We gave it a B+
Anyone who grew up watching The Ed Sullivan Show with its weekly crazy-quilt lineup — plate twirlers, opera singers, stand-up comics, rock bands, dog acts, etc. — witnessed a last gasp of a particularly American theatrical form called vaudeville. In No Applause—Just Throw Money, a sometimes brain-cloggingly crammed (and repetitive) history, the eccentrically monikered author, Trav S.D., traces vaudeville’s roots back to Dionysian rites, dropping fascinating bits along the way. For instance, the first African-American performers worked in blackface. And some of the circuit’s biggest draws were drag acts (and this was considered family entertainment). While stars like W.C. Fields, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, and Milton Berle made the leap to radio, movies, and TV after years of honing their acts, others (such as female impersonator Julian Eltinge and comic Frank Fay) are long forgotten. They shine again in this spirited tribute.