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Theatre / The Black Crook

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The Black Crook is a 1866 musical that has the notability of being the Ur-Example of musicals. Opened in September 12, 1866 on Broadway, it ran for 474 performances. Most of the songs in the musical were already existing songs, however a few weren't, most notably "March of the Amazons" and "You Naughty, Naughty Men".

The Black Crook is set in the Hartz Mountains of Germany in the 1600s. An evil Count Wolfenstein is in love with a village girl named Amina. Amina, however, is married to an artist named Rudolphe. Count Wolfenstein gets Amina's foster mother Barbara to scheme with a sorcerer named Hertzog (the titular "Black Crook"). Hertzog makes a deal with the Zamiel (the "Arch Fiend") that allows him to live one extra year for every soul he gives the Fiend. His first victim is a man named Rudolphe, who is currently imprisoned by the evil Count Wolfenstein. Rudolph, however, escapes. After discovering a buried treasure, he rescues a dove. The dove turns out to be a fairy queen named Stalacta. Stalacta saves him from Hertzog by bringing him to fairyland and reuniting him with Amina. Stalacta's army defeats Count Wolfenstein and his army. Hertzog, failing to bring Zamiel a victim, is himself sent to Hell.

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The musical is best known for its dancing girls. They were primarily featured in sequences involving demons, spirits, and fairies. They wore skimpy outfits for the time, which brought in a lot of viewers while at the same time caused many people to denounce the play for being too lecherous.

A British production opened at Alhambra Theatre in 1872, however it was a separate adaptation of the source book and was an opera with new music. The original musical was also produced in 1882 in Birmingham, Alabama.

The film was adapted into a Silent Movie in 1916. That is the only screen adaptation to date.


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The Black Crook provides examples of:

  • Deal with the Devil: Hertzog makes a deal with Zamiel, but he is unable to keep it and is thus sent to Hell himself.
  • Juke Box Musical: The Trope Maker. Most of the songs already existed.
  • Period Piece: It's set in 1600.
  • Revival: It received three Broadway revivals: 1866, 1870, and 1873.
  • Satan: Zamiel, which translates to "the Arch Fiend", is the Devil himself.
  • Ur-Example: It's the earliest book musical by a few months.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Amina's foster mother Barbara schemes against her.
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