WH Rawlins

  • C.H. Workman in Australia (Part 5)

    1. High Jinks bannerJCW flyer—1915. Photos by Monte Luke. State Library Victoria, Melbourne.

    Preparations continuedfor the Australian premiere of the American musical comedy High Jinks, which was scheduled to open at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney on 6 February 1915 at the conclusion of J.C. Williamson’s New English Musical Comedy Company season of The Girl on the Film and JCW’s Press Agents ensured that the theatre-going public were kept well informed of its upcoming production.

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    Music and Drama

    “High Jinks,” which is to be staged for the first time in Australia by the J. C. Williamson management on Saturday next, at Her Majesty’s, is the light lyric order of entertainment. It was presented over a year ago in New York by Mr. Arthur Hammerstein, son of Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, of grand opera fame, and it had a run lasting right through the summer. As a rule most of the American theatres close during the summer, and it requires a very bright attraction to withstand the hot season; but Mr. Hugh J. Ward found “High Jinks” equal to the test when he was in New York last year. It was one of the few shows running, and as he remarked, “the only musical one at that.” In fact, he considers it a very amusing entertainment, farcical, and with ingenious complications. While he was at the theatre he met three Sydney men in the foyer, who spoke of the musical play with enthusiasm. The J.C. Williamson management has secured a cast eminently suited to the piece, and one which, it is believed, will compare favourably with the one Mr. Ward saw at the Lyric Theatre, New York. The fun in “High Jinks” is admittedly evolved from an absurd idea, arising out of the discovery by a Dr. Wayne of a perfume, which, upon being inhaled, bring out a man’s social instincts, which, however, have to be more or less restrained, owing to convention. The producer of “High Jinks” Is Mr. Harry Burcher, from the London Gaiety Theatre, with Mr. Ward, who is actively interesting himself in the rehearsals.

    2. White City ActorsDay

    Next Saturday will be “Actors’ Day.” Annually the members of the profession in Sydney give a day to the Actors’ Association of Australasia, whose funds go to the benefit of the less fortunate of the craft, and the event is generally anticipated as a very pleasant reunion. The White City will again be the venue of an entertainment, which will last from 1 to 5 p.m. Mr. Fred. Niblo, Miss Josephine Cohan. Miss Ethel Dane, Miss Dorothy Brunton, and a host of others will have charge of the stalls and side-shows; and, as a number of society ladies are also giving their services in looking after the refreshment rooms, there will be no stint of free and loving service in a worthy cause.

    All the White City attractions will be open to enhance the success of “the day,” and Mr. T.H. Eslick and his staff are throwing themselves with enthusiasm into the work of preparing for the entertainment.

    Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday, 30 January 1915, p.8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15564072

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    The opening of High Jinks coincided with Actors’ Day at the Sydney amusement park, The White City, based at Rushcutters’ Bay, which had been designed and built by the English civil engineer and architect, T.H. Eslick (who had also been responsible for the design and construction of Melbourne’s Luna Park) and had first opened on 3 December 1913. Amongst the members of the theatrical profession taking part in the festivities for the charity event was American actor (and future film director) Fred Niblo, then in the final year of a 3 year theatrical tour of Australasia with by his wife, Josephine Cohan for J.C. Williamson Ltd., which included seasons of plays by his brother-in-law, George M. Cohan. Others in attendance included leading players, Julius Knight and Irene Browne, comedian, Jack Cannot, pantomime star, Daisy Jerome and JCW Managing Director, Hugh J. Ward. The event also received the patronage of the New South Wales Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland. The New English Musical Comedy Company was represented by the chorus girls, who sold programs and its leading lady, Dorothy Brunton, who sold flowers and was also the subject of an anecdote published in that day’s World’s News.

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    What Did the Actress Do?

    At Her Majesty’s, Sydney, Miss Dorothy Brunton, who is to play Sylvia Dale this Saturday in “High Jinks,” sings a recruiting song in “The Girl on the Film.” This is Paul Ruben’s number, “Your King and Country Want You.” It is a woman’s appeal to the manhood of the nation to enlist. In the refrain occur the lines:

    Oh, we don’t want to lose you,

      But we think you ought to go

     For your King and your country

    Both need you so.

      We shall want you and miss you,

          And with all our might and main,

                We shall love you, hug you, kiss you —

     When you come back again!

    One night during the week Miss Brunton found two young soldiers waiting at the stage door for her. “May we speak to you, Miss Brunton?” one asked. “Yes,” she replied. “What is it?” “Well,” said the spokesman, “I am going to the front with the next lot of Australians. My friend, Billo, here, has just came back from Rabaul. We heard you sing to-night that you would kiss us when we came back again. Now what are you going to do about it? Billo, here, is back. He’s all right for his kiss. I was wondering if I could get mine in advance!”

    World’s News (Sydney), Saturday, 6 February 1915, p.5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131503078

    The premiere of High Jinks proved to be a great success with Sydney audiences, as reported by the theatre critics in the Sunday newspapers and their counterparts in the following Monday’s press. However, just as the German origins of The Girl on the Film had been obfuscated, so, too, were the names of High Jinks’ Hungarian-born librettist, Leo Ditrichstein, American-born (of Danish descent) lyricist/co-librettist, Otto Hauerbach (later known as Harbach) and Bohemian (Czech)-born composer, Rudolf Friml conspicuous by their absence, both from the theatre programme distributed at Her Majesty’s and the subsequent reviews of the production, lest the war-conscious audience be put off from attending by the mere mention of such Germanic-sounding names.

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    “High Jinks” certainly sums it up. Few plays are fitted by their title like the unusual enlivener that burst upon the big audience at Her Majesty’s last night.

    The story is quite equal to the strain of supporting the succession of bright numbers that rattle through the three hours of lively stage traffic. Sometimes there is a suggestion of congestion but the road to gaiety is never impassable. A full thoroughfare, too, is always brisker and brighter than one in which a thin stream of people meander. That is the difference between Melbourne and Sydney streets. In Melbourne the streets are too wide for the traffic; in Sydney you have to hop about to avoid being hit by something.

    Last night the rush on the stage of Her Majesty’s kept the audience hopping. At times the music caught their feet with the merry jingle of bright movement—syncopated for the most part—and there was plenty of color to hold the eye.

    The color scheme. of “High Jinks” is pitched in a brilliant key. All the dresses are vivid.  So is the story, by the way. This tells of a young doctor who discovers a perfume, the particular virtue of which is to send the sniffer thereof into a transport of joy. He begins to bubble with life and assume a roving eye. Anything that is in sight he is after. Violet Lorraine used to sing in one of the pantomimes:

    Why do those things with trousers on

    Follow those things with blouses on

    Something in the seaside air!

    To the seaside air of Beauville, where all the characters in “High Jinks” spend the second and third acts, there is added the perfume, already mentioned. It is most potent as an inducer of the mood irresponsible—or should we say that it produces the indicative mood, indicative of being out for a good time?

    How the characters get to the seaside is a story in itself. Dr. Thorne, an American physician practising in Paris, is besought by an inflammable Frenchman to take a safety pin out of his wife's throat. The patient is so grateful for the relief thus granted, that she embraces and kisses the doctor. The Frenchman is so incensed by observing this demonstration that he challenges the doctor to a duel. As an alternative he asks to be presented to Mrs. Thorne so that he might kiss her. To avoid this insult to his wife—also the Frenchman is fascinating and likely to make headway—the doctor gets Sylvia Dale, a young actress, to impersonate Mrs. Thorne. Together with Miss Dale’s chaperone, the doctor and Sylvia go to the seaside. They are registered as man and wife, though they occupy separate apartments.

    Complications ensue when the inventor of the perfume, who is engaged to Sylvia, and Mrs. Thorne arrive, severally, not jointly, at Beauville. An apparently inextricable tangle is continued. This is added to by the arrival of J.J. Jeffreys —no relation to the champion—and his finding out that Sylvia's chaperone is his long lost wife. To be exact, she has been lost twenty-three years. Sylvia is supposed to be her daughter, but J.J. Jeffreys is dismayed when Sylvia tells him her age is twenty-one.

    The turns and twists in the fun-making are very amusing to observe. They would, however, give one a headache if he essayed to elucidate them. Indeed, the only lucid intervals in the evening are—the intervals.

    Taken at a lively pace, one has to keep mentally alert to keep up with the author. There is no breathing space in the numbers either—they are breathless. In fact, one comes away from the theatre with a feeling that one has laughed himself into a high state of good humor, and visions of delightful girls “dancing the blues away.” If one could only get a week-end ticket to Beauville and a phial of the “High Jinks” perfume, the tourist traffic would be enormous. Everyone at Her Majesty’s last night would be booking berths to-morrow and looking up the fares to-day.

    To the producing staffs great credit is due. The pace never stops, and a master hand may be discerned in this very fact. Mr. Harry Burcher was the producer, Miss Minnie Hooper the ballet mistress, Mr. Andrew MacCunn the musical director, and the whole was supervised by Mr. Hugh J. Ward.

    “High Jinks” has an admirable company. Miss Dorothy Brunton as Sylvia Dale was charming. Her number with Mr. Paul Plunket, as the inflammable Frenchman, was a sheer delight. It is entitled “Not now, but Later.”  Mr. Plunket decidedly voted in favor of “Now.” Miss Brunton has a dainty waltz refrain, “Is this love at last?” All her work is finished, clever and attractive. Mr. Workman shares one or two numbers with the golden-haired little Australian. Their voices blend harmoniously, and the skilful acting of the English actor makes his performance a notable one. Mr. Field Fisher “eccentricises” the part of Dr. Thome, and gets plenty of genuine laughs. So does Mr. Alfred Frith as a quaint, elderly beau, Colonel Slaughter. A lumber king is the role assigned to Mr. W.H. Rawlins, and the “High Jinks” perfume has a wonderful influence upon him. Miss Vie (as the chaperone). Miss Gertrude Glyn (as a naughty actress posing as a nurse), Miss Marie Eaton (as Mrs. Thorne) and Miss Eileen Cottey are all “in the picture.” A graceful dance is given by Mlle. Novotna and M. Lauschmann in the Cabaret scene of the third act.

    One of the hits of the evening was the ragging of the prison scene from ”Faust.” The cast was Mr. Workman, Mephistopheles; Miss Eaton, Marguerite; and Mr. Maguire, Valentine. It is a knockout number, and the audience would be listening to it yet if the singers were agreeable.

    The well painted scenes were by Mr. Leslie Board and W. Little. The Cabaret set, with the English Channel in the background, was particularly effective.

    The first matinee will be on Wednesday.

    Sunday Times (Sydney), Sunday, 7 February 1915, p.6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120792475

    5. High Jinks promoA novel promotion for High Jinks featured in the Sunday Times, from photos by Monte Luke, which also included Business Manager, George Matheson, the scenic artist (Leslie Board), Property Master, Rock Phillips and the theatre’s call-boy.

    Meanwhile The Sun’s critique was a virtual love letter to lead comedienne, Florence Vie!

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    Light, Bright, And Gay.



    Thank you, Miss Vie. When the producer asks it, few people can in such a rollicking spirit as you slap the old fellows on their bald heads and say, “Oh, go hon.” You did a lot of it in the third act, when your business was to turn the supper scene into one of those devil-may-care restaurant sprees; and the audience liked it so much that no matter how puffed you were, they wanted you to keep going for another quarter-hour. But you had to say no. You are getting like Hamlet, you know; embonpoint and short in the wind. You show wonderful vitality and love of fun. “I don’t know how you do it, but you do.”

    But in addition to this jollity, Miss Vie, you can manage quieter effects, as you did in the first act, and part of the second. The formal thanks of the first paragraph are tendered to you because of all the individuals concerned In the musical comedy, you were the one who supplied the greatest propelling force for the general gaiety.

    (We must interrupt these few remarks to you, Miss Vie, in order to inform the public that the musical comedy High Jinks, an American extravaganza, was produced at Her Majesty’s Theatre by Harry B. Burcher, yourself, and others last night.)

    Of course you don’t imagine, Miss Vie, that we think you the only good thing in the piece. The piece is generally pleasing, and promises to hit the public taste better than any musical comedy from America since The Belle of New York. It contains lots of ragtime, of which some people grow tired: but others are just beginning to feel enthusiastic about it. Your own songs are raggy. To tell the truth, you don't sing them as well as you could when you were the end girl in the Midnight Raiders; but you weren't engaged for your singing.

    Forgetting yourself for a moment, Miss Vie, what do you think of Marie Eaton? It is a fine thing that this dashing singer should be so well placed. Give her something bold in the way of dress and something florid in the way of music, and she will do better in the role than anyone else now in Australia could. It is a pity that that black-and-white square-cut garment hung so awkwardly in the second act. Her other costumes were The Thing, and she stormed the trenches as usual with her singing.

    You must share the general opinion, Miss Vie, concerning the finale of the first act— that it was striking both in its musical arrangement and in its setting. Let us mention also that your legs were easily recognisable in the quaint recall given after the first act. That was a clever trick. After the curtain rose to the recall, the whole company pranced across the stage; then danced across in close file; then showed only their legs beneath a hardly-raised curtain. Little quiffs like that add to the popularity of a show.

    Be good-natured, Miss Vie, as we know you are; join with us in congratulating Dorothy Brunton on a decided success, but you needn’t take responsibility for the statement that her voice was thin in singing. She acted with great daintiness and charm.

    Alfred Frith, as Colonel Slaughter, was a good study all the time; and when he sat drinking beside you at the supper-table, he was just full enough to be funny. He got drunk like a gentleman; a silly, old gentleman; and you and he together provided some great comedy of the broad sort.

    Of course, Florence (we use the Christian name as the night advances), you have often seen Field Fisher’s real face. It isn’t often seen by audiences, but was revealed last night when he played Dr. Thorne. It is a funny face, isn’t it? And he's a funny comedian, a first-rate laugh-maker. He shares your success.

    Perhaps, Flo, you admire C.H. Workman more than we do. He always seems to us so darned matter-of-fact in his alleged comedy. His singing passes muster. But there you are; he’s the lead—so why criticise him?

    That was a bad failure of a Frenchman you put into the show, Florrle. Paul Plunket playing Jacques Rabelais. If he came into the lines at Soissons talking with that heavy, accent and barking his final “Ha” and “H’m” like that, he would be shot as a spy. His usual complement, Gertrude Glyn, was tacked on to the rest of the cast as a dancer Chi-Chi, who flirted indiscriminately. She was gentle, amiable, and undistinguished; as is her habit.

    Ah, Florence, don’t you wish you could pirouette like Vlasta Novotna? She and Victor Lauschmann don’t put much striking originality into recent dances; but the spirit and movement of life are in them.

    W.H. Rawlins as the Lumber King turns out to be your long-lost husband. He does you proud, if it was you who taught him to act; for his performance was a specially good piece of heavy comedy.

    The show is a good one; but honestly, Flo, it’s a bit naughty in parts, isn’t it? Men employing casual wives “scientifically,” and booking up double rooms in hotels—though there is of course never a hint that they occupy them. And bits of the dialogue here and there . . . but blue is a color which doesn’t displease Sydney audiences.

    You understand, Miss Vie, that the reason why the notice is written in this way is in order to get your name into every paragraph; because the writer thinks that your share in the success deserves that amount of mention.

    Space fails. There is room only to say that the comedy is smart, and fairly consecutive in spite of so many loosely-strung numbers; the setting is handsome, the dressing bright, if not extravagant, and the songs better than usual. The waltz refrain, Love at Last (Dorothy Brunton) will be popular. The burlesque of Faust in rag-time goes well with those who like rag-time burlesque—and apparently 99 of the 100 do.

    First matinee next Wednesday.

    The Sun (Sydney), Sunday, 7 February 1915, p.4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229323706

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    9. Workman et al(l to r) Charles Workman as Dick Wayne, Dorothy Brunton as Sylvia Dale, Field Fisher as Dr. Robert Thorne and Marie Eaton as Mrs. Marion Thorne. Photos by Monte Luke.


    “High Jinks,” the new “musical follity” at Her Majesty’s Theatre, is a gorgeously-dressed piece of hilarious nonsense, for the most part noisily scored to suit the uproarious high spirits of a bustling crowd on a well-filled stage. At the same time it boasts two fascinating melodies which delight the general ear. The scent-theme is heard as often as Dick Wayne (C.H. Workman) waves the magic “High Jinks” perfume beneath the nose of one of his victims, with the result that “the veriest icicle glows with the warmth of spring, and the prude becomes a daredevil.”

    In this way the sight of various people gliding and springing like puppets whenever the string was pulled to the sparkling orchestral piece that emphasised the comic situation never failed to put the audience in high good humour. The second theme on which the popularity of the musical farce will be founded is a charming “valse lente” in the Viennese style, first introduced in song-form by Miss Dorothy Brunton, with plangent harp and flowery reed-phrases in the dainty scoring, and afterwards taken up as a chorus, and happily repeated whenever the action threatened to flag. The irresponsible merriment of “High Jinks” revealed tedious places here and there in the earlier scenes, but really clever acting by all concerned triumphed and the advantage of a capital last act in which Mr. W.H. Rawlins and Miss Florence Vie carried all before them, so prized-up the entertainment as a whole, that it may be confidently “tipped” for a good run.

    Mr. Rawlins makes leisurely headway before he becomes prominently “in the running” for first honours, his part being that of a ponderous. elderly American timber king. This stout old way-back, one J.J. Jeffreys, cherishes sentimental recollections of Adelaide Fontaine (Florence Vie), an actress who deserted him 23 years before, and a year after their separation mendaciously announced that he was the father of a lovely baby-girl. The reconciliation between the two, their duet “Come Hither,” Mr. Rawlins’ prosy supper-speech, and the joyous surprise of handsprings from an elderly actor of high tonnage, were amongst the uproarious delights of the evening. Miss Vie’s quietly humorous aplomb as a woman capable of enjoying a champagne lunch with undiminished zest no matter what perilous complications may develop, and her calm indifference to the fact that Sylvia Dale was not her daughter at all, as “papa” must quickly find out, kept up the interest of the plot. Rag-time was evidently all the rage when the musical comedy was written and Miss Vie’s comic numbers were mostly in that idiom, which, with chorus and brass effects, almost invariably leads to sheer noise. The blue of her costume in “Jim” clashed horribly with the hostile tone of the blue blazers of her attendant Swains—and at eight to one the lady should give way!

    The principal figure in the story was Mr. Field Fisher, as an American specialist in Paris, a Dr. Thorne, who struck only occasional sparks of humour from dull dialogue, but looked the part, and comically expressed in dance the joys of “High Jinks.” Besides her well-rendered valse-song, Miss Brunton as Sylvia Dale, played her rapturous little love-passages prettily, and though the enunciation of her first song was quite indistinct, she hit the mark in “By the Sea.” Herein a roguish-looking bevy of bathing-girls threw themselves in easy attitudes upon an imaginary shore whilst the rhythmic “swish” of a shingly beach was suggested from the wings as on additional accompaniment. Miss Marie Eaton (Mrs. Thorne) was twice encored, in association with Messrs. Workman and Fred Maguire, for a ragtime burlesque upon the prison-trio from “Faust.” Mr. Workman did not reveal new points as an actor, but his tuneful voice was well used in various duets, including “Chi-Chi,” with Gertrude Glyn. This latter artist’s best effort was the tender song “Bubbles,” the idea of which was further illustrated by coloured puff-balls launched upon the bosom of the air. Laughter was caused by Mr. Paul Plunket's amusing, through weird, caricature of Jacques Rabelais. Mr. Alfred Frith’s soundly-drawn portrait of Colonel Slaughter, a military boarding-house buck, proved of immense service in the supper-scene. Beauville, with the purple shadows of night suffusing a breath of turquoise sea, formed the central tableau by Leslie Board. Here, also, Vlasta Novotna won applause by her dazzling pirouettes within the embrace of Victor Lauschmann. Mr. Harry B. Burcher directed this successful production, Mr. Andrew MacCunn conducted the music, and Miss Minnie Hooper the dances, and all were included in the recalls of enthusiasm at the close.

    Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Monday, 8 February 1915, p.4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15549955

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    There is a good deal of smart comedy in “High Jinks,” which was produced by the Williamson management at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night. The development of the story, with its numerous absurd complications, is far more coherent than the majority of pieces of the class, and was undoubtedly well thought out. One can quite imagine an author getting rather mixed himself in working through this scheme, in which wives and pretended wives pay such important roles.

    It emanates from the act of a doctor (Robert Thorne) being caught by a truculent Frenchman (M. Jacques Rabelais) kissing his (the Frenchman’s) wife. Rabelais wants either a duel with the doctor or to kiss the other’s wife. Thorne, under the advice of Dick Wayne, supplies another wife for the kissing, and away everybody goes from the doctor’s sanatorium near Paris to Beauville, a French bathing-place, where the scenes—particularly that at a supper in the  Hotel de Pavilion—are extremely gay. Leslie Board’s picture of this bathing resort is decidedly a success. The idea of Dick Wayne’s perfume that acts as a kind of rejuvenator, though not entirely new, is responsible for fine wholesome fun. In parts the comedy gets close to the danger line, but people seem to like that.

    As for the music, much of it will appeal to those who like ragtime, and Sydney’s taste is certainly inclined that way nowadays more than ever, perhaps for lack of higher musical encouragement. There is a kind of ragtime burlesque on “Faust” (sung by Miss Marie Eaton, Mr. C.H. Workman, and Mr. Fred Maguire), over which the audience went fairly wild. But everything was like that in the uproarious supper scene.

    Mr. Field Fisher’s performance of the part of Dr. Robert Thorne was cleverly humorous, especially while he was under the influence of the “High Jinks” perfume, invented by Dick Wayne (a part smartly played by Mr. C.H. Workman). Excellent humor was exhibited by Mr. W.H. Rawlins, as an American lumber king, who had lost his wife for over 29 years, and discovers her at last in Adelaide Fontaine (a character played on broad lines by Miss Florence Vie), and Mr. Alfred Frith, who made everybody laugh at the supper table, as Colonel Slaughter. Mr. Paul Plunkett’s Rabelais was eccentric, but not convincing. Miss Dorothy Brunton (Sylvia Dale), Miss Gertrude Glyn (Mlle. Chi-Chi). Miss Marie Eaton (the real Mrs. Thorne), and Miss Nellie Hobson (Madame Rabelais) each had her admirers.

    Evening News (Sydney), Monday, 8 February 1915, p.8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115825612

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    Ever since a few peculiarly seductive bars of waltz music made “The Merry Widow” one of the successes of its period, composers in two continents have been striving to find some other peculiarly seductive bars, so as to make some other musical comedy the success of some other season. They have not succeeded overwell, but In “High Jinks,” produced at Her Majesty’s on Saturday night, there Is a frequently recurring little melody, which in a month’s time will be whistled by every messenger boy in Sydney. “High Jinks” is the name given to a new liquid, the taste—even the aroma—of which possesses remarkable properties. Under its influence “the icicle glows with warmth of spring, and the prude becomes a devil,” and the change is announced by a lilting little strain, which sets everybody's feet a-dancing. They dance through three acts of comedy, from the more or less sedateness of a specialist’s surgery to the balcony of a Beauvllle hotel, where the jinks are, in truth very high.

    But “High Jinks” has come to stay. Being American, its music is syncopated fairly well, out of compliment to the prevailing musical fashion, though a little bit of syncopation is not unpleasant, if only by way of variety. Yet the purely musical side of “High Jinks” is clever. Mr. Workman’s first song sets a high standard, both for soloists and chorus. Half a dozen numbers, which come within the legitimate scope of the play—notably a waltz song, “Is This Love at Last,” by Dorothy Brunton-—are far removed from the commonplace. One interpolated, number—“Faust” in ragtime—whilst standing out as an offence against everything associated with the memory of Gounod, a horrible travesty upon one of the world’s masterpieces, is so clever, as to make it almost the musical success of the evening. The final trio of “Faust”—Mephistopheles, Faust, and Marguerite—singing the triumphant “Holy Angel in Heaven Blest,” is actually produced and sung in horrible ragtime by Miss Marie Eaton, Mr. C.H. Workman, and Mr. Fred Maguire. The parody is a piece of gigantic American impudence, but its cleverness is undoubted. There is similar cleverness throughout the whole performance, which, produced on a substantially lavish scale, may be quoted as one of the best things of its kind that America has produced in recent years. And the few bars of real live melody give promise of providing a sound foundation for a successful career.

    Dr. Robert Thorne, an American specialist in Paris, is a very grave, austere, scientific person, interested only in patients and in science. He is the despair of his wife, until Dick Wayne comes along with the liquid discovered outback somewhere, which has the curious effect on the nerves already referred to. He submits it to Thorne as a property with millions in it. Thorne is a scoffer and will not listen to Wayne. In order to prove its potency, however, Wayne smuggles some into the doctor's drink. At once the little melody is heard coming up from the first violins, the flutes take it up, then the clarinets, then the full orchestra—and the metamorphosis is complete. The staid scientific icicle is infected with the warmth of a human spring. He suffers a grateful Parisienne to kiss him just as her husband happens to be looking on, and the Frenchman insists on either a duel or the privilege of kissing the doctor's wife by way of compensation. The rest is comparatively easy. The Frenchman may kiss anybody so long as it is not the doctor’s wife, and in order to secure this end various impersonations have to take place.

    One of the doctor’s patients is Mr. J.J. Jeffreys, an American lumber king, who lost his wife 23 years ago. Adelaide Fontaine happens to be the wife, and circumstances draw her to Beauville at the time her husband is there undergoing a cure. She has a protege, Sylvia Dale, who is to be introduced as the doctor’s wife. Jeffreys has a particularly pretty dancer attending him as a nurse, and the mix up leads to a great finale. Through it all runs Colonel Slaughter in the role of more or less idiotic commentator.

    There are quite a number of situations which progress as far as they legitimately can, but a whiff of “High Jinks” sets the fiddles going, the fiddles infect the flute, the flute the clarinets, and the parties concerned dance themselves out of all the difficulties that seem to be looming ahead.

    Three characters stood but conspicuously—Mr. W.H. Rawlins as the American lumber king; Mr. Field Fisher as Dr. Thorne; and Miss Florence Vie as Adelaide Fontaine. The first named was always clever. His speech at the supper table, into which he tried to introduce a few local references when he had better have adhered to the “book,” was the only flaw in an otherwise great performance. Mr. Fisher was an immediate success. His smile, developing breadth with the accompanying music, was irresistible. Miss Vie, in a part which in more or less readymade, also came through with flying colours. One misses the twang which would have put the perfecting touch to the extravagant and loud Americaine, and the critic has not to say too much of Miss Vie’s singing; but the lady, nevertheless, took a big share in the honors of the evening. Mr. Workman has not much scope in the more or less stodgy part of Dick Wayne, whose chief business seems to be singing, and to spread the aroma which sets everybody else on the move; but Mr. Frith’s Colonel Slaughter was another of the successes of the night. Mr. Paul Plunket was the Frenchman—earnest, but not French; just as Miss Gertrude Glyn, in her part of Mdlle. Chi Chi, a dancer from the Folies Bergeres, was very interesting—but not Parisian. Her “bubble” song near the end deserved a recall.

    The musical honors were shared between Miss Marie Eaton as Mrs. Thorne, and Miss Dorothy Brunton as Sylvia Dale, both of whom were fortunate in having to sing songs that were suitable to their style of voice, and in the various numbers in which they were joined by Mr. Workman (who carried all the male vocalisation) all did well. The chorus work was excellent. The dancing was clever, the dresses pretty, and the staging lavish, and there is everything in the production to warrant extended popularity. There will be a matinee on Wednesday.

    Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Monday, 8 February 1915, p.8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238847276

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    The musical aspects of High Jinks were also given their due by JCW’s respected Sydney-based Musical Director, Andrew MacCunn and the interpolated Act III trio “Faust in Ragtime” (not in the original New York production) even received comment (and grudging praise) from the “serious” music critic of The Daily Telegraph, echoing that of the paper’s drama critic.

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    The musical director of High Jinks had innumerable rehearsals with the orchestra and principals before the production at Her Majesty’s last night of the piece.

    “There are people,” Mr. MacCunn says, “who imagine that there is no art in light tunes. There is. How many composers of grand opera have tried to ‘dash off’ a musical comedy and dismally failed? The gift of melody is as decided a gift as, say, the gift for writing graceful verse. There is also some special talent required for presenting it. I have rehearsed and conducted grand opera; in fact, I did nothing but that for some years. And it is easier work than musical comedy. Opera, so far as the best works of great composers is concerned, is musical gold. Musical comedy is glitter, without being gold. Therefore it has to be made to seem like it, to be polished until it sparkles brilliantly. There is a whole box of tricks one has to master before he can get the brilliance from the scores. One has to got the vocal brightness from the choruses, the orchestra, and the principals, who in every case are not perfect musicians. Even with such skilled readers of music as Mr. Workman, Mr. Maguire, and Miss Eaton, we have had endless rehearsals for the Faust ragtime trio. The harmonies, the syncopation, and the tricky vocal acrobatics all have to be got with such a degree of certainty and ease that no effort Is apparent. The average person in an audience imagines that lack of effort in an artist denotes that a thing is easy. Few realise the time that artist expends in perfecting a number so that effort is concealed. Many stage aspirants are misled into thinking a thing easy through it looking that way. It is one of those stage paradoxes that the easier a man’s job seems the more difficult it actually is! That is how it is with the music of High Jinks, for instance.”

    The Sun (Sydney), Sunday, 7 February 1915, p.13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229323678

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    “High Jinks” perpetrates an extremely clever “paraphrase” of the prison scene in Gounod’s “Faust.” It is a polyphonic tangle of sound for three voices, accompanied by the orchestra, that must have demanded unremitting rehearsal. Old contrapuntal Bach would be filled with envy if he could hear it. So clever is it that the “parody” is lost sight of, a fortunate circumstance for those who have enshrined Gounod’s masterpiece in their hearts. But where will these musically irreverent liberties end? Perhaps we shall hear the Austral Quartet engaged to play ragtime at Bridge parties, and the stately Philharmonic chorus chanting cake-walk variations on Handelian themes. Seriously, though, no music-lovers would like to see overmuch of this trifling, however clever, and however well executed. The sublime is so near the ridiculous, it is said, that when next we see Goethe’s hapless Marguerite, her tragic distress will not touch us, remembering its humorous travesty in “High Jinks.” In a way, no doubt, the burlesque can show good cause; the trail of the artificial is spread over such scenes as the one in question. The new version of the “Faust” prison scene is but a modern commentary upon the older operatic conventions. It is obviously put forward as an item in the business of relieving much-tried humanity from the monotony of everyday existence; as such it is to be accepted in the same spirit as it is placed before the public.

    The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Saturday, 13 February 1915, p.6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238844951

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    18. Faust TrioThe ‘Faust in Ragtime’ trio with Charles Workman, Marie Eaton and Fred Maguire. Photo by Monte Luke.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Meanwhile the weekly Bulletin’s critique of the show was in typical flippant fashion, accompanied by Harry Julius’s comical caricatures.

    * * * * * * * * * * *


    “High Jinks,” the latest JCW light musical show, now kicking cheerfully at Her Majesty’s, Sydney, is the usual French comedy with its fangs drawn. There is just enough left in it to suggest that, in its original state, it must have been a death-adder. There is, for instance, the passage-at-arms between the pretty actress-nurse and the elderly rich American, who has been sent away in her charge by a doctor made frivolous by a whiff of the wonder-working “High Jinks” perfume. Finding that she has registered as his wife at two hotels (they have just been politely moved on from the first), he strikes a virtuous attitude and asks her what she means by it. “Why!” she drawls amazedly, “I thought it was expected of me!” The plot is quite simple and conduces to hilarity. After one whiff of the “High Jinks” raffing gas, everybody becomes uproarious and morally irresponsible and runs away with the other party. It is the sort of central idea that would become boresome if done to slow, yearning music by a lot of staid, easy-going principals with the fat of middle-age thick upon them. Fortunately the music—of which there is a good supply—is nearly all lively and tuneful, and the few Jinkers who are not young and handsome have some other advantages.

    * * * *

    Dorothy Brunton is the usual fluffy vision in a cream-puff part and a couple of songs, one of which, a remembersome waltz, is sung with taking ease. Her careful voice-production is in delicate contrast to Marie Eaton’s method of using her high soprano, which is forced unpleasantly, especially in a superfluous Faust burlesque several yards too long. However, Miss Eaton's acting is uniformly good, and so is cheerful Florence Vie’s. The fair and willowy Gertrude Glyn as usual looms up in one or two gowns that stun the stalls; but a wide, sunny smile disarms criticism. She almost succeeds in being pathetic with a song in which large rubber balloons are referred to as soap bubbles. Field Fisher, C.H. Workman and W.H. Rawlins, the chief comedians, put up a remarkably good plain-clothes performance. Rawlins is the best off for “fat,” as the moral American invalid mentioned above. Chris Wren (French waiter) and Alfred Frith (burlesque Colonel) form a good comedy second-line. Paul Plunket succeeds in being the sort of infatuated stage Frenchman that numberless other actors have failed to be; and the dainty little Vlasta Novotna whirls gracefully with partner Victor Lauschmann in a smart third-act specialty. The mounting and dresses are good, and the chorus and orchestra do their duty; but the Iron Crosses and other decorations must be handed to the 14 capable principals.

    19. Harry Julius caricature

    The Bulletin (Sydney), 11 February 1915, p.8

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    With the increased perils faced by commercial shipping from the UK and the Continent, which were subject to possible attack by German battleships and U-boats, the importation of overseas artists for theatrical engagements by J.C. Williamson’s was severely hampered and consequently Australian actresses were promoted to leading roles in its productions – a situation that was remarked upon and celebrated by the Sydney Sunday Times.  

    * * * * * * * * * * *



    Three critics of the “Sunday Times” held a hasty consultation last night, resulting in a collaboration upon three Williamson attractions. Each critic was struck by the prominence achieved by Australian artists at the principal Sydney theatres. Australians were conspicuously represented at Her Majesty’s, the Theatre Royal, and the Criterion. It is noteworthy that the three leading actresses at each performance were native-born.

    At Her Majesty’s, Miss Dorothy Brunton appears as Sylvia Dale, the sympathetic role of “High Jinks” on the feminine side. Miss Brunton gives a performance worthy of any light musical offering of any theatre in the world. She has in addition to many small graces that go to make up charm, admirable acting assets. Her technique is certain, and reflects the mind of a thorough student of dramatic art. Although a mere girl, she brings to her performance the wide experience of a carefully trained vocalist and actress. It is a sheer delight to watch her in the various numbers of the score that are allotted to her. One of these in particular, “Not Now, But Later,” represents the perfection of stage effect. Not only is she skilful in her singing of this, but the dance she shares with Mr. Paul Plunket, is neat and cleverly rhythmical to a degree seldom witnessed on the lyric stage. There is little doubt that if Miss Brunton had come to us from abroad she would be recognised as the most successful engagement of years.

    In the same theatre there is an artist of exceptional merit in Miss Marie Eaton. Miss Eaton is another Australian who shows a true sense of the theatre. All her work is ably considered and her effects wonderfully sure. She has also singing abilities away ahead of what might be expected in the class of attraction in which she figures. Her vocalism is brilliant and theatrically effective. In the Faust trio she displays a gift of syncopation that is extraordinary outside the native American. Contrasted with this, is her spirited rendering of “When Sammy Sang The Marseillaise,” a number that would be a hit in pantomime.

    There are two other young Australians who show promise in this bright show—Miss Cecil Bradley, who speaks the lines of a French boy in buttons with remarkable verisimilitude, and Miss Eileen Cottey, who appears as the demure Red Cross nurse of Dr. Thorne.

    Then there must be mentioned the excellent work of Miss Minnie Hooper, the Australian ballet mistress of the Williamson management. All the chorus elaborations are hers, and they would do credit to the most ingenious inventor of enlivening and hustling stage movements of the New York productions. Miss Hooper is also to be congratulated upon the splendid material she has to her hand in the beautiful and intelligent chorus girls who are such a feature in “High Jinks.”

    Touching on the dramatic side of the Williamson forces, the company at the Theatre Royal [in “The Sign of the Cross”] exhibits several Australians of conspicuous merit. Outstanding among these is Miss Lizette Parkes, who plays Mercia to the Marcus Superbus of Mr. Julius Knight. Miss Parkes got something out of this character last night that is new to Australian playgoers. She interpreted Wilson Barrett's heroine on lines of originality that show her to be no mere copyist or slavish follower of tradition. Miss Parkes made Mercia spiritual, and brought to the role a simple dignity that exercised a powerful emotional appeal. Heretofore we have seen statuesque and sometimes cold impersonators of the Christian girl whose faith is equal to the test of martyrdom. For the first time one realised the true inwardness of the character, and it remained for an Australian to bring it home to us in its full force.

    20. High Jinks Aust Girls

    Sunday Times (Sydney), Sunday, 14 February 1915, p.6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120797610

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    In support of the war effort (and also as a good public relations exercise) J.C. Williamson’s was at the forefront in organising extracurricular promotional activities for it company members.

    * * * * * * * * * * *


    Mr. Hugh Ward, the Sydney director of J.C. Williamson, Ltd., is interesting himself a good deal in connection with the police and firemen’s carnival next Saturday, and he instructed Mr. Matheson, the manager of Her Majesty’s Theatre, and Mr. Rock Phillips, the property master, on Saturday to have dress rehearsals of the tableau of Britannia at the theatre yesterday.

    About 20 members of the “High Jinks” Company were in attendance, and the morning was spent in arranging the tableau, which will be most effective, and will lead the parade.

    Two other members of JCW companies are to be in the procession as Joan of Arc and the Statue of Liberty. Mr. Ward will decide this morning who will fill the parts mentioned.

    Members of the Australian Vaudeville Artists’ Federation were also engaged yesterday in rehearsal for the carnival. They are to have tableaux of Australia and Montenegro, and, judging from the displays, their efforts towards making the procession a spectacular one are certain of success.

    The members of the Stagehands’ Society, under Mr. Rock Phillips, have received permission from Mr. Ward to wear pantomime costumes in the procession.

    The brigades of ladles who are to appear in different national costumes and represent the allied countries have been busily engaged with the organisers, making final plans for the carnival, and they are having costume rehearsals early this week.

    At the Showground the theatricals who appear in the procession will also take part in the afternoon's program.

    Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Monday, 22 February 1915, p.7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15562972


    21. Police carnival tableauThe arrangements for the Police and Firemen’s Patriotic Carnival on Saturday have been completed. Over 20,000 tickets have been sold.

    The procession is to leave the Domain at 10.20 o’clock In the morning, but the processionists will be in the Domain at 9.30 o’clock. The parade will be nearly two miles long, and the displays are considered to be the finest of their kind yet shown in Sydney. Miss Alma Phillips, of the Julius Knight Company, as Joan of Arc, will lead the French section. In the preparation of her armour and headgear, her father, Mr. Rock Phillips, property master for J.C. Williamson, Ltd., has used some chain-mail which was fixed to the crown worn by the late Mr. George Rignold when he first appeared at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, in “Henry VIII.” The British Empire tableau, with Miss Hope Hunter, of the “High Jinks” Company, as Britannia, and Miss Dolan, of the Julius Knight Company, posing as the Statue of Liberty in the French section, will be features. In fact, all the sections will be well represented. A fireman, Mr. Ephraim Stoneham, head of the mechanical department at Fire Headquarters, will be dressed as John Bull. The Canadian representatives have a splendidly arranged tableau, and Mr. A. Gordon Wesche, superintendent of the P. and O. Company in Australia, has given permission for 100 Indians now in Sydney to march in the Indian section. There will be Maoris on parade, and vaudeville artists and baseballers have arranged tableaux, while the naval, military, police, and fire brigade forces will each be in strong force.

    Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Thursday, 25 February 1915, p.7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28113947

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Charles Workman, too, played his part in providing “copy” for the relentless publicity machine put into motion to promote J.C. Williamson productions.





    Many extraordinary experiences have been encountered by Charles Workman, the infectiously humorous comedian, who, as Dick Wayne in High Jinks, is high priest in chief of that rollicking musical farce. When engaged at the Savoy Theatre, London, in the regime of Gilbert and Sullivan it was the custom to play at least one afternoon a week, and the opera chosen for the day show was invariably different to that on the evening bill, On this particular occasion Mr. Workman had been playing Jack Point in The Yeoman of the Guard during the afternoon, and having got rid of the trials and tribulations of the pathetic jester, went to his lodgings for a rest previous to the night performance.

    At the usual time Mr. Workman proceeded to dress for the evening’s entertainment. Presently a red-headed youth called, “Mr. Workman, on the stage, please,” and the favorite comedian at once made his way towards the stage and took his stand in the wings. Suddenly his hair began to rise on end, his backbone became frozen, he shivered as in a palsy, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. He heard the chorus in full blast singing as they bowed and kow-towed towards the wings where he was standing, “Defer, defer, to the Lord High Executioner.”

    Heavens, The Mikado, and he dressed for The Yeoman of the Guard! There was no help for it. He had to go on. Consternation was depicted on the faces of the people on the stage. Presently it gave way to merriment. First they giggled, then guffawed, and finally roared. The audience, taking up the general laughter, stamped and yelled. With one wild look Mr, Workman flew from the stage, tearing off the fateful garments as he ran, reached his dressing-room, and with a despairing shriek threw himself from a third-story window on to the paved courtyard beneath. Then he woke up, and found that he had tumbled out of bed, having torn to ribbons a new pair of pyjamas.

    The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 28 February 1915, p.13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24526170

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    British comedienne, Florence Vie also contributed her fair share to the theatrical gossip columns.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *



    22. Florence Vie“Nobody has asked me for a pattern of the bathing gown I wear in High Jinks,” said Florence Vie with, comic ruefulness, after mentioning the fact that the chorus members were receiving requests as to who made theirs.

    “You see, my purpose is to be grotesque. All my effects in the clothes way in this production are bizarre … I am a humorous vulgarian. If the character is not accepted in that spirit, then there is ‘nothing to it,’ as the Americans say.

    “I am referred to as 'a little September morn.’ Really I feel more like summer afternoon—at Coogee. There, however, I would probably be wearing a floppy cottonette Canadian, judging from observation of the beach. I have noticed that the surf beach garbs of the ocean bathing places about Sydney are utilitarian rather than aesthetic. I wonder what would be said if our Beauvllle girls in their dainty costumes invaded Coogee one Sunday morning. The press agent ought to try it. I think there would be a sensation. But in Australia the surf is an enjoyment. Girls go in and splash about. Looks are their last concern. At the French watering places they don’t go near the water. You see them parading in beautiful bathing gowns, and most of them don't get any more wet than the chorus in High Jinks could get in the painted ocean.

    “All things considered, I think the Coogee way is better. There you can feel nice. At Beauvllle you can only look nice—‘By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea!’”

    The Sun (Sydney, NSW) Sunday, 14 February 1915, p.13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24526030

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    As the Sydney season of High Jinks drew to a satisfactory close after a run of six weeks of dispensing fun and frivolity to its war-weary audiences, its esteemed Musical Director found himself on the receiving end of some unscripted high jinks perpetrated by the company members, as related in the Personal columns of the next day’s newspapers.  

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Mr. Andrew MacCunn, who has for some years now successfully conducted the J.C. Williamson orchestras, experienced the surprise of his life at the close of “High Jinks” at Her Majesty's Theatre last night. Raising his baton with confidence for the National Anthem, his orchestra responded with an exuberant rendering of the “Wedding March,” whilst a crowd of front-stall patrons joined the artists in pelting the embarrassed musician with confetti. Mr. MacCunn’s secret was a secret no more! He is to marry Miss Forester to-day.

    The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) Thursday, 18 March 1915, p.8

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Following the Wednesday evening performance, Hugh J. Ward presented MacCunn with a silver salver from J.C. Williamson, Ltd., a cabinet of cutlery from the company, and entree dishes from the orchestra.

    Andrew MacCunn was duly married to Adelaide-born musician, Miss Laura Forrester at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Phillip Street, Sydney by the Rev. John Ferguson on 18 March. The bride was given away by Mr. E.J. Tait, who at that time was the General Manager of the Sydney branch of J.C. Williamson Ltd. Her Majesty’s Theatre Orchestra attended the church and played musical selections.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    “High Jinks,” which has crowded Her Majesty’s Theatre throughout its run, came to an end last night amidst scenes of enthusiasm and floral presentations. Indeed, there can be no doubt that, but for the interruption of Easter, the American “musical jollity” would have held its place for weeks to come. The musical comedy provided plenty of good parts, and Messrs. Fisher, Workman, Rawlins, Plunket, Misses Brunton, Glynn, Eaton, and Vie were all seen to advantage in it. The J.C. Williamson Company will introduce this piece in Melbourne next Saturday as the Easter attraction.

    The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday, 20 March 1915, p.21

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    As JCW’s New English Musical Comedy Company wended its way Southwards via train to open at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne on Easter Saturday, 27 March 1915, its Sydney counterpart prepared to pay host to the pantomime Cinderella, which had entertained Melbourne audiences for a good 8 week season over the Christmas–New Year period, followed by a stopover in Brisbane during early March.  

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    High Jinks (A Musical Jollity in Three Acts). Book by Leo Ditrichstein and Otto Hauerbach [Harbach]. Based on Leo Ditrichstein's farce Before and After, (adapted from the French farce Les Dragées d'Hercule by Maurice Hennequin and Paul Bilhaud). Music by Rudolf Friml. Lyrics by Otto Hauerbach [Harbach]. Produced by Arthur Hammerstein. Opened 10 December 1913 at the Lyric Theatre, moved 12 January 1914 to the Casino Theatre, and closed 13 June 1914 after 213 performances.

    High Jinks midi files, featuring the full score of the musical, may be heard online at:https://www.gsarchive.net/AMT/highjinks/index.html

    The vocal score for High Jinks published by G. Schirmer: New York in 1913 may be read (and downloaded) from the Internet Archive athttps://archive.org/details/highjinksmusicalf00friml/mode/2up

    The orchestra parts for High Jinksextant in the ‘J.C. Williamson collection of performance materials’ at the National Library of Australia (reference: https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/34454117) reveal that the musical was scored for leader; 1st violin; 2nd violin; viola; cello; bass; bassoon; clarinet; flute; oboe; cornets; horns; trumpets; trombone; drums and harp.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *





    25. Monte LukeTHERE were signs of “a certain liveliness” in Mr. Monte Luke’s studio when the writer called. One star of great magnitude was in possession of the chair, some lesser lights were examining prints; an assistant was hard at work coloring transparencies for the front of the theatre.

    The studio at the back of the Theatre Royal, Sydney, is a small one, without trimmings. Subjects don’t need to be cajoled into it, nor flattered while there with comfortable lounges and luxurious carpets. On the way to it the outsider gets some fascinating glimpses of the big JCW property room, and perhaps of some members of a company practising a dance in another room.

    Mr. Luke, with the curly hair, the smile that won’t come off, and a cigarette, adjourns to the three by two darkroom to develop plates and answer questions.

    “Yes, there have been a good many theatrical celebrities in front of my camera. There were Oscar Asche and Lily Brayton. I was particularly interested in taking Mr. Asche, as I was born a few doors away from his birthplace in Geelong. There were Lewis Waller and Madge Titheradge, the principals of the Quinlan Opera Co., Graham Moffat and the ‘Bunty’ company, and a good many others, including those now playing in Australia—the Julius Knight, Fred Niblo, Muriel Starr companies, and the new English Comedy Co.

    “I don’t remember any particular incidents. They all know their business and pose without any trouble. I press the bulb, and the camera does the rest. It’s very easy.

    “Did you see the cinema pictures in ‘Come Over Here?’ Jack Cannot, Johnnie Osborne and some others in a car raced along the road and dashed across the railway line in front of a train. That was a thrilling moment for me as a spectator at the camera. People thought it was a fake. It wasn’t. The pictures were taken at National Park. The engine-driver knew nothing about it beforehand. I guess he was a bit startled to see the car cross in the nick of time.

    “We have done some fairly good fake pictures. That was some years ago, before this business had extended so much and we were not so busy. On one occasion, there were no pictures of the pantomime animals, and I suggested a wild beast chase in Centennial Park. A camp of hunters was made up, and property lions, giraffes, etc., taken out. We got photographs of a man treed by a lion, men stalking a giraffe, and things of that sort. Another time an actor was mistaken for a burglar and arrested. We got a super dressed up as a policeman, had the scene re-enacted and photographed it.”

    By this time the plates were finished with temporarily, some prints had had a bath and we were out in the studio again.

    “Of course, speed is an important matter in this business. I remember when Florence Young came over from Melbourne for ‘The Girl in the Train’ performance. I went up to Strathfield to meet her and take a snap-shot of her in the train. The station-master obligingly pushed the train out of the dark underground platform for me, and I got the picture at a quarter to eleven. At twelve noon the print was in the newspaper offices and appeared the same afternoon.

    “I valued very much Mr. Graham Moffat’s praise of some work I did for him. He had been a photographer for many years before he became a playwright and actor.  Before he opened here with ‘Bunty’ he called in one day at four-fifteen, and at five o'clock his photographs were in the newspaper offices. He said they were amongst the best pictures of himself that he had seen.

    “Madame Genee started photography out here. She was getting pictures every week from her husband, who was a fairly good amateur, and she thought she would like to send him as good or better. I went round with her frequently to take snapshots in the Gardens and elsewhere. She picked up the game quickly. A very charming lady was Genee.”

    “Do you find the ladies more anxious than the men to have their photographs published?” Mr. Luke was asked.

    “I don’t find actresses in a hurry to have their photographs taken, as a rule. Perhaps I should say that their anxiety varies inversely with their experience. There is a stage in the career of an actor when he doesn't want any more photographs taken—at any rate, not until his hair turns white all over.

    “At first it is interesting, I suppose, to see one's face all over the place. They become almost as familiar to the public as the King’s head, but he has the pull of an exclusive circulation on coins and postage stamps. But it’s a thing one gets used to, like the job of taking ’em.”

    “You were once an actor yourself, weren’t you?”

    “Yes, and my knowledge of acting has helped me some here. I was for a number of years in Julius Knight’s company, and with Edwin Geach, Clarke and Meynell, and Philip Lytton. I went into the country and played most of Harcourt Beatty’s parts, and I was understudy to Stephen Ewart in the Ethel Irving Co. It was Mr. Knight who advised me to take up photography. Some of my early pictures pleased him, and I kept at it. On returning from New Zealand with the Ethel Irving Co. I found there was nothing doing for me for a few weeks until ‘Ben Hur’ opened; so I took some photographs on my own account and brought along some suggestions to the management. Not long after I was engaged permanently and provided with this studio and dark room.”

    “Did you start with those frames of tinted beauties who might very well pass for angels in the dusk with the light behind them?”

    “Not exactly. I used to take pictures of the performers in their make-up on matinee day, and put a set of them in a frame. Coloring came later. Mr. Hugh Ward suggested the transparencies. And then we got the set of powerful arc lamps which enable us to take pictures in the day time without the hard starey expression of photographs taken with a flashlight. To-morrow I’ll be taking a lot of scenes in ‘High Jinks.’ Come along to Her Majesty’s and see it done.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

          28. Monte 4  29. Monte 5

    The stage was lit for the occasion with white light. The full strength of the company was present as for a full dress rehearsal. The stage manager called out “Take your places, please, for the opening scene,” and the company arranged itself. The camera had been placed on a trestle up the central aisle of the stalls. In a couple of minutes everybody had posed correctly. Mr. Luke focussed the group and with bulb in hand called out, “That’s it; now hold it, hold it, hold it—right!”—click, and the deed was done in less than five minutes. Then groups and single figures appearing in scenes in the first act were taken, the opening of the second act, other groups and individual performers; the camera being removed to the stage for the smaller groups.

    “Mr. Workman, will you lean a little nearer to Miss Brunton, please?”

    “Now, Mr. Rawlins, if you’ll throw your head back and laugh. I’m ready for you. That’s it. Thanks.”

    “Miss—will you pull your foot back, please, it’s in the way.”

    30. Monte 6

    It was entertaining to the solitary idle spectator to see a well-known actor or actress in costume and make-up putting on a fatuous grin or pretending to rock with wild laughter. It reminded him of that well-known stage direction on the post card:—“Smile, damn you, smile!” and made him laugh more than a regular performance. Apparently the make-up on the actress's face is not a necessity when photographs are taken with the new lights. Miss Glyn came in a little late and without any make-up, and the photographs taken of her were as good as any. The camera fiend went on, perspiring but imperturbable, until over 150 negatives had been taken. He had started at a quarter past eleven, was interrupted by the rehearsal of a ballet, and had finished at a quarter to two. The whole of the photographs were finished and ready for inspection at a few minutes past five o’clock.

    “How many photographs do you turn out in a week?”

    “Some weeks, two or three hundred. That would be when a new play opens here. The prints are sent from Sydney to all the other Australian cities and to New Zealand and South Africa. When a new play opens in Melbourne, I run over there in time for Friday’s dress rehearsal and the prints are in front of the theatre on Saturday.”

    Every passer-by sees these pictures and apparently likes to see them. The public never gets tired of the faces of the pretty women and the clever men who provide its principal entertainment. That is to say that the public is at least as much interested in the personality of the actor as in his words or songs or even acting. While that is so the photographer who makes as good photographs as Mr. Luke does of theatrical stars is a public benefactor, for he helps to scatter their radiance far beyond the footlights.

    31. Monte 7

    The Lone Hand, 1 April 1915, pp.315–317

    Additional sources


  • C.H. Workman in Australia (Part 6)

    1 bannerMonte Luke’s promotional photos included scenic artist, Leslie Board and the show’s 28 year-old stage manager, Rege Carey. Punch (Melbourne), 8 April 1915, p.18

    Following the conclusion of the Sydney premiere season of High Jinks (to make way for J.C. Williamson’s pantomime season, which traditionally commenced in the harbourside city at Easter time) JCW’s New English Musical Comedy Company travelled Southwards to open at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne on Easter Saturday, 27 March 1915. With Victor Champion taking the conductor’s chair as its local Musical Director, the cast remained much the same as it had in Sydney, with only a few minor alterations, which included the return of English actress, Gwen Hughes, who took over the role of Dr. Thorne’s nurse, ‘Florence’ from Eileen Cottey, and the addition of speciality dancer, Jack Hooker, who was given a solo spot in the Act 3 cabaret scene.

    Melbourne audiences took to the new musical with the same enthusiasm as the Sydneysiders had, which was reflected in the newspaper critiques published on the following Monday.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


     “HIGH JINKS.”

    The new musical jollity at Her Majesty’s Theatre is infinitely brighter, more cheery and melodious than any half dozen of the same class that have preceded it. It has also the advantage of improving through its three acts, the last one being a climax of irresponsible absurdity that sent the huge audience home in the best of spirits. It comes from American sources and the author is unannounced, but there are ample signs that it has been doctored a good deal in its passage from the States, and after. The music is mostly of the sparkling comedy, with a charming valse theme introduced in the beginning by Miss Dorothy Brunton, a song principally with harp and reed accompaniment, the melody also appearing in the score continually affording opportunities for admirable chorus singing. The second attraction was Miss Brunton’s and Mr. Plunket’s graceful duet and dance, “Not now, but later;” the third the trio, “Faust in ragtime,” with a serious travesty on grand opera by Mr. Workman, Miss Marie Eaton and Mr. F. Maguire, and the fourth Miss Eaton’s rousing ballad, “Sammy sang the Marseillaise,” the soul-stirring strain of the great French war song dominating the number. An additional treat was the exquisite dancing of Mdlle. Vlasta Novotna and Mr. Victor Lauschmann.

    Of course there is a plot, but it has all its work to do to carry the three acts on its back, and there is no strain necessary to follow it. The “High Jinks perfume,” if only smelt for a moment, has the power of turning the staid into jolly dogs, the dour towards roses and raptures and wine, and the cold-blooded to seek dare-devilry and Adventure. Of course it is all hilarious nonsense taken—after the first act—in the very highest of animal spirits, and finishing with a banquet full of surprises, the chief delight being the throwing of joyous handsprings by the lost, heavy father—of course after supper—to the joy of his newly-discovered wife, who has been dancing with all the energy worthy of a certificated pupil of St. Vitus.

    Mr. Field Fisher—who may be remembered as the stolid waiter in The Girl in the Taxi—takes the part of Dr. Thorne, an American specialist, the first victim of the perfume expressing, his new found mercurial vitality in attractive dancing, and fresh affection for his wife and for the wives of others, only avoiding a duel by urgent business at a bathing resort on the French coast, whither all the other characters come, the result being higher jinks than ever. Miss Florence Vie appears to every advantage as a woman of the world who has lost her husband, an American lumber king, for years, but manages, for all that, to live on and enjoy life to its full, which Miss Vie makes it very plain she does, throwing herself heart and soul into a performance that kept the stage lively all the time she was on it, especially in her duet with Mr. Rawlins, “Come Hither,“ and “The Dixiana Rise,” with the full company backing her as chorus. Miss Dorothy Brunton’s is chiefly a singing role, and as the adopted daughter of Miss Vie she was rather overshadowed in the dialogue but she gave her songs archly and brightly, making the hit of the evening with the valse number, “Is This Love at Last?” and subsequently in a ballad “By the Sea,” but in the last act she is almost obliterated, and is an onlooker only at the revels. As the stolid American lumber man, J.J. Jeffreys, transformed by the “High Jinks perfume” into a jovial and even dangerous man, Mr. W.H. Rawlins had a character rich in that class of humour in which he is an adept at portraying, and, with Miss Vie, kept the fun always at the topmost notch. A cleverly dealt with character was that of Jacques Rabelais by Mr. Paul Plunket, and departing from stage tradition rightly made him a gentleman—all Frenchmen are gentlemen. His graceful dance and song, “Not Now but Later,” with Miss Brunton, charmed by its verve and refinement. Of the explorer and inventor of the famous perfume, Mr. Workman had not much opening for his undoubted capabilities, but he made a telling hit with his first number, “High Jinks,” and in the duet “Chi Chi,” with Miss Glyn. Miss Marie Eaton was also—as Dr. Thorne’s real wife—assigned a singing part which she dealt with in fine style, and Miss Glynn was heard in a tender song, “The Bubble,” the effect being further illustrated by coloured air balloons that rose and fell, and even made their way to the roof of the theatre, where they found a home amongst the ornate mouldings. Mr. Frith’s Colonel Slaughter, who was also given and did smell of the perfume, was a neat comedy character, and Mr. F. Maguire, who does not appear till late, lent worthy aid by his singing to “Faust in Ragtime”. Miss Gwen Hughes created a pretty Red Cross figure—as nurse at Dr. Thorne’s; Mr. Chris Wren was a satisfactory garcon; Miss Nellie Hobson a rather sedate Madame Rabelais; and Miss Cecil Bradley a spruce Boy in Buttons, alias a page; and Mr. J. Hooker did a rattling double rag-step dance. The scenery by Messrs Board and Little, was captivating, and Mr. Victor Champion conducted skilfully, while a word of praise must be awarded Miss Minnie Hooper for the many pretty dances she has arranged. The piece, which had a very hearty reception by a packed house, will be repeated nightly with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    The Argus (Melbourne), Monday, 29 March 1915, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1506452

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    For the packed house at Her Majesty’s theatre on Saturday night three hours seemed to pass as so many minutes. The J.C. Williamson New English Comedy Company made a decided hit with “High Jinks,” truly described by Harry B. Burcher, the producer, as a musical jollity.

    The scenes are laid in France, first at the sanatorium of Dr. Thorne, an American, afterwards at Beauvllle, a coastal bathing resort. That the doctor, under the influence of the perfume, secretly administered by his chum, Dr. Wayne, permitted himself to be kissed by the wife of M. Jacques Rabelais, was the cause of a maze of misunderstandings, and most of the jollity. Wives became inextricably mixed with sweethearts, husbands dodged duels with the utmost difficulty, yet in spite of all, they sang and danced with a verve that delighted the audience. To sketch the plot would be to presume that it mattered, whereas it was submerged under an avalanche of mirth and mischief, lilting refrains, gay repartee and twinkling feet.

    Mr. C.H. Workman (Dr. Wayne, an explorer), the exploiter of the magic perfume, linked it, at the beginning of the first act, with the haunting melody of a song, “High Jinks." The song, the perfume, and Mr. Workman were then essential to the continuance of the piece.

    Miss Dorothy Brunton (Sylvia Dale, in love with Dr. Wayne), received an ovation for her most important number, “Is This Love at Last?" Her duet with Mr. Paul Plunket (M. Rabelais) was another success. Miss Marion Eaton (Mrs. Thorne) did justice to her numbers, particularly “Sammy Sang the Marseillaise.” Miss Florence Vie (Mrs. Jeffreys, a runaway wife), was responsible for much of the frivolity, and her song “Jim,” was especially well rendered. Miss Gertrude Glyn (Mile. Chi Chi, a dancer), was warmly encored for her tuneful “Bubbles.”

    Excellent work was done, with little respite, by Messrs W.H. Rawlins (Mr. J.J. Jeffreys, American lumber king), Field Fisher (Dr. Thorne), Paul Plunket (M. Rabelais), Alfred Frith (Colonel Slaughter), and Fred Maguire (Johnnie Doe). Others who pleased were Misses Gwen Hughes (a nurse), Cecil Bradley (a page), and Nellie Hobson (Madame Rabelals), and Mr. Chris Wren (garcon).

    In the third act Miss Vlasta Novotna and Mr. Victor Lauschmann were seen in a spirited dance. Mr. Jack Hooker contributed an eccentric step dance.

    The jollity will continue till further notice.

    The Herald (Melbourne), Monday, 29 March 1915, p.7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242276441

    4 Fisher Workman Vie   Hal Gye caricatures for The Bulletin (Sydney), 8 April 1915, p.9

    The J.C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company having just concluded its final return Melbourne season at Her Majesty’s prior to the advent of High Jinks prompted the Age critic to draw comparisons with the evergreen comic operas. 

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    The medley of mirth and song staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday well represents the trend of advance—or the line of retreat—in matters musical since the Gilbert and Sullivan operas were written 30 years ago. In actual fact the world has probably become more serious since then. In its plays, and particularly in its musical comedies, it has become more flippant. Compared with Iolanthe or The Yeomen of the Guard, a production like High Jinksis an iridescent bubble on the surface of events. It is a chanson to an epic poem, or, if one prefers it, a souffle to a pancake. But whatever it is or is not, it is capable in the hands of a clever company of being made a very agreeable and light-hearted form of entertainment. And this is what happens to it in the present instance. The crowded audience on Saturday night gave the new production a cordial reception, and left the theatre feeling thoroughly satisfied. The three acts do what they profess to do; they furnish scenes of musical frivolity and light-hearted good humor; they provide some genuinely mirthful situations; and they carry the house along with them at a rapid, almost a breathless, pace. If anyone expects to hear improving moral sentiments or find a serious plot in High Jinks he will be disappointed. If he wants to have his fancy amused and his eyesight captivated he will be thoroughly satisfied. One is reminded at times of the lines in Mrs. Browning’s Wine of Cyprus, which may be applied to this extravaganza. It is:

    Bright as Paphia’s eyes e’er met us,

    Light as ever trod her feet.

    The name of the author of High Jinks does not appear on the program, but it is manifestly a composite work, built up by the collaboration of stage mechanist, dresser, librettist and musical composer—perhaps several of each. The result is really a harmony of its kind; a harmony made out of a number of sparkling and irresponsible materials, but none the less a harmony. The first scene is laid outside a doctor’s house in Paris. An accredited doctor, whether French or American, is not as a rule the kind of man who makes love to his patients, or takes unknown ladies on frivolous missions to the seaside. But there is a reason why the eminent American specialist, Dr. Robert Thorne, should do so in this case. A fellow practitioner has presented him with a wonderful specific; it is a perfume the merit of which is that it will galvanise into sudden life and “flirtatiousness” anyone who takes so much as a breath of it. Even the most serious-minded suffragette, it is claimed, could not resist this perfume; on a second or a third application she would forgive the British Prime Minister, and possibly dance a can-can with him in Trafalgar Square. At any rate, the effect on Dr. Thorne and the members of the High Jinks company is enlivening and exhilarating. There is no need to follow all the complications of the story. The doctor becomes an apostle of cheerfulness. He prescribes seaside resorts and young, good-looking nurses for all of his male patients. As for the women, he conceives it to be his mission to cheer them up by making love to them. A husband of one of them, who is unreasonable enough to object to this form of treatment, is completely pacified when given the opportunity of himself making love to the doctor's wife—or rather of a lady whom the doctor has thoughtfully passed of as his wife. It is all very impossible and very amusing. The second and third act, thrown against the background of a French watering place, introduce pretty dresses, pretty faces and comic situations in bewildering variety. The third act is perhaps the most handsomely staged and decorative of any. It is lit with lamps and adorned with shimmering evening dresses; and it is interspersed with music and very clever dancing, in which Mlle. Vlasta Novotna. Mr. Victor Lauschmann and Mr. Jack Hooker carry off the honors.

    The company that interprets this musical medley, and keeps it moving briskly from start to finish, is the one that appeared here last season in The Girl in the Taxi. The individual members, with scarcely an exception, appear to more advantage in this production than in the last, though Miss Jarvis, the leading lady, has in the interim deserted the stage for matrimony and domestic life. The leading part of Sylvia Dale, the young lady who has to pose both as assumed wife and assumed daughter falls to Miss Dorothy Brunton, who quite comes up to expectations. Miss Brunton seems to he improving with each new part. Her useful soprano voice, which she manages very pleasingly, is heard to great advantage in the song ‘Is This Love at Last’ in the first act, and also in the number ‘By the Sea’ in the second act. She shows, too, that she has stage sense and histrionic ability. Miss Gertrude Glynn, who will be remembered as Lady Babby in Gipsy Love, has a congenial part in this production as Mlle. Chi Chi, a dancer. Her clever dancing and good stage presence make her duet with Mr. Workman in the second act both graceful and effective; she is also heard to advantage in a pretty song, The Bubble, in which the effect is heightened by the sending up of large bright-colored bubbles to the ceiling. Miss Florence Vie is a large, cheerful and altogether successful runaway wife—so much so that the audience can hardly agree with the husband who congratulates himself on having a wife who is so considerate as to run away. Miss Marie Eaton performs creditably as the wife of Dr. Thorne, but the effect of her good singing voice would be enhanced if she gave the audience the benefit of the words. Of the others, Mr. Field Fisher does exceptionally well as Dr. Thorne, his dancing agility standing him in good stead. His conception of the part is legitimately humorous. The imposing personality of Mr. W.H. Rawlins fits admirably into the character of Mr. J.J. Jeffreys, the “lumber king,” and Mr. C.H. Workman, though not the ideal lover of romance, is sufficiently well cast as the comparatively serious hero—if anything in the play can be called serious. Mr. Paul Plunket as the would-be duellist husband, Mr. Alfred Frith as a very lively patient, Mr. Maguire as a young man about town, and Mr. Chris Wren as a droll and small sized waiter are others in the cast.

    The Age (Melbourne), Monday, 29 March 1915, p.7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154927664

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    In addition to noting the absence of an author’s credit for the libretto, The Age critic correctly concluded that the score was a composite work, as Rudolf Friml’s original musical score had been bolstered by the addition of various interpolations, which was standard practise for musical comedies staged in Australia by JCW at this period, with Andrew MacCunn serving as chief musical adviser on such matters. In addition to the “Faust in Ragtime” trio showcasing the combined vocal talents of Charles Workman, Marie Eaton and Fred Maguire, the show also sported two popular American songs from 1914 to highlight the talents of its two leading ladies, “By the Beautiful Sea” (by Harold R. Atteridge and Harry Carroll) for Dorothy Brunton, and “Dancing the Blues Away”(by Joe McCarthy, Howard Johnson and Fred Fisher) for Marie Eaton.

    While the most likely source of the interpolated Act III opening chorus “Beauville” was the Act II opening chorus “Friville” (with amended lyrics) from the 1911 British musical comedy Peggy, featuring the music of Leslie Stuart and lyrics of C.H. Bovill, for which JCW held the Australasian performing rights (under a long-standing agreement with London impresario, George Edwardes to acquire the rights to all musicals and operettas staged at his London Gaiety and Daly’s Theatres, which had been instituted by J.C. Williamson himself) since the musical was never professionally staged by The Firm in Australia (although the original orchestra parts remain extant in the “J.C. Williamson collection of performance materials” archived at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.)

    The theatre critics for the weekly Melbourne newspapers and periodicals were no less stinting in their praise of the new musical than their colleagues of the daily press.

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    The Playgoer

    By “Peter Quince”


    There were no signs of war or world-troubles upon the playgoing face which, loomed large, shining and smiling at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday evening. The house was densely crowded, and the welcome which was accorded to the members of “The Girl in the Taxi” Company as they made their reappearance was warm to the point of enthusiasm. The new production is entitled “High Jinks,” and is a musical farce, the name of the composer being modestly withheld, probably because it is that of a German. The piece has achieved a great success in America, and will probably do the same here, if one may judge by the favour with which it was received on the first production. “High Jinks” is an hilarious nightmare, as amusing a story as it is wildly improbable, inconsequent and utterly irresponsible. The music is varied, bright and enjoyable, the fact that it is reminiscent of much that we have had before detracting but little from its attractiveness. The name “High Jinks” serves the double purpose of describing the action of everybody concerned, whilst under the influence of the perfume, “High Jinks.” This magical scent has the effect of making any person who sniffs it amorously happy and deliriously demonstrative. The doctor who has tested it becomes at once oblivious to the troubles of his patients, except when they are young and pretty, and require soothing kisses to be administered; rheumatic patients under the influence of the smell shake off their stiffness in a remarkable way, and develop at once amativeness and Terpsichorean energy, whilst its potency is so all-powerful as to send everybody to a charming seaside resort, where the hours are spent in singing, dancing, love-making and strolling on the sands in the most fetching of costumes, full, scant and intermediate. In fact, the spell of the High Jinks perfume is irresistible.

    * * * *

    Hazily seen, through the piece is woven the love story of a Manila lumber king, who has married an actress. They, after a brief honeymoon, had agreed to separate, and at the time the opera commences this separation has endured for twenty-three years. The actress after separation, sent her husband a cable notifying the birth of their little girl. The story of the birth was a “frame-up,” which the pseudo-mother covers up afterwards by adopting an attractive young singer. The lonely lumber king comes to France for the good of his health, and under the influence of “High Jinks” is condemned to a course of treatment at the hands of a fascinating nurse. The actress-wife and the supposed daughter visit the same watering place, and at once find themselves entangled in the web of intrigue and misunderstanding which “High Jinks” weaves everywhere it is permitted to mingle with the atmosphere. An excitable French gentleman and his wife are prominent in the action, as also are many dancers. The final result is that the subtle perfume gets into the nostrils of the audience, and the piece leaves them in a state of “High Jinks,” merriment and an atmosphere of “dunno-where-they-are.”

    * * * *

    In this piece Miss Dorothy Brunton plays perhaps her most important part—that off the adopted daughter Sylvia, and in the character sings in a much improved and effective manner, giving altogether a most creditable rendering of the young, proper and affectionate girl. Miss Brunton has the song of the piece, “Is This Love at Last,” a waltz number of haunting quality. She also scored in “By the Sea” with an effective chorus, and running through the refrain at times is heard the “swish” of the far resounding sea, as the rollers lazily chase each other upon the sands of Beauville. Miss Brunton, of course, looks a delightful picture, and acts with spirit and charm. Miss Gertrude Glyn as Chi-Chi, a dancer, is in this piece a character of minor importance, but Miss Glyn made her as bright and convincing as possible, and scored successes in “The Bubbles,” and in her duet with Mr. C.H. Workman. Miss Florence Vie as the separated wife of the lumber king was quite in her element, and in her quaint appearance, costumes and sayings must be held responsible for a large proportion of the laughter of the evening. As the doctor’s wife Miss Marie Eaton achieved a distinct musical success; the two adjectives must be taken as bracketed together, for her singing of the music was as distinctly successful as the words of the songs were indistinct and unintelligible. Perhaps now that Germany is under a cloud, operatic artists will reconsider the true value of “lieder ahne worte,” and give the author, as well as the composer, an opportunity of being heard and understood. Miss Nellie Hobson as Madame Rabelais, and Miss Gwen Hughes as a nurse, were respectively “bits of all-right,” and Miss Cecil Bradley filled the role of a page with marked success. The gentlemen in the cast may be briefly summarised as “all there” in dialogue, music, dancing, action and the provocation of merriment. They were Messrs. Field Fisher, W.H. Rawlins, C.H. Workman, Paul Plunket, Alfred Frith and Fred Maguire. More of them next week. During the third act a dance by Mr. Victor Lauschmann and Mdlle. Vlasta Novotna was warmly appreciated. The piece was enthusiastically received, and will prove a shining Easter attraction.

    Punch (Melbourne), Thursday, 1 April 1915, p.32, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138698513

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    7 By the Beautiful SeaDorothy Brunton and the girls’ chorus sing “By the Beautiful Sea”. Photo by Monte Luke. Punch (Melbourne), 25 March 1915, p.27.


    The complaint as to a slump in matters theatrical can scarcely be well-founded considering the capital attendances at the regular theatres, notwithstanding the counter attractions of picture-shows innumerable. Her Majesty’s Theatre is packed nightly. On Saturday night hundreds were turned away from the doors. “High Jinks” went as befits its name—merrily and boisterously. The piece is strong in comedians, who keep the ball rolling briskly. Mr. W.H. Rawlins is a great favourite as Mr. J.J. Jeffreys, who curses his fate, in being called after the former champion of the prize ring. Poor Jeffreys has come to Paris for the cure, which seems to consist of pleasant treatment by a comely nurse who has no serious objection to playing up high-jinks when required. Mr. Rawlins and Miss Florence Vie are very successful in their humorous duet. “Come Hither,” Mr. C.H. Workman is bright, brisk and lively throughout, and is heard to great advantage in the scene, “Faust in Ragtime,” in which he shares the honours with Miss Marie Eaton and Mr. Fred Maguire. Mr. Field Fisher carries the important burden of Dr. Thorne lightly, Mr. Paul Plunket, gives characteristic tone and action to the impressionable and fire-eating French husband, Mr. Alfred Frith does splendidly as Colonel Slaughter, especially in the banquet scene. The dancing introduced into “High Jinks” forms an important and attractive feature. The pas de deux by Miss Vlasta Novotna and Mr. Victor Lauschmann is a brilliant and graceful measure, and is loudly applauded, whilst the eccentric double-rag dancing of Mr. Jack Hooker is something in the way of a revolution in step-dancing. The graceful movements and dances incidental to the action of the piece are highly creditable to their arranger, Miss Minnie Hooper. “High Jinks” will be produced every evening until further notice.

    Punch (Melbourne), Thursday, 8 April 1915, p.32, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138698627

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     “High Jinks.”

    Packed in every part, there was quite a gala spirit rife at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night. From the opening of the overture there was a breath of espiegle and gaiety about the new production, “High Jinks,” that set everyone in a good humor. There is plenty of dash and “ginger” in it from start to finish, and never a dull moment. Events are hurried at the breathless speed and with all the hustle which characterises American productions. The music is bright and sparkling, with catchy airs and a pretty waltz refrain, which, however, is not intruded too much. It has also that rare thing in musical comedy—a plot which is followed almost without a break to the very end. It is thin, but it serves to keep up a strong interest right to the close of the third act.

    The story opens outside Dr. Robert Thorne’s surgery, a busy specialist, who is brusque in manner. Patients arrive to consult him, and Dick Wayne, a friend, drops in. He is the inventor of a wonderful perfume, “High Jinks,” with magical qualities, so that a mere whiff makes one genial and ready to frivol. The doctor receives him snappily, then, to make some amends, says he will take his perfume and have a look at it. He does so, with the effect that it makes him skittish, and he scandalises several persons by being caught dancing most energetically. Finally, in the very act of kissing Madame Rabelais, he is detected by her husband, who challenges the doctor and gives him the choice of being killed or allowing Monsieur to kiss Mrs. Thorne. The latter alternative is chosen. The lady is to be at Beauvllle, but a little plot is arranged to have a pseudo wife represent her; and an actress, the adopted daughter of an ex-stage favorite, is chosen to play the role. But Wayne is a devoted admirer of her, and has watched her night after night from a box, and he begins to suspect and to be furiously jealous when he sees her in a compromising situation. There is another patient, who is sent off to recruit with a nurse, J.J. Jeffreys, who tells how he has not seen his wife, whom he married from the stage, for over 20 years.

    They all arrive at Beauville, even the stately, real wife of the doctor, and there are many muddles and explanations before it is all straightened out.

    To do justice to the production, a specially-picked company is necessary, especially on the masculine side, for each role has to be sustained by a comedian with a sense of character, and at the same time a dancer and more or less a singer. Such a company the management has been lucky enough to find, and consequently “High Jinks,” which is beautifully staged and mounted, has a dash and breeziness which are quite irresistible. All the parts fit the performers as though made for them. C.H. Workman is excellent as Dick Wayne, a role in which he displays acting ability of no mean quality, real vocal talent, and proves himself a dancer who is wonderfully light on his feet. Of Field Fisher, as Dr. Thorne, much the same may be said, except that he is not quite so well endowed as a singer. But right through he keeps to the spirit of the part in an effective way.

    Paul Plunket is admirable as the excitable, volatile Frenchman, Mons. Jacques Rabelais. Alfred Frith, as Colonel Slaughter, an elderly military dandy and fire-eater, is another well-worked-out role which provokes humor, and W.H. Rawlins is first-rate as J.J. Jeffreys, who has mislaid a wife and daughter and acquired a too pronounced figure and some digestive ills.

    Marie Eaton makes one of the most striking successes on the feminine side. Like Mr. Workman, she comes out strong as quite a dramatic actress, a singer of high merit, and a dancer. The trio in the third act, in which she, C.H. Workman, and Fred Maguire give the “Faust” burlesque in ragtime, represents something very fine vocally, such as is rarely heard in musical comedy; it approaches very nearly grand opera, and arouses the audience to a regular salvo of applause.

    Florence Vie, in the comedy part of Adelaide Fontaine, the mislaid wife, is next in prominence and scores a big popular success, for she bubbles over with humor and good spirits.

    Dorothy Brunton is sweet and dainty as Sylvia Dale, her adopted daughter, with just the right dash of assertive spirit to prevent Sylvia being too cloyingly sweet. Gertrude Glyn has not much opportunity as Mdlle. Chi Chi, but manages to make the part stand out, and does well in her one song and dance.

    Gwen Hughes as the nurse at Doctor Thorne’s, Nellie Hobson as Madame Rabelais, Cecil Bradley as a page, Fred Maguire as Johnnie Doe, and Chris. Wren as Garcon, are well placed in the minor roles. Mdlle. Novotna and Victor Lauschmann give a graceful dance number in the third act.

    There are many new ideas in stage effects and movements, and the whole production reflects the greatest credit upon Harry B. Burcher, who supervised the whole. The orchestra, under Victor Champion, does excellent work.

    Table Talk (Melbourne), Thursday, 1 April 1915, p.25, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146577173

    8 Scenes 1(l to r) Florence Vie & W.H. Rawlins—Gertrude Glynn, W.H. Rawlins & Cecil Bradley (as the page)—Alice Bennetto & Field Fisher.
    Photos by Monte Luke. Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 25 March 1915, p.27.

    THEATRES, &c.

    Coming on the heels of the Gilbert and Sullivan season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, musical comedy has its differences, its defects, thrown into sharper contrast, but “High Jinks” is as well fitted to stand the strain as anything in the line produced of recent years. That this kind of entertainment maintains its popularity there can be no doubt. The air and attitude of the large audience which welcomed it back on Saturday evening offered convincing proof upon that point. The gaiety of the house was infectious—it increased with the progress of the frolic, which is admirably arranged to create expectation at the outset and carry one on from that pleasant state to the feeling of unbounded, irresponsible gaiety reached in the climax. “High Jinks,” if not consecutive, is sparkling, melodious, and graceful all through. No author has put his name to it, but possibly a dozen have contributed to what is, after all, the least important part of an entertainment, brought to perfection chiefly by stage art and experience. As “The Mikado” has a fresh musical surprise for us in each melodious moment, so “High Jinks,” in other ways and by wholly different charms, keeps one simmering always, sometimes shouting impulsive and unstinted approval. As with “Seven Keys to Baldpate,” [the George M. Cohan play starring Fred Niblo then playing at the Theatre Royal] it is better to leave a good deal for revelation on the stage. Mention of the idea is almost sufficient—a magical perfume, the secret of which is possessed by an American doctor resident in Paris, and the effect of which even at a single sniff is to make moody people bright and bright people intensely gay. It is an elixir calculated to do much good in some communities, maybe harm in others, though no moral that anyone can discover is hinged on or even suggested at Her Majesty’s. The doctor who administers it, and who at the outset is impelled only by scientific zeal, the glamour of a great discovery, is not immune to his own medicine. So he is infected, and his remedy for all ailments—not discoverable in the pharmacopoeia—is to make love to his patients, serious or frivolous, maiden or married alike. If husbands find fault with the method and seek interviews, a whiff of the magic perfume removes all jealousy, all gloom, and thence on—to use imagery suitable to the situation—they are “in it up to their eyebrows.” Two of the acts are set at a charming French seaside resort, with all that the atmosphere and the situation offer or suggest. For the rest of the story—the detail that completes it, the bits in parentheses that have nothing to do with it—but are not less welcome on that account—the curious, as in the case of “Baldpate,” are best referred to the theatre. To those who fail to find full enjoyment, either the magic perfume itself or an everyday tonic is prescribed. In curt analysis, “High Jinks” may be defined as a hybrid between the lighter, brighter side of musical comedy and the just-deceased revue. It is produced—and better played and sung—by the company which appeared in “The Girl in the Taxi,” with whom Miss Dorothy Brunton, now in the lead, has been winning fresh distinction. Miss Brunton has in this instance chiefly a singing part, and fate in the allotment of its favours is unkind to her only in the last act, where she is mainly a picturesque looker-on. In the earlier scenes, however, Miss Brunton does more than enough for her reputation—and chiefly in the song “Is This Love at Last?” In such a production as this the chief comedian is of vital importance. As the doctor driven to gaiety by the diablerie of his own medicine, Mr. Field Fisher has altogether a different kind of character to the waiter of the Jeunesse Doree restaurant, and fresh opportunity reveals in him new and highly entertaining qualities as a comedian. Mr. Fisher is no specialty artist. He grasps and reveals the humorous and the ridiculous on the broadest lines. The doctor has two wives, the one taken before, the other after the perfume. Miss Florence Vie, the after effect, has run away from one husband, a rough and ready lumberman of the back woods, who, getting within range of the joy-bringer, is transformed in the usual way. Miss Vie is decorative, musical, and, like the Waverley pen, “a boon and a blessing to men,” while Miss Marie Eaton, as the wife of the scientific era, sings supremely well, though always with more regard to the value of musical notes than song words, which are, however, of lesser importance. The comedy is sprinkled with good songs and bright situations, and some distinct, if not vital, characters. The frivolous Frenchman of the English stage is very often a grotesque caricature. As a concession to the Entente, Mr. Plunket in this instance corrects such errors without losing anything in effect upon the light side. His Jacques Rabelais is not very Rabelaisian—just Rabelaisian enough. Miss Gertrude Glynn, Miss Gwen Hughes, Mr. Frith, Mr. W.H. Rawlins—who is very happy indeed as the transformed and rejuvenated man of the pine woods—and other artists equip this comedy in a way that offers little chance for betterment. All that stage art can do in colour design and effect to give it suitable setting is accomplished; the dancing of Vlasta Novotna and Victor Lauschmann wins unbounded admiration. Nothing better in fun, frivolity, light-hearted and graceful entertainments—with just sufficient of the spice of wickedness—has recently been staged at Her Majesty’s than “High Jinks.”

    The Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday, 3 April 1915, p.24, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142970830

    9 Scenes 2(l to r) C.H. Workman & Dorothy Brunton—Field Fisher caught kissing Nellie Hobson by Paul Plunket—Gertrude Glynn & C.H. Workman—Field Fisher & C.H. Workman.
    Photos by Monte Luke. Punch (Melbourne), 25 March 1915, p.27.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The critic for The Leader, however, was far more grudging in his praise and seemed to regard the whole enterprise as unworthy of his serious appraisal, and of possessing only a few redeeming features.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    DRAMA, &c.


    High Jinks, produced at Her Majesty’s by The Girl in the Taxi Company, is described as “a musical jollity,” and is certainly entitled to no higher commendation. It has been devised for the amusement of those who are content with rollicking farce and desire no more intellectual form of entertainment. There is no deception practised, for the title is quite sufficient to indicate the nature of the show. Those of the audience who are not satisfied with the broad effects which evoke laughter, with the inspiring music, and the dancing which seems to be the outcome of irrepressible influence, have no business to give their patronage. High Jinks may be taken to represent the lowest phase to which musical comedy has descended, though we should not like to say that there may not be in the lowest deep a lower deep. It is redeemed from its worst aspects by the tuneful quality of some of the musical accompaniment, and by the kind of tarantelle dancing which furnishes its principal attraction.

    The idea, if it can be called an idea, which is contained in the story, is found in the mysterious virtues attaching to a certain perfume. A whiff of this is sufficient to overturn the mental balance of the most staid and correct of individuals, and to send him capering with a nimbleness which defies any sense of restraint. A doctor of irritable temperament and sober demeanor, who was induced to try it by his friend the explorer becomes a new being, eager for amatory converse with his patients and ready to seize on any opening for intrigue. He is discovered by a jealous Frenchman kissing his wife, and to avoid a duel prefers to face the threatened alternative of a retaliation in kind. His own wife he sends off on a wild goose chase, while he arranges for temporarily filling her place with an accommodating dancer, who is quite ready to be kissed by the indignant Frenchman on a basis of substantial pecuniary reward, but as her terms are exorbitant, the doctor thinks he can make more economical arrangements by engaging the services of a grass widow and her adopted daughter. Then follow an inextricable series of complications which are supposed to be irresistibly amusing. Whenever there is danger of a hitch, the intoxicating perfume is brought into action and sets everybody's legs wildly gyrating. Those who are willing to succumb to the suggestion that there is something exhilarating in this form of humor will find ample excuse for riotous laughter, but it is a kind of fooling which may well make the judicious grieve.

    The only reasonable occasion for satisfaction in High Jinks will be discoverable in the music, the dancing, and the setting. There are some catchy songs interspersed throughout the performance, and all the principal characters are given an opportunity. The main theme, repeated again and again, has a tuneful quality, and the parody of Faust, given by Marie Eaton, C.H. Workman and Fred Maguire, is of quite ambitious character, though the conversion of Gounod’s magic tone into ragtime may be condemned as a desecration. The dancing is a distinctive feature of the performance, and apart altogether from the funny capers which are an adjunct of the perfume, there are ballets of an attractive kind, and a specially delightful illustration of the poetry of motion supplied by Vlasta Novotna and Victor Lauschmann. The costuming and setting of the play are other merits to be acknowledged.

    The company does the most it can with the material at its service, though the conditions are not as favorable as those under which the original reputation was obtained.  Mr. C.H. Workman is most to be pitied, for his part of the explorer who has to whisk about with the scent bottle is an impossible one. As some compensation, he is given more chances of displaying his vocal ability. He has a song, a duet and the Faust trio, but we miss his humor. Miss Marie Eaton is in greater prominence than usual, and when she has singing to do acquits herself well. Miss Dorothy Brunton bids fair to become a great favorite with the public, and though now lacking in certainty, has qualities which should enable her to achieve success. A pleasant appearance, a charm of manner, and a voice which enables her to sing prettily, are good assurances of recommendation. Miss Florence Vie seems to experience a joy in living which she communicates to the audience, and her style of humor finds a convenient environment in High Jinks. Miss Gertrude Glynn as Chi-Chi, the dancer, combines vocal and pedal gymnastics. Her song, The Bubble, with its quaint accompaniment of colored air balloons, was distinctly novel. The doctor was played by Mr. Field Fisher with a thorough appreciation of its spirit. Mr. Alfred Frith as a volatile Colonel, and Mr. Paul Plunket as the indignant Frenchman, made the most they could of their parts. Mr. W.H. Rawlins as an American lumber king, who was not averse to amorous adventure while in search of his long lost wife, was appropriately ponderous, with an occasional outburst into amazing agility. Aid was rendered also in minor measure by Miss Gwen Hughes as a nurse, by Miss Nellie Hobson as the kissed wife of the Frenchman, by Miss Cecil Bradley as a page, and by a young male member of the company who contributed a lively step dance.

    The Leader (Melbourne), Saturday, 3 April 1915, p.34, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91370174

    10 castPunch (Melbourne) 8 April 1915, p.18

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The theatrical gossip columns in the daily press and weekly periodicals continued to promote public interest in the entertainment world by reporting items of interest.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Mr. Harry Burcher, “producer” of “High Jinks,” is the latest to sing the praises of the Australian chorus girl. “Her versatility is simply remarkable,” says Mr. Burcher. “In London a chorus girl generally remains a chorus girl, or, at any rate, is seldom able to distinguish herself in an emergency such as the Australian girl is capable of. We have in the chorus of the ‘High Jinks’ company, at the present time, at least six girls who could step out of the ranks and play parts if called upon. The same applies, to some extent, to the male members of the chorus, who are far above the average type of chorus man we have in London. The ranks of the Australian chorus provide a remarkable amount of material for turning into highly accomplished artists.”

    The Herald (Melbourne), Wednesday, 28 April 1915, p.1

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Harry Burcher was as good as his word and during his tenure as a producer (or stage director in modern parlance) with JCW, he helped to promote the careers of many Australian performers in his productions, including Madge Elliott, who he brought out of the ballet and cast in her first acting and singing roles, culminating with the titular Cabaret Girl in 1923.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    On and Off the Stage

    11 Chocolate Soldier 1910“I’ve just had quite an interesting experience,” said C.H. Workman, the famous comedian in “High Jinks,” at Melbourne Her Majesty’s. He had just emerged from a book-seller’s shop, and displayed a copy of an English souvenir of “The Chocolate Soldier,” in which he created the part of Bumerli. “I was buying a magazine,” he explained, “when the man behind the counter looked at me sharply for a moment, and then remarked, ‘I think I have got something here that will interest you.’ He handed me a copy of the ‘Chocolate Soldier’ souvenir. ‘You're Mr. Workman, I think?’ I admitted that I was. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘would you care to accept this? I have often thought I would like to meet the original of that picture of Bumerli on the cover. I saw you in the piece in England, and it does seem strange that I should meet you in Melbourne.’ It was quite a strange sensation to me to see my own picture on a periodical thousands of miles from England, and so unexpectedly.”

    Table Talk (Melbourne), Thursday, 29 Apr 1915, p.20

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Widespread public sympathy for Belgian refugees displaced from their homeland by the German invasion, which had precipitated Britain’s declaration of war against the aggressors (with Australia following suit in support of the Empire) resulted in many charitable appeals to support the Belgian Relief Fund to provide food and clothing for the beleaguered nation. One such appeal was Belgian Rose Day held on 8 April (to mark the birthday of King Albert of Belgium) which saw Charles Workman and his fellow cast members rubbing shoulders with the Australian Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, and Melbourne’s own hometown operatic diva, Nellie Melba, who was just then embarking on the patriotic fund-raising work that would earn her the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in early 1918. (As a world famous exponent of the role of ‘Marguerite’ in Gounod’s Faust, Melba’s reaction to the interpolated “Faust in Ragtime” trio in High Jinks went, sadly, unrecorded. A curiously comical juxtaposition was provided by a charity matinee staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne in aid of the Actors Association of Australia Benevolent Fund and the Royal Comic Opera Company's Sick Fund, on the afternoon of Friday, 8 September 1916, in which Melba sang the prison scene from Faust to end the first part and the New English Musical Comedy Company concluded the entertainment with a performance of the complete second act from High Jinks, which included the musical “travesty” performed therein wherein Faust comes to bail Marguerite out of prison, and Mephistopheles, who has a taxi waiting outside, bewails the fact that it is ticking off dollars while the trio are singing.)

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Decorated motor cars paraded the streets, bands of pierrots, and masked, mysterious ladies sang patriotic songs. The streets were gay with red, yellow and black banners and flags. Several of the shop windows were dressed in the national colours of Belgium, and through the crowded streets went on busily the clinking of coins into tin boxes. Each affair of this kind seems to bring out more girls to collect—there were nearly 700 yesterday in the city alone. Most of the collecting activity seemed to be displayed in the forenoon. The 100,000 artificial roses were sold out by midday, but there still remained the postcards, ribbons, and the real roses. At luncheon time the principal cafes were decorated with roses and Belgian colours, and a number of politicians and leading citizens took advantage of the occasion to say pleasantly true things about King Albert and in praise of the people who stood for a fortnight against the brutal might of Germany.

    In the afternoon there was a parade through the city of the decorated motor cars. The motor car is not a thing which lends itself much to decoration, but indubitably the best effect was that obtained by the car which headed the procession—a chariot in blue and white, with two white swans perched over the bonnet, and giving an effect of Lohengrin. The second car, in autumn colours, was also well designed and a good effect was gained by the one which came later in the procession—the body being massed around with blue and white flowers with a Union Jack design at the back, and a pole in the centre to which gaily-coloured streamers led.

    His Excellency the Governor and Lady Stanley came in during the afternoon, and halted for a while at Lady Allen’s kiosk opposite the Town Hall; moving on to see the return of the motor procession at the Federal Parliament House. The weather throughout was pleasant and sunny, though rather warm …



    At quarter past 2 o’clock the decorated cars, some of which had been acting as kiosks during the forenoon, drove up opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the eye of the Lady Mayoress, who judged them, and awarded the prize to Madame Melba. The car for which the first prize was given was that mentioned above as reminiscent of Lohengrin. It was a perfect bower of blue and white, most elaborately and tastefully handled. It was the only thing in the procession which did not look like a motor car, and the prize could only have gone elsewhere by a shocking error of taste. Half a dozen banners were given to half a dozen other cars, and the procession left for the city, via Collins street to William street, and thence through Bourke street to Parliament House. Madame Melba’s car went first, Madame herself distributing the flowers to the crowds which lined the route …


    The official luncheon in [the dining-room of the Oriental Hotel] was given by Mesdames Percy Russell, R. Hallenstein, V. Wisher, and Arthur Woolcott, who had the use of the lounge as a depot. The principal guest was the Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher). The table at which they sat was ornamented by an immense canopy of roses amid foliage, and from the centre rose a fountain of rose-scented water. At the given time the Prime Minister rose and proposed the toast “His Majesty the King,” and then in a few words gave the toast of the day. Early in the afternoon preparations were made for the cafe chantant, for so many tables had been booked that, in addition to the Winter Garden, accommodation in the lounge and dining-room had to be requisitioned. A capital programme was rendered from the musicians gallery, the contributors being Miss Dorothy Brunton and Miss Florence Vie (of the “High Jinks” company), Mr. Lawrence Leonard, Mr. Fred Collier, Miss Elsie Treweek, Miss Anne Williams, Mr. H. Hamilton, Miss Rosa Walton and Miss Florence Finn. Programs were sold for silver coins, and a few which Madame Melba autographed realised fancy prices, as much as £1 being given for one.

    At the conclusion of the procession of decorated cars, Madame Melba took tea at the Oriental, her arrival being announced by Mr. F.A. McCarty, who said he had just received from her funds amounting to close on £30, which she had collected during her tour through the city. Madame Melba had intended putting up several articles for sale by auction, but she felt too fatigued to conduct the sale, so Mr. Workman of the “High Jinks” company, and Mr. P. Bush, of the Theatre Royal company, acted as auctioneers with the result that £13/12/6 was raised from two Belgian flags (£8/15/), a prize rose (£1/10/), and two bottles of “High Jinks” scent (£3/7/0). The proceeds from the tea tickets amount to close on £30.

    The Argus (Melbourne), Friday, 9 April 1915, p.6 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1508710

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    The members of the High Jinks company gathered at the Savoy Cafe on Saturday night with the object of helping the Belgian fund. Mr. C.H. Workman, with the co-operation of Mr. H.B. Burcher, directed the proceedings, a feature of which was an auction sale by Mr. Workman. A £1 note was purchased by Mr. Falkiner for £110, and he also secured a pair of poplin curtains for £24. A collection by Miss Marie Eaton realised £17 8/, the total amount received being £131 18/. During the evening an entertainment was given by Mr. Workman, Mr. [Victor] Lauschmann, Mr. Alexander Yakovleuko, Mme. Clere and Miss Eaton.

    The Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), Saturday, 3 April 1915, p.50

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Having established his home-base in Melbourne with his wife, “Tottie” and son, Roy, Charles Workman also helped to organise further charitable events with the co-operation of fellow citizens of his adopted city and the active participation of Mrs. Workman.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Mr. Workman’s Garden Fete

    Mr. C.H. Workman, of the “High Jinks” company, with Miss Dorothy Brunton, has organised a garden fete and café chantant, in aid of the Belgian Fund, to be given at Ascog, Southey street, St. Kilda, next Saturday, May 8. There will be numerous attractions, including the attendance of a large theatrical party, who will appear by permission of J.C. Williamson, Ltd. Those taking part in the program will include Mr. Workman, Miss Dorothy Brunton, Mr. Hector Goldspink, Mr. Willie Conway, Miss Elsie Warman, and members of the “High Jinks” company.

    The Argus (Melbourne), Saturday, 1 May 1915, p.18, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1513887

    * * * * * * * * * * * *



    The residents of Ascog and Whinbank, St. Kilda, were the successful organisers of a garden fete combined with a café chantant and tennis tournament, which was held in the spacious grounds of Ascog, lent by Mrs. J. Grace, on Saturday, May 8, in order to raise funds for the Belgians. Flags and streamers in the Belgian colours decorated the stalls which had been erected on the front lawns, and the gay scene was enhanced by all the young girls assisting wearing white frocks, with aprons and caps in our national and Belgian colours. The opening Ceremony was performed by Mr. C.F. Beauchamp early in the afternoon, but, though the sale of gifts only then commenced, the tennis tournament had been in progress from 10 o’clock a.m.

    The arrangements for this were supervised by Miss Mamie Marks, who had been assisted in the preliminary work by Mr. E. Trend. There were between thirty and forty entries, and some exciting matches were witnessed in the concluding rounds. When the final contest took place the daylight was rapidly departing, consequently it was difficult for the players to distinguish the ball. The successful pair, Mr. A Whyte and Miss Jones, just managed to win from Mr. K. Trend and Miss Essie Price. The trophies for this tournament had been donated by W. Drummond and Co. and the balls by the Dunlop Rubber Co. The café chantant was in the billiard lounge, and throughout the afternoon it proved a great attraction, as a large number of well-known artists gave their services on the program, including Mr. C.H. Workman, Mr. Fred Maguire, Mr. C. Wren, Miss Dorothy Brunton, Miss Queenie Paul (all of the “High Jinks” Company), the Misses Elsa Warman, Mansell Kirby, Master and Miss Scurrah, and Messrs. Hector Goldspink, E.H. Leahy, G. Chant, and W. Conway.

    The various side-shows included Aunt Sally (in charge of Mr. Trend), bran pies, fortune telling, spinning jennies, motor and pony rides (the car and ponies having been lent by Miss Simmonds and Miss Joseph respectively.) Tables for afternoon tea out on the broad verandah, and those who directed the arrangements there were Mesdames Workman, James, and Richardson. A well-stocked stall for sweets was in charge of Mesdames C.F. Beauchamp, J.B. Macglashan, and Miss Beauchamp; and another which displayed an attractive show of cut flowers and pot plants was managed by Mrs. Raphael. Among those who sold sprays for coats or dresses was Miss Gwen Hughes, of the “High Jinks” Co. In the evening Mrs. J. Grace arranged a palais de danse, which was attended by some hundreds of visitors, and was a great success. The committee of direction for the fete, &c., was formed by Messrs. C.H. Workman, E. Trend, D.O. Reeson, T. Grace, and J.B. Macglashan. It is estimated that the proceeds will result in about £100 being handed to the Belgian Relief Funds.

    The Australasian (Melbourne), Sat, 15 May 1915, p.40, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142973169

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    N.B. £1 in 1915 would be equivalent to approximately $108.50 in today’s currency; thus £10 = $1,085 and £100 = $10,850, etc. (ref: https://www.rba.gov.au/calculator/annualPreDecimal.html )

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Other wartime charities were also the beneficiaries of the theatrical profession’s largesse in supporting worthy causes by donating their talents gratis, which also extended to the management providing the performance venues without cost, especially on Sundays when the staging of regular theatrical entertainments was prohibited in accordance with the Lord’s Day Observance Act. Such extra-curricular activities that took place on the Sabbath day were generally given the billing of “Sacred Concerts” in order to circumvent the law. The “Grand Entertainment” organised by the tenor, Walter Kirby, in aid of the Australian and British Red Cross Funds staged at the Theatre Royal on Sunday, 16 May was thus advertised in the local press with the stated proviso that the artists taking part “Will Sing or Talk, as the Spirit moves, in Sacred or Sunday Mood.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    An attractive program is being arranged for the entertainment to be given at the Theatre Royal next Sunday night in aid of the Red Cross funds. The whole of the “High Jinks” company have volunteered their services. The entertainment will commence at a quarter to 8 o’clock. In view of the urgent need of funds for the Red Cross a big success is hoped for.

    The Argus (Melbourne), Friday, 14 May 1915, p.12

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The Melbourne season of High Jinks finally wound up after a highly successful 8 weeks, with the closing performance on Friday, 21 May ending in particularly high spirits (including those of the bottled variety!)

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Animated scenes and humorous happenings marked the last night of the Highs Jinks company at Her Majesty's Theatre. The members of the company had made themselves very popular during their stay in Melbourne, and “in front” amongst the crowded audience were many friends of the artists, who helped to keep the proceedings throughout thoroughly lively—from first to last. The artists themselves entered into the spirit of the evening. The big ragtime scene was one of the hits of the evening, being embellished with many incidents that were not set down in the “script” of the stage manager. It had to be repeated thrice in response to insistent demands, and each time it was gone through with variations. The climax was reached when Mr. Paul Plunket seized a lady member of the wardrobe staff who had been watching interestedly from the “wings” and waltzed her across the stage into the melee of frenziedly-working ragtimers. The final fall of the curtain was the signal for a prolonged demonstration of applause, and a lavish presentation of flowers to the lady members of the company, as well as mysterious looking parcels—the contents of which could be guessed at—to the gentlemen of the cast.

    The Leader (Melbourne), Saturday, 22 May 1915, p.49, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91371317

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The New English Musical Comedy Company then made their way Westwards in preparation for their first appearance in the South Australian capital of Adelaide.

    [To be continued.]


    The Interviewer.


    A man of varied talents and varied interest, Mr. Field Fisher—who is Dr. Robert Thorne in “High Jinks,” around whom all the story circles—is a very interesting man to meet in private life. He is by no means wrapped up in his theatrical work alone, although he is keenly interested in it, but at the same time he has a little attention to spare for the questions of the day, and so can talk about other things than the theatre. In fact, he does not talk “shop” much at all, although if that subject crops up he follows it without any marked reluctance, for there is no affected pose about him.

    He is caught at Her Majesty’s Theatre one morning, and then ensues a search for a quiet corner in which to talk. This involves a regular journey of discovery over a dark stage and round corners, upstairs and downstairs, until we settle in the Lounge, as every other place seems to be in the hands of energetic cleaners. There, in the only two unshrouded chairs, we make ourselves comfortable, and Mr. Fisher almost immediately begins to talk of newspaper work, and says—

    “I know something of press-work, for I used to do some of it, or, rather, drawing for the papers—for the Harmsworth publications. Yes, humorous sketches and that kind of thing. The first sketching I ever did was costume designing. This was when I was with Laurence Irving (I was with him for a long time) when he was going to put on the play ‘Margaret Catchpole,’ which, by the way, is Australian, isn't it? At least, she ended her life out here or something of the sort; he was in some difficulty about the costumes, and l undertook to design them, which I did. Then the next thing I attempted was posters and little sketches. One day a member of the staff of one of the papers, ‘The Sketch,’ saw one and asked to be allowed to show it to the editor. He sent for me, and so I was launched on my newspaper work, and did it for some time, finally working for several of the Harmsworth papers and for ‘Comic Cuts,’ ‘Ally Sloper’ and such publications.

    “No, I do not do it now. I found it meant that I needed to be in the city, and was too much of a tie; I used to have to be at the offices to see the editor and talk things over.”

    Mr. Fisher then launches off into talk about the war, suggested by a sudden recollection of the first actor to lose his life there, whom he knew personally. “It was sad about Mackinder, wasn’t it—one of our best all-round actors. He was offered a commission, but refused, and said he preferred to serve as a private with the men he knew and had always been with. He had been in a position to earn a handsome salary—about seventy pounds a week the year round—and he gave it all up. Did you hear how he died? They received an order one night to change trenches, eight of them; he was the last. When they reached the new trench they found they were only seven, so went back to look for him and found him on his back. They asked him if he were hurt,’ and he answered, ‘I don't know,’ and died immediately. [1]

    “There are so many who have given up so much, and gone to the front. It is fine, isn’t it?”

    Then Laurence Irving’s sad death in the “Empress of Ireland” wreck is mentioned, and Mr. Fisher says:

    “I was to have been with him then. Even to the Sunday before he left for America it was all arranged, and we had dinner with him to talk things over. Then this offer for Australia came and I decided to accept it, and in consequence was not with them on the wreck. Yes, he could have been saved had he not gone back for his wife, but that was just what he would do; it was just like him. [2]He was a most absent-minded man; but good natured and a genius. It was only just beginning to be realised in England too. H.B. was the elder son, and inherited the bulk of the money, and at Sir Henry's death the father's mantle fell upon his shoulders, and Laurence had no such help, and had to fight his own way.

    “One incident I recall about his absent-mindedness. When I went to America with him on a previous visit, he said the day after we arrived: ‘Come on, and I'll give you a real American dinner!’ This was about four o’clock in the afternoon, after rehearsal. We went to a fashionable restaurant and had a splendid dinner; then the bill came and Laurence put his hand in his pocket, and said, ‘I haven't any money; but it doesn’t matter, you pay.’ He never did have any money. Well, I had about a dollar, so I said: I have no money, either.’ He said: ‘Never mind,’ and explained to the waiter, who he was and that he would send and settle the bill. But the waiter would have none of it, and said: ‘It’s all very well, but that won’'t go with me; we have had that before.’ So after some argument it ended by us going off to Irving’s hotel, accompanied by the waiter, for he would not trust us.”

    “You have had command performances at Sandringham?”

    “Yes, several times. That was when we had our own little company—my brother and my two sisters. It was known as the Field Fisher Quartette Company, and we used to appear at ‘at homes’ and private entertainments, giving a musical show of a refined nature. [3]

    “It was rather funny how we came to have our first Royal command. We were appearing at the pier pavilion at Ryde—that is near Cowes, Isle of Wight, you know. One of my sisters came off the stage and said: ‘There are two men in front who seem to be trying to be free. I wish you would go and give them a look.' You see, the girls had been rather strictly brought up, and my mother always travelled with us, so they were well looked after. They were fine girls, I must say, though they are my sisters.

    “So I went on, and had a look at two men in yachting costume in the front row, and I gave them a look. We continued giving them looks during the rest of the performance.

    “Then as we were walking down the pier on our way home, my sisters being on in front, we saw the two men stop them and speak to them—one being very tall, the other short. My brother and I naturally hurried up, and the tall one turned to us—

    “I was just saying to your sisters I think they must have forgotten me. I am Abercrombie, and I had the pleasure of meeting you at Lady So-and-So’s.'

    “It was quite right, we had been engaged by the Countess and had met the Earl of Abercrombie, and he turned to his companion and said: ‘May I introduce the Prince of Wales?’ That was the present King. He complimented us upon our performance, and said, ‘You must come on board the yacht and do it for us, will you? Of course we were delighted, and they asked could we go the next day. We had to explain we could not manage that, as all our things were packed ready to leave, as that was our last night there, and we were to go to Southampton. But we said we could go on the Monday, and it was arranged. They told us they had been on ‘the yacht’; it was the Cowes Regatta week, you know; but had run short of matches, so had landed at Ryde to get some, and seen our posters, and Lord Abercrombie remembered us and said we must see this—they are good. After telling them how we had come near to throwing them out, we parted.

    “We went to the yacht on the Monday, and found one deck all arranged with a nice little stage all fixed up with red at one end. My brother and I were on this fixing things and having a bit of an argument, because he wanted the piano at one side and I thought it ought to be more up the stage, and he was telling me not to be a blithering idiot, and that kind of thing, when I caught a whiff of a cigar and turned to find King Edward standing just inside the curtain watching us. Goodness knows how long he had been there.

    “When we started the performance before the King and Queen and Prince and Princess of Wales, and the German Emperor, by the way, who was there on his yacht, the ‘Hohenzollern,’ for the regatta week, we were deadly nervous, you can guess, and feeling pretty anxious as we opened, as we always did, with an instrumental quartette, for they were all good performers. My instrument was the banjo, because I was always the unmusical one. The King—King Edward—was sitting just a yard or two away from us, and when we were about half-way through he settled himself back contentedly and said ‘Delightful, delightful.’  So, you can guess that bucked us up a bit and things went better after that. We had supper with them before we left and found them all charming—so unaffected and natural. Why, another time when we were appearing at Sandringham, the present King came along the passage to the stage himself and said to me: ‘I want you to do that little thing of yours—about the Frenchman attempting an after-dinner speech—because the French Envoy is here and I want to watch his face.’ I did not much like doing it under the circumstances, because I did not know how the Envoy would take it in the absurd broken English. But it was a Royal command, and I had to. I gave it, and they all watched him and laughed delightedly at his expression. They are absolutely unaffected and natural in this way.

    “In fact, we appeared at many country houses for the leading people, and always found them most considerate and charming. Only on two occasions were people not nice to us. Once was in Hertfordshire. We were engaged to appear at a country house there. We were driven to the servants' entrance, and given our dinner by the butler in a kind of pantry. Afterwards I said I would like to see the hostess, Mrs.—eh, well, I forget her name for the moment—I have a dreadful memory for names—but say Jones. He told me ‘Mrs. Jones will send for you when she is ready.’ You see, the butler was putting on airs with us, too. 

    “We were sent for, and I saw the hostess, and went towards her, saying 'Good evening,’ when she put her hands behind her back as though she was afraid I was going to shake hands with her.

    “They had rented the place, and were giving this big affair, had sent out invitations everywhere. And Hertfordshire is probably the greatest county for country houses; there are ever so many well-known people [who] have homes there. By this time we had come to know most people who were anybody, for we had appeared so frequently at house parties. The guests had arrived and we found we knew nearly everyone. Suddenly the people of the neighbourhood—the Gowers—came rustling in; they are conservative people, keep up great style at their home, drive about with a coach and four- etc. Well, they came straight up to us, shook hands, said how pleased they were to meet us again, and chatted to my sisters. When the hostess saw this she nearly fell upon our necks—wanted us to stay all night, in fact, would have kept us a week or two if we would have stayed.

    “We had our little company for eight years. Then one sister married, and later the other. My brother and I tried to fix things up and engaged two girls who had had musical comedy experience and were clever, but somehow we could not make things go the same. We had always worked very hard, we were up at nine every morning practising and trying things over. But with the other girls it was not the same. They did not take the same interest and would not work. When we were on tour they used to go off and have a good time. People began to say the Field Fisher quartette was not the same—had gone off. So we disbanded. My brother gave up the profession, and is now a barrister, and I am the only vagabond left.

    “Since then I have been on the stage. I had some experience before—I had appeared with the [Henry] Irving company as a boy.”

    Mr. Fisher talks of his work and how he enjoys it when he has a congenial part to play. Asked about his pastimes he says:

    "Well I still keep up drawing, though not for publication. It is confined mostly to albums now. I am fond of tennis, but otherwise do not go in for any sport.”

    One thing very pleasant for Australians to hear is Mr. Fisher's admiration for the all-round cleverness of the Australian girl and the chorus girl in particular. He generously implies that the grade of cleverness and versatility among the ladies of an Australian company compare favorably, not with English choristers, but English principals.

    Mr. Fisher in manner and speech is very English, and has a slight suggestion in his way of speaking of what we deem the dude, but his travels have made him cosmopolitan, so that there is not the English reserve with it, which is often so difficult to pierce.

    Table Talk (Melbourne), 22 April 1915, p.26, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page17433603

    * * * * * * * * * * * *


    1. Former London Gaiety Theatre actor and singer, Lionel Mackinder was killed in action while serving as a Lance Corporal with the Royal Berkshire Regiment in France on 9 January 1915 at age 46.
    1. On the homeward bound voyage following a tour of North America in 1913–14, British actor, Laurence Irving (the youngest son of Sir Henry Irving and brother to H.B. Irving) and his actress wife, Mabel Hackney, perished aboard the RMS Empress of Ireland when it founded off the Canadian coast following a collision with the Norwegian collier Storstad in the early hours of 29 May 1914, with the subsequent loss of 1,012 lives.
    1. A typical evening’s entertainment given by the Field-Fisher Quartette (and the regard in which they were held) is provided by the following review of one of their performances:


    The opening entertainment of the season at the Athenæum in Bury St. Edmund’s, on Thursday evening, was extremely successful, considering that the weather was unfavourable, and that the season is early, and for this result the fame of the Field-Fisher Quartette is responsible. The local associations of the talented visitors doubtless had something to do with the satisfactory attendance, but apart from this fact, their reputation as first-class artistes would have been sufficient to attract an audience. The quartette comprises the Misses Marjorie and Evelyn Field-Fisher, and Masters Alfred and Eric Field-Fisher. The first-named young lady has an excellent voice, and is a clever performer on the guitar, while her sister is a remarkably graceful dancer, and also manipulates with skill the mandoline. Master Alfred Field-Fisher is a banjoist and recites with wonderful expression, and his charming little brother dances and plays the mandoline with the grace and feeling of a born artiste. Indeed, to attempt to define the capabilities of any one of the quartette would be futile, and the qualifications which we have mentioned are simply those in which they excel. For variety the program could not have been improved upon, its items ranging from selections from the latest comic operas to plantation melodies, and from a pathetic ballad to Spanish and other dances. But the entertainment was something more than merely clever and pleasing. It was essentially refined. Nothing was lacking to make it popular, and yet upon no single item could the finger of a reproving censor be laid. The performance was of an undeniably high-class order, and its originality, and the cleverness of the artistes, were all the more appreciated by the select and large audience assembled. This was the first visit of the quartette to Bury, and the cordiality of their reception clearly demonstrated that they had more than fulfilled the favourable anticipations formed of them. At no time did the performance fall flat. The program scintillated with items at once tuneful and artistic, several of which were enthusiastically encored. The mandoline, guitar, and banjo quartettes were highly appreciated, the variety of the selections meeting all tastes. “The Mountebanks,” and “La Cigale,” were drawn upon in this respect, and a “selection of popular airs,” in which was introduced “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,” was loudly re-demanded. Miss Marjorie’s songs met with marked favour, notably the Spanish and Italian songs, “Sara Zetta” and “Nuna Palona,” and “One day Margot." The graceful dancing of Miss Evelyn was a feature of the entertainment, emphatic marks of approval rewarding her execution of the “Pas seul.” “How Grandmama danced,” was admirably recited and acted, and was followed by a minuet and tableaux by Miss Evelyn and her younger brother. She also went prettily through a Spanish dance; Master Eric, an exceedingly clever child, played the mandoline with considerable expression and wonderful correctness, and he was loudly re-called for the solo “Cavalleria Rusticana.” The recitations of Master Alfred Field-Fisher were commendable expositions of the recitative art, and he gives much promise in this respect. For each recitation he was loudly encored, and responded with humorous little selections. The dumb show recitation, “The Village Blacksmith,” which was clearly given, met with an especially enthusiastic reception. The same performer, as a banjoist, and with the bones, also lent considerable assistance to the musical portion of the program. The performance was an excellent one throughout, and the Council of the Athenæum are to be congratulated upon their first entertainment of the season.

    The following was the program:

    Quartette, “La Cigale,” mandolines, guitar, and banjo (introducing the songs “Doubt not” and “Our dear old home.”) The Quartette; quartette, “Sweet Innisfail,” mandolines, guitar, and banjo. The Quartette; dance (Spanish), “Toreador,” piano and castanets, Evelyn and Eric Field-Fisher: quartette, “Hock Hamburg March,” mandolines, guitar, and banjo, The Quartette; song (Spanish), a “Sara Yetta,” and (Italian) b “Nuna Palona,” guitar. Miss Field-Fisher; recitation, “Man with one hair,” Alfred Field-Fisher; song, “Rory Darling” (Hope Temple), Miss Marjorie Field-Fisher; duet, “Little Johnny Jones,” piano, Evelyn and Alfred; solo, “Cavalleria Rusticana,” mandoline, Eric Field-Fisher; dance, “Scarf dance,” piano, Evelyn; song, “Aloha” (Sandwich Island National Song), mandolines, &c., Miss Marjorie Field-Fisher; quartette, selection from “The Mountebanks,” mandolines, &c., The Quartette; quartette, “Selections of Popular Airs,” mandolines, &c. The Quartette; recitation, a “How Grandmama Danced,” Evelyn; dance, b “Minuet, with Tableaux,” piano, Evelyn and Eric; song, “One Day Margot,” piano. Miss Marjorie Field-Fisher; trio, “Cup of Tea,” piano, Evelyn, Alfred, and Eric; trio, a “Daffodil,” b “Christmas” (Lindsay Kearne) Mandolines, &c., Marjorie, Evelyn, and Eric; recitation (silent), “The Village Blacksmith,” piano, Alfred Field-Fisher; dance, “Pas Seul,” piano, Evelyn; quartette, “Plantation Melody,” mandolines, &c., The Quartette; quartette, “Good night,” mandolines, &c., The Quartette.

    During the interval the performers were introduced to the Mayor and Mayoress, by whom they were warmly congratulated on their success. Mr. Field-Fisher was so much gratified by the enthusiastic reception given to his family at the Athenæum, and so pleased to renew his own acquaintancewith the good old town of Bury after a lapse of many years, that he has kindly concerned to arrange for a return visit by the quartette at the earliest possible opportunity.

    The Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Standard (Bury St. Edmunds, England), 27 September 1892, p.7

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    British character comedian and singer, Alfred Field Fisher was born Thomas Alfred A. Fisher in Cambridge in the county of Cambridgeshire, England in 1876, the eldest son of brewer, Thomas Field Fisher and his wife, Louisa Fanny Fisher (nee Hanson). His siblings included an older sister, Margaret (Marjorie) Lowther Fisher (b. 1873), younger sister, Evelyn Isabel Fisher (b. 1878) and two younger brothers, Thomas Eric Field Fisher (b. 1881) and Caryl Hillyard Barclay Fisher (b. 1887). The four older children began performing together as a quartette in the late-1880s in aid of local charities at their local theatre in the London suburb of Bedford Park and their act proved to be so successful that they were urged by the press; actor, Harry Nicholls; playwright, Alfred Calmour, and others to join the ranks of professional entertainers. Impresario Sir Augustus Harris subsequently engaged them to play leading parts in a juvenile fairy play, which was produced at Covent Garden in 1889. In addition to public and private performances of their family act, the talented siblings were also individually cast in a variety of juvenile roles in plays in London and the provinces, with older sister, Marjorie also venturing into comic opera in the early 1890s. Amongst the early stage roles enacted by Alfred was doubling as both The Prince and the Pauper for Mrs. Oscar Beringer’s 1890 stage adaptation of the Mark Twain tale at London’s Gaiety Theatre, when both characters (principally played by the playwright’s daughter, Miss Vera Beringer) were required to share the same scene, and playing a prince in Sir Henry Irving’s production of Charles I at the Lyceum.

    Alfred Field Fisher arrived in Australia in May 1914 to reprise the role of the Romanian nobleman ‘Dragotin’ (which he had played for over a year in the British provinces) in J.C. Williamson’s Royal Comic Opera Company production of the Franz Lehár operetta, Gipsy Love which premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney on 13 June. He then transferred to JCW’s New English Musical Comedy Company for The Girl in the Taxi in July 1914 and remained a stalwart of the latter company throughout the 1910s and early ‘20s. In 1926 he joined Frank Neil’s Comedy Company to tour in such farces as Are You a Mason?, Charley’s Aunt, The Nervous Wreck and Getting Gertie’s Garter, and performed in the pantomimes Mother Goose and Little Red Riding Hood. A fellow member of Neil’s Company, Vera Fisher (nee Wallace) had married Alfred in the West London district of Kensington in April 1905. In 1930 they toured South Africa with Frank Neil’s Comedy Company, which was so well received that the visit, originally planned to last three months, was extended to ten months and made three complete tours of the South African theatre circuit. Returning to Australia (following a return visit to England at the conclusion of the tour) Fisher rejoined Frank Neil’s Company for Almost a Honeymoon at the Bijou Theatre in Melbourne in April 1931 and other productions. In 1932 he made his feature film debut in Melbourne in the George Wallace comedy His Royal Highness for F.W. Thring’s Efftee Film Productions, followed by Diggers in Blighty and Waltzing Matilda for Pat Hanna Productions in 1933. (Further film roles ensued in Charles Chauvel’s Heritagein 1935 and the Cinesound productions Mr. Chedworth Steps Out, starring Cecil Kellaway, in 1939 and Dad Rudd, M.P., starring Bert Bailey and Fred MacDonald, in 1940, both directed by Ken G. Hall.) Fisher also performed in the Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliott revivals of The Quaker Girl and Our Miss Gibbs for JCW in 1933 and reprised his original role of ‘Dr. Robert Thorne’ for their revival of High Jinks in 1935. After a brief sojourn for F.W. Thring in the stage production Mother of Pearl starring Alice Delysia in 1934, Fisher returned to the JCW fold to appear in a succession of musical comedies, plays and pantomimes throughout the remainder of the 1930s, including Yes, Madam, Anything Goes and Under Your Hatand played the title role in Sinbad

    Concurrent with Fisher’s stage appearances, were his performances on radio in comedy sketches and plays (including those that he had written himself) and musical comedies (starring Gladys Moncrieff) for the ABC. He was first heard over the airwaves as a cast member of the JCW production of the musical Kid Boots (starring George Gee and Josie Melville) which was broadcast from the stage of His Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne by 3LO during the Gala performance given on the evening of Saturday, 25 July 1925 in honour of the visiting American Fleet (followed by a further broadcast from the theatre of Act 2 on Saturday, 15 August 1925) however his first studio performances of his self-penned comedy sketches and duologues with his wife, Vera, were broadcast from 2BL in Sydney in January 1930. In June 1933 Fisher reprised the role of ‘Dr. Thorne’ in two separate studio broadcasts of High Jinks relayed by the ABC National network from 3LO and he also performed in two radio serials that he had scripted: The Adder from 2BL in 1933 and The Old Folks Abroad (with Vera) in 1937, broadcast from 3AR, Melbourne. At the time of his death in Sydney on 8 September 1940 (at age 63) he had been due to rehearse for a radio production of the musical comedy Good News for the ABC national network, for which his role was subsequently recast.

    Fisher’s last stage appearance was as the valet ‘Brassett’ in Charley’s Aunt at the Minerva Theatre, Sydney in July 1940—a play in which he had performed a variety of roles since its original London premiere in 1892. An acknowledged master in the art of stage make-up, which was often commented upon in reviews, Fisher boasted in a 1926 newspaper interview that he had a collection of over 100 wigs with which he could transform himself at a moment’s notice into the many and varied character roles that he portrayed on stage. A comprehensive list of Field Fisher’s Australian stage credits is given on the AusStage website at https://www.ausstage.edu.au/pages/contributor/230701

    Additional Sources

    • “A Guitariste—Miss Marjorie Field-Fisher”, Hearth and Home (London), vol. 1, no. 23, 22 October 1891, p.128
    • J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 1890–1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, 2nd ed.; Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, Maryland, 2014
    • Ancesty.com
    • “About People”, The Age (Melbourne), Tuesday, 19 May 1914, p.7
    • Program listings for 3LO (Melbourne), Wireless Weekly, 24 July 1925, p.39
    • Program listings for 3LO (Melbourne), Wireless Weekly, 14 August 1925, p.39
    • “Field Fisher Over the Air”, Sunday Times (Sydney), 2 January 1930, p.13
    • Program listings for 2BL (Sydney), Wireless Weekly, 10 January 1930, p.30
    • Program listings for 3LO (Melbourne), Wireless Weekly, 22 June 1933, p.47
    • “13 Musical Comedies”, Wireless Weekly, 31 July 1936, p.7
    • “Appearing with Gladys Moncrieff in the ABC Musical Comedy Broadcasts from Melbourne”, Wireless Weekly, 28 August 1936, p.12
  • Producing a London Musical Comedy

    1 W.H. Berry Girls

    In 1916 J.C. Williamson’s Melbourne-based ballet mistress, Minnie Everett was sent to America to visit New York and thence to London, where she was seconded to stage the ballets and dances for The Firm’s inaugural West End production of the Rudolf Friml—Otto Harbach musical comedy High Jinks co-produced with London impresario, Alfred Butt. But, as had occurred on her earlier sojourn in South Africa for JCW in 1914, Destiny conspired for Minnie to take over the duties of the producer as well, thus earning her the distinction of becoming the West End’s first female director-choreographer of Musical Comedy in the 20th century. In the following extract from her autobiography My Dancing Days (first published in serialised form in the Melbourne periodical Table Talk between 19 May to 28 July, 1932) Minnie relates the story of how it all came about in her own words.

    Minnie Everett smlMinnie Everett

    On my return from South Africa I met with one of those disappointments which appear to be more or less inseparable from a theatrical career, at any rate in Australia. After I took over the production of the three musical comedies in South Africa, following the hurried return to London of George Slater, Harold Ashton told me that he had written to ‘The Firm’ in Australia telling them of my splendid work in preparing the whole repertoire, ballets and all, in six weeks. He assured me that my loyal service would be suitably recognised upon my return to Australia, and I took it for granted that it would be.

    On my arrival in Melbourne, however, I was asked to accept 15 per cent. salary cut which the others had agreed to on account of the abnormal wartime conditions which prevailed. I am glad to say that the matter was satisfactorily adjusted.

    After my return to Australia from South Africa I was soon busy getting ready the pantomime, and after the Melbourne season I travelled round with the company for a while, taking in the Sydney season, and then doing one or two other productions. It was that year, if I remember right, that The Girl in the Taxi, High Jinks, So Long Letty, and other musical comedies of the type were produced. Hugh J. Ward handled most of those productions, and I had nothing to do with them, but funny enough, it was High Jinks which first took me to London.

    My First Visit to America

    It was following the production of the 1915–16 pantomime that ‘The Firm’ decided to send me to America. I was in Sydney at the time, and the pantomime was being staged there as the Easter holiday attraction. The decision to send me to America came, so to speak, out of a clear sky, and before I knew where I was I was on board the Sonoma, bound for San Francisco.

    I don't think I should ever have agreed to go by myself if I had realised what it meant. There can be no worse experience for a woman than to arrive all by herself in a strange country, and have to attend to all the hundred and one details of travel without any assistance.

    On my arrival at San Francisco there was not a soul to meet me, and I gladly took advantage of the advice of the uniformed representatives of one of the American baggage firms who met the boat, and told me, if I would leave it to them, they would see that my luggage was sent ahead, and would be waiting for me on my arrival in New York.  I thought this was all part of the wonderful American transport system, but on arrival in New York I found that the luggage was there all right, but it had cost me an extra £5 for the privilege of having it handled by my kind friends, the baggage agents. I discovered this mistake when I reached Stewart's Hotel, at which I was to spend the night, before taking the transcontinental express next morning. Stewart, by the way, was an Australian, and made a business of looking after any Australians who were passing through San Francisco, and who knew of his hotel. It was he who opened my eyes to the baggage agents' expensive joke at my expense.

    My First Glimpse of New York

    Next day I took a train for New York. I had been fortunate enough to meet on the boat a lady acquaintance of mine from Sydney, who was a buyer for David Jones Ltd., and we journeyed across America together. But for her I should have been lonely indeed. I spent about six weeks in New York, but it was largely a waste of time, as I soon discovered that I had arrived in the midst of the ‘off season,’ and there were very few shows worth going to see.

    I wondered a good deal why I should have been landed in New York at that particular time, but ‘The Firm's’ New York agent, Mr. Jordan, told me not to worry, and I understood things better when one day he told me that he had received a cable from ‘The Firm,’ asking me if I would be willing to go over to London. Nobody was too keen on making the crossing at that time, with so many ships being sent to the bottom by German submarines, but I was sick to death of New York, and London, even in war-time, sounded good to me.

    There were two former members of the J.C. Williamson ballet living in New York at the time—Lila and Annie Carmichael—and when ‘The Firm’ notified me that I could take a travelling companion with me, I asked Annie Carmichael if she would like to go. She gladly accepted, and passages were booked for the two of us in the R.M.S. Baltic.

    We had an uneventful voyage across, though the war-time conditions were not very pleasant. At night the huge liner was allowed to show no lights at all, and no passengers were permitted on deck after dark. It was a depressing trip, and we were all glad when we arrived at Southampton.

    Annie Carmichael met a man on the ship whom she had previously known in San Francisco. He was travelling to Europe as a buyer for his firm. He shared a cabin with a Jewish-looking individual, who wore a life-belt, fashioned as a waist-coat, night and day. We had our first real taste of war-time conditions, when, on arriving at Southampton, the Jewish-looking traveller was arrested as a German spy, and Annie's unfortunate friend was also held as his accomplice. As a matter of fact, the two were complete strangers until they met on the boat, but the innocent traveller from San Francisco had a good deal of difficulty in convincing the military authorities of the fact.

    War-time London

    I should have felt very lonely in London, too, but for dear old May Beatty and her husband, the late Edward Lauri, who had a flat in Southampton Row at that time, and more or less took me under their wing. Those were about the worst days of the air raids, and just before my arrival the Gaiety Theatre had been bombed, with the loss of many lives. My first experience of an air raid was being awakened by the warning sirens at 2 a.m. I was by myself at the time, Annie Carmichael having gone to stay with friends in the country, and May Beatty telephoned me up and told me if I was scared to go over to her flat which was nearby, and join them in their cellar. However, I preferred to stay where I was. It was very awe-inspiring, but I was sufficient of a fatalist not to worry over much. I felt a bit sick next morning, however, when I saw the great pits made in the streets by the bombs, and the windows of one of the big hospitals, adjoining, completely shattered.

    My London Production

    I had only been a few weeks in London, and had seen most of the bigger shows, when Captain Malone, who was then representing ‘The Firm’ in London, asked me if I would like to assist him in the production of High Jinks, which the JCW management was about to stage at the Adelphi Theatre. I gladly agreed to do so, and I soon found out that, in this case, it was not so much assisting as producing.

    Captain Malone spent most of his time in France, and only came over on weekend leave, with the result that practically the whole of the production devolved upon me. Needless to say, I had a pretty difficult time, and was exceedingly nervous, never having had anything to do with a London production. I was acutely conscious of the fact that the English producing methods might be quite at variance with anything I was accustomed to.

