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La Chauve Souris Revue 1922-23
by David for group historicalziegfeld Aug 13, 2012

One of the more exotic theatrical moments on Broadway during the interwar years was the premiere of Nikita Balieff's Russian music hall revue, "La Chauve Souris," [The Bat] in 1922. Boasting scenic design be Serge Soudeikine, whose modernist folk primitivism created a sensation, and fronted by the polyglot impresario-master of ceremonies Nikita Balieff (who faked broken English, and intermixed Russian and French into a pungent linguistic stew), the Russian sketches seemed something fresh, dramatically effective, and avant garde in its mixture of artifice and naturalism. Balieff, trained in the Moscow Art Theater had perfected the popular sketch from from 1906-1917 in Russia. The Revolution forced him and his troupe to Paris where they kept up with the latest high modernist fashion. (Stravinsky poached Soudeikine's wife, Vera, a dancer to become his spouse). The great hit of the first season was "The March of the Wooden Soldiers" Photo #1. The robotic antics seemed a foreign analog to American eccentric dancing and the catchy song by Leon Jessel, 'The Parade of the Tin Soldiers," soon found its way into everyone's musical memory. An experimental film by DeForrest of this number survives in the Library of Congress. The daring way that the Revue melded painted two dimension space with three dimensional objects and performers is captured in the series of Abbe images, among the finest of his tableaux before quitting New York in 1923. Balieff's troupe returned on a nearly yearly basis during the 1920s enjoying a ready audience for his material, some of which had been worked up in Moscow in the first decade of the century. Florenz Ziegfeld attended performances regularly as did Rachmaninoff, Chaplin, and Eugene O'Neill. Profdash

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