(The images below are thumbnails click
on them to see larger versions.)
original Florodora sextet and their male co-stars performing "Tell
Me Pretty Maiden," which made this musical comedy a sensation.
At the start of the 20th Century, America was in the full glory of
its cultural adolescence, bursting with energy and optimism. London
was still the theatrical capital of the world, but New York was gaining fast in
clout, sophistication and size. As of 1900, there were thirty-three
legitimate Broadway theatres, and many more would be built within the next
decade to meet growing audience demand.
New York's exploding population was also enjoying increased mobility. In
1904, the city opened its first underground commuter railroad lines. Thanks to these
"subways," tens of thousands living far from the theatre district could catch a
Broadway show and still sleep in their own beds. Add in the ever-increasing numbers of
tourists who came into the city by rail and steamship, and Broadway had an expanded
audience base that could support more productions and longer runs than ever before.
The first theatrical sensation of the new century was the British musical
comedy Florodora (1899 - London 455 /1900 - NY 553),
the story of a young woman seeking romance and the restoration of a stolen inheritance.
When it opened to rave reviews in London a year earlier, various producers in New York
rejected the show as "too British" -- but a team of newcomers took a chance,
earning millions of dollars.