    I shall never forget the first full chorus rehearsal. It was at the famous Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, the Adelphi stage being otherwise engaged, and the call was for 10.30 a.m. I had previously had a musical rehearsal, at which I had been careful to explain that all the ladies of the chorus would be expected to wear the regulation practice dress. On my arrival at the theatre I found the genuine chorus girls who worked for their living, ready and waiting in their practice clothes, but the high and mighty show ladies began to wander in one by one, several of them arriving over an hour late.

    When I asked one of them what had detained her, she remarked with a haughty air, ‘My dear, we simply couldn't get here before, as we've been spending the weekend up the river.’

    I told the girls very forcibly that if they couldn’t come to rehearsal on time, they had better stay away altogether, and ordered them to hurry and get into their practice dresses.

    The one who had acted as spokeswoman before replied, ‘My dear, we didn't bring them, but we can tie up our street dresses with ribbon—that will do, won't it?’

    I explained more forcibly than ever that it wouldn’t do at all, and dismissed them for the day, adding that if they were not there punctually the next morning with their practice dresses, they needn’t come at all. I had no more trouble in that respect.

    Teaching the Chorus-Men a Lesson

    We went on with the rehearsal without the show girls, and I had not been long at work before I noticed that the dozen or so of chorus-men who were all we were able to rake up from amongst the ‘conchies’ [conscientious objectors] and such like specimens, were inclined to regard me as a huge joke. They had never had a woman producer over them before, and I suppose they thought that they could treat me with scant ceremony. Seeing how the land lay, I decided upon prompt measures.

    I was feeling horribly nervous, but was determined not to show it. Presently I told the girls to sit down and called the chorus-men down stage. They came forward, and I addressed them something along these lines:

    ‘Well, gentlemen, you seem disposed to take me as rather a good joke. Now let me tell you that I have been used to having hundreds of people under my control, and I am quite accustomed to ruling the roost. Probably you would act differently if you had a man to deal with, but I know my work, and I can assure you I am as good as any two men. There's the stage door, gentlemen, and you have your choice of going out by it or doing your work in a proper manner.’

    The men all went back to their places looking particularly sheepish, and after that I had their respect and co-operation all the way through. I never had to say another word to them.

    All of the show girls eventually agreed to wear practice dress except one, who was particularly ‘up-stage,’ and appeared to expect that she was to be given a small part. She was rather a good type, and I told her I would give her a couple of lines to speak, but that she would still have to take her place in the chorus. She did so for a time, but finally sent in her resignation to Captain Malone. I was a little doubtful whether the latter would uphold me in the matter, and on going to see him I was greatly relieved when he threw his arms round me and said: ‘Thank goodness you’ve got rid of that one, Minnie. We’ve been trying to lose her for a long time, but didn’t dare do it ourselves.’

    It transpired that the girl had the backing of a person of very considerable importance, financially, to the firm. Of course they put all the blame for her resignation on to me, explaining that it was entirely my responsibility, and that the matter was out of their hands.

    Some Old Friends

    Several members of the London company are well known in Australia. W.H. Berry, who played Field Fisher’s part, has never been out here, but W.H. Rawlins played the same part in London that he had already played in Australia. Tom Walls, now a leading actor-manager and one of London’s leading screen stars, had a comparatively minor role. He had also been in Australia playing the jockey in The Arcadians.

    Then there was Maisie Gay, who was to come to Australia later in This Year of Grace, and to return to England sadly disgruntled about her reception here. Peter Gawthorne, also here later on, played Dick Mayne, and Leon M. Lion, now a noted character actor on both stage and screen, played the Maitre d’ Hotel.

    Gwen Hughes, who was also here; Nellie Taylor, Marie Blanche. Violet Blythe and two French girls were among the other principals. In the chorus were two Australians making their stage debut. One was Cyril Whelan, a son of Albert Whelan, who had a small part, (he afterwards joined the Royal Flying Corps and was killed on active service), and the other was a daughter of Florence Esdaile, who later came out to Australia, and I believe is living in New Zealand.

    British Stage Thoroughness

    One of the things which struck me most forcibly about the production of High Jinks in London was the attention to detail, particularly where the dressing was concerned. Accustomed as I was to the more or less haphazard method of handing out costumes to the chorus in Australia, I was amazed at the care and attention lavished on this phase of the production. All the costumes were designed by M. Comelli, a celebrated London theatrical designer, and they were made by a famous Bond Street firm. A leading Regent Street milliner supplied the hats. 

    All these people sat in the stalls at the first dress rehearsal, and each member of the chorus was brought forward individually and specially fitted. If the colour or the style of a frock or a hat did not suit a particular girl, she was not permitted to wear it. The same attention to detail applied even to shoes and stockings. In fact, no chorus girl was allowed to appear without every detail of her costume being individually attended to. The result was that each girl was dressed to suit her particular type, and looked her very best.

    The principals, of course, ordered their own clothes, but these had to be passed by Comelli before being worn. If he decided that they were unsuitable they would be sent back and others substituted. It is notorious that many clever theatrical artists are quite devoid of taste where clothes are concerned, and in London many a famous star has had her reputation saved by the dress designer.

    An Australian Contrast

    This thoroughness persists right through the theatrical world of London, and it is the principal reason why English musical comedy productions are ahead of ours. In many respects the Australian chorus and ballet are better than those of the London stage, but because of this attention to dress detail, the general effect of the ensemble here is far below the London standard.

    In Australia little attempt is made to dress the girls according to type; the colour schemes are not properly thought out, and very often hats are worn which do not even match the frocks, and are definitely not suited to the wearer. It is no exaggeration to say that our Australian chorus and ballet would look fully fifty percent better if the same close attention to their appearance was given here as in London.

    I had the production of High Jinks complete and ready to go on at the announced date, but owing to one of those terrific hot spells which occasionally occur in England, it was postponed for a fortnight, and to my intense disappointment, I had to leave for America on my return journey without seeing the show. Before I left, however, my chorus boys and girls gave me a jolly little send-off, and made me a handsome presentation, which I still treasure.

    Lonsdale as Lyricist

    I met a great many interesting people on that first trip, though not of course as many as I should have done in normal times. Some of them were then quite obscure, but have since become famous. Others were then more or less famous, but have since become obscure. That’s the way of things in the theatrical world, as in other worlds.

    Among the former category was Frederick Lonsdale, the brilliant playwright, who was at that time a literary ‘hack’ who divided his time between journalism and writing extra verses and couplets for the theatres. I remember him quite well standing by during rehearsals for High Jinks, and occasionally being called upon by W.H. Berry, the comedian, to supply a fresh verse for a number, or a few lines of comedy dialogue to smarten up a situation. Berry played the part Field Fisher appeared in here, and I remember that when Mr. Lonsdale remarked to him that he would no doubt prefer to arrange a certain number himself, Berry turned to me, and said, ‘Oh, no; I have seen this lady’s work, and it’s quite good enough for me.’

    Some years later when I returned to London, and called to see Captain Malone, I found him engaged with a man I seemed to remember having met.

    When I entered, Captain Malone said to me, ‘Come in, Minnie. Here’s someone you’ve met before, only now he has pots of money, and then he hadn’t a bean.’

    It was Frederick Lonsdale, who, next to Noel Coward, must today draw more in royalties than any other English playwright. He is a charming man, and quite unspoilt by the success which has come his way.

    Coo-ees from the Diggers

    Amongst the sad memories of that first London visit were the visits I received from batches of Diggers over in ‘Blighty’ on leave, who, seeing my name on the playbills and recognising it as something familiar from their homeland, would come along to the theatre during rehearsal and ask to see me. More than once I was called out to meet a crowd of these fine lads, who would give me a welcome with the real Australian coo-ees; which always brought a lump to my throat.

    I remember, too, that my own brother, who had been away from Australia for years, and had enlisted with the ‘Tommies’ in London, asked for special leave to come across from France and see me. The War Office was evidently suspicious of the request—they probably got many bogus ones—and sent a special messenger down to the theatre to ask me if I had a brother serving with the British forces. We had dinner together on the last night of his leave—it was a Sunday night, and he had to leave for France early next morning.

    My last words to him were: ‘Be sure and dodge the bullets, Albert.’ A few days later he was killed in action.

    Twilight and Dark

    One of the things I love most about England is the twilight. Taxis were not only expensive, but difficult to procure in those war years, and often we would stroll down to the theatre in that lovely English twilight. Then when we came out after the show was over, what a contrast, with the black darkness of war-time London! I always found London more difficult to find my way about in than New York, and often we would lose our way completely after coming out of the theatre.

    Once I remember, when I was living at a little hotel just off the Strand, we found ourselves right away up in New Oxford Street, when at last we summoned up sufficient courage to make inquiries. Curiously enough, the man we asked our direction from turned out to be, himself, an Australian and he very kindly escorted us all the way back to the hotel, refusing to leave us until he had seen us safe indoors.

    Amongst happy memories of that first visit to London, there was a memorable visit to the fashionable Ciro’s, where I was guest at a luncheon given by Sir Peter McBride [the Agent-General for Victoria]. I also renewed acquaintance with Violet Lorraine, whom I had known well in Australia, when she was here as Principal Boy [in the pantomime Puss in Boots for JCW in 1912–13].

    ‘Yeomen’ Memories

    One of the show places which held a special interest for me was the Tower of London, owing to the fact that I had so often seen its stage replica in The Yeomen of the Guard. I visited the Beauchamp tower, from which the scene in that opera is taken, and saw the actual Block which figures in the opera. This is said to be hundreds of years old, and has the marks on it left by the axe used in beheading the unhappy political victims. It was interesting to me as an Australian, to compare the ancient charm of London, with the rather blatant newness of New York. At that time America was definitely anti-British, and I had plenty of evidence of this during my two brief sojourns there.

    Anti-British Feeling in USA

    On my return to New York, after visiting London, for example, I met Mabel Webb, who had been working in England for the Red Cross. She did a lot of literary work in those days, and was visiting America in the hope of getting some special writing to do for the American papers. She told me that one day soon after her arrival from England, she was walking along Broadway wearing a little Union Jack pinned into the lapel of her coat, when a burly German accosted her, gazed venomously at the little flag badge, and smacked her across the face.

    There was a policeman near by, and Mabel went up to him and said, ‘Did you see that?’

    ‘I sure did!’ said the policeman.

    ‘Well, aren't you going to do anything about it?’ asked Mabel.

    ‘Not on your sweet life, I’m not,’ said the constable. ‘It's your look-out if the “Stars and Stripes” aren't good enough for you.’

    I remember attending a big revue production at Washington, one of the features of which was a Grand March of all Nations. Each European monarch was represented by a man made up as nearly as possible to represent the real king. The whole house rose and cheered when the man representing the Kaiser entered, but when the impersonator of the King of England came on, they kept their seats and hooted.

    I was with Harold Ashton in a box, with a party, including some Americans, and when that happened I became simply furious and wanted to stand up and cheer. Mr. Ashton whispered to me to keep my seat, and take no notice, which I did, very much against my inclinations.

    On another occasion I attended a public meeting held to deal with the question of America entering the war. That was in New York, and I attended merely out of curiosity to see what would happen. I didn’t remain long. Every time England was mentioned there would be an outburst of hoots and yells. Things were different later, of course, when America finally entered the war, but certainly at that time there was no friendly feeling for the Old Country in the USA, as I saw it, and even Australians were by no means popular. As a matter of fact, ninety-nine per cent. of Americans were totally ignorant of where Australia was and used to ask me the most ridiculous questions about it.

    A Great Disappointment

    One of my greatest disappointments on that trip occurred on my return to America from London. After a few weeks in New York, I dropped in to Chicago, before going on to San Francisco to catch the boat back to Australia. While there I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Hugh J. Ward. He was then with ‘The Firm’, and insisted that I should return with him to New York, as the season was then only just beginning. I went back with them, and it was while in New York that time that the great Morosco asked me to arrange some special musical numbers in a dramatic show he was about to produce.

    It was a great compliment, but to my intense chagrin ‘The Firm’ would not agree to release me for long enough to make that possible, as they declared that I was wanted back in Australia.

    I should dearly have loved to have done it, as, apart from the valuable experience, I should like to have been able to say that I had produced shows both in London and New York. However, it was not to be.

    On my return to Australia I had to commence rehearsals at once for the next pantomime and very soon that first trip began to seem like a dream to me. I have visited both London and New York since on many occasions for ‘The Firm,’ but never again by myself. By the time I got back to Australia I was, of course, a fairly experienced traveller, but I made up my mind that never again would I undertake an overseas journey without a companion.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    First published in Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic) on 7 July 1932, pp.24–25, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page17696361, with further extracts from the subsequent chapters published on 14 July 1932, p.22, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page17696410 and 21 July 1932, p.10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page17696442

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    By Rob Morrison

    Although initially sent to South Africa to direct and choreograph the pantomime Puss in Boots for J.C. Williamson Ltd. in 1914, as part of The Firm’s first foray into establishing a South African touring circuit for its productions, Minnie Everett was subsequently tasked with taking on the direction of JCW’s season of the musical comedies The Girl on the Film, The Girl From Utah and The Dancing Mistress, in addition to her choreographic duties, when the English producer who had been hired for the job, George Slater, returned to England soon after his arrival in Durban due to illness. Having thus established her capabilities as a director-choreographer, JCW made full use of Minnie’s talents on her return to Australia at the conclusion of the tour by assigning her to direct and choreograph a series of revivals for its Royal Comic Opera Company, which included Ma Mie Rosette, Paul Jonesand The Old Guard in 1915. Given her knowledge of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire, Minnie was also tasked with directing and choreographing all of JCW’s G&S revivals between 1917 (when she staged a one-off revival of The Mikado in Melbourne starring C.H. Workman and Gladys Moncrieff) to 1942, for which Minnie took great pride in being the only professional woman producer of G&S in the world during that period.

    While Minnie’s direction of the 1916 London production of High Jinks was not made public knowledge at the time (J.A.E. ‘Pat’ Malone receiving the official credit) the English Press (via the press agents employed to promote the show) nonetheless did acknowledge the singular novelty of a female ballet mistress being put in charge of creating the dances for a West End musical comedy (in a field dominated by men) as well as her status as a producer for JCW in Australasia.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Music & The Drama

    Rehearsals are in full swing at the Adelphi, and it is expected High Jinks will be ready for production in the course of a few weeks. Hitherto the teaching of the dances for both principals and chorus in a London musical comedy has been carried out by a man. The directors of the Adelphi Company, however, have entrusted this part of the production of High Jinks to a woman, Miss Minnie Everett, who is thus making a record in London, is an Australian paying her first visit to England. In Melbourne and Sydney she is known as the stage producer for J.C. Williamson and Co., who have numerous theatrical enterprises in the Antipodes. (Apollo)

    The People (London, England), Sunday, 6 August 1916, p.4

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Referring to the production of High Jinks, a new musical play at the Adelphi Theatre, London one of the English papers comments on the fact that the directors of the company have brought for the first time into the production of a London musical comedy a woman to teach all the dances—for principals and chorus. ‘Miss Minnie Everett, who is in this department making a London record, is an Australian, and this is the first time she has been in England. She is well-known in Sydney and Melbourne as stage producer, and to get ideas for Christmas pantomimes she came to London, and is staying awhile to help with High Jinks. Towards the end of the month she goes to New York to watch the autumn productions there, and by November 1 she will have arrived in Melbourne,’ says the journal in question.

    The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Saturday, 30 September 1916, p.6

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Meanwhile an item in the Bulletin’s weekly theatrical gossip column (named in honour of the sobriquet given to the strip of pavement in Park Street, between Castlereagh and Pitt Streets, near Sydney’s Criterion Theatre where out-of-work theatricals gathered in the hope of finding employment) revealed the true authorship of High Jinks to its readers. 

    At Poverty Point

    ‘C. Ockney’: High Jinks the musical-piece recently staged by the Williamson firm, has been put on at the London Adelphi. As in Australia no authors’ names appeared on the bill. This naturally caused comment—so much comment indeed that the Adelphi deemed it advisable to confess that it had kept the names from the public because, although not German, they ‘looked remarkably like it.’ They undoubtedly do. The author of the words is Otto Hauerbach; the musical composer is Rudolph Friml. The former is, so the management avers, a Dutch-American; the latter a Bohemian, naturalised in USA So now we know. But why not have said so at first?

    The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW) Vol. 37 No. 1915, 26 October 1916, p.9

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Indeed such was the sensitivity to the anti-German feeling prevalent amongst the British public during the Great War that the sheet music for the songs from the score of High Jinks by Friml and Hauerbach [Harbach] was published in Britain under the pseudonyms of ‘Roderick Freeman’ and ‘Ogden Hartley’, which did at least retain the initials of their respective names.   

    As JCW Managing Director, Hugh J. Ward had acquired the British performing rights to High Jinks at the same time as the Australasian performing rights, it was arranged that the musical comedy would be staged as J.C. Williamson Ltd.’s first London production in collaboration with West End impresario, Alfred Butt. But whereas the original Australian production by-and-large remained faithful to that originally staged in New York (albeit with additional songs and dance music interpolated into its score) the show was significantly adapted to suit London tastes, with the revision of the libretto undertaken by Frederick Lonsdale (who, amongst other changes, altered the nationality of the Frenchman, Monsieur Jacques Rabelais to the fiery Spaniard, Senor Rabelais, while Dr. Robert Thorne was re-christened Dr. Wilkie Thorne) and the interpolation of additional numbers specially written by Paul Rubens, Jerome Kern, James W. Tate and Howard Talbot, with additional lyrics by Percy Greenbank, Clifford Grey, Clifford Harris and “Valentine” (pseud. of Archibald Thomas Pechy) chiefly to showcase the talents of lead comedian, W.H. Berry in the expanded role of Dr. Thorne. This revised version, which premiered at the Adelphi Theatre on 24 August 1916 for a run of 383 performances, subsequently became the basis for all revivals of the musical staged in Australasia by JCW between 1917 up to its last professional outing in 1935 starring Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard.

    Theatre programme smlProgram for the original London production. Overtures collection—courtesy of Rex Bunnett.

    Pepita Bobadilla (aka Nelly Louise Burton) who took over the role of ‘Mdlle. Chi-Chi’ during the run, would subsequently become the second wife of Australian-born playwright, Haddon Chambers in October 1920 (and his widow upon his death in March 1921.)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    1. Something seems Tingle-ingleing (Friml)—Peter Gawthorne & Chorus

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-720 or 02682)

    2. I could love a nice little Girl like you (Paul Rubens)—William H. Berry & Girls Chorus

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV 4-2785)

    3. Love's own Kiss (Friml)—Nellie Taylor & Peter Gawthorne

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-737 or 04180)

    4. I'm through with roaming Romeos (Friml)—Maisie Gay

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV B-712 or 2-3191)

    5. She says it with her Eyes (Friml)—Maisie Gay & W. H. Rawlins

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-721 or 04177)

    Original 1916 London cast recordings by His Master’s Voice (‘The Gramophone Company’) restored and reissued on Palaeophonics 142, courtesy of Dominic Combe.

    Picture sources

    Original 1916 London cast and scenic photos by Foulsham & Banfield published in The Play Pictorial (Vol. XXIX No. 174) courtesy of Dominic Combe.