieta, also known as the caffe-concerto, refers to Italian vaudeville. More modest in scope and less-well known than Black or Yiddish vaudeville (which we’ll be profiling here in months to come), the American version of this circuit began in New York’s and Hoboken’s Italian neighborhoods early in the twentieth century and continued on into 30s and 40s and in some ways continues in cafes, restaurants, social halls fraternal lodges, churches, and street fairs in the region. Two popular New Vaudevillians, Larry Pisoni of Pickle Family Circus, and Uncle Floyd Vivino, had grandparents who came up through varieta. As you can imagine, this type of show is heavily musical, rich in singers and musicians. I was fortunate to be able to present one of the kings of contemporary varieta, Marcantonio at one of my shows in 2006.
To learn more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold.