Preparations continued for 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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“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.
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, https://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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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, https://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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120792475
Meanwhile The Sun’s critique was a virtual love letter to lead comedienne, Florence Vie!
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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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229323706
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“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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15549955
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MUSICAL JOLLITY AT HER MAJESTY’S.
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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115825612
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AMERICAN COMEDY AT HER MAJESTY’S.
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, https://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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229323678
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“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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238844951
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Meanwhile the weekly Bulletin’s critique of the show was in typical flippant fashion, accompanied by Harry Julius’s comical caricatures.
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“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.
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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.
The Bulletin (Sydney), 11 February 1915, p.8
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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.
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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.
Sunday Times (Sydney), Sunday, 14 February 1915, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120797610
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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.
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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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15562972
The 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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28113947
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Charles Workman, too, played his part in providing “copy” for the relentless publicity machine put into motion to promote J.C. Williamson productions.
A HORRIBLE SITUATION.
CHARLES WORKMAN'S STORY.
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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24526170
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British comedienne, Florence Vie also contributed her fair share to the theatrical gossip columns.
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BEAUVILLE AND COOGEE.
FLORENCE VIE COMPARES THEM
“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, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24526030
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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.
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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
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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.
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CLOSE OF “HIGH JINKS”
“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
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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.
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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 at https://archive.org/details/highjinksmusicalf00friml/mode/2up
The orchestra parts for High Jinks extant 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.
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THERE 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.”
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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.”
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.
The Lone Hand, 1 April 1915, pp.315–317
With the Sydney season of The Girl in the Taxi a resounding triumph, J.C. Williamson’s New English Musical Comedy Company then moved on to Melbourne, where the musical comedy was due to commence its run at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday, 24 October 1914. In the lead-up the Melbourne theatre-going public had been well primed with advance publicity over the preceding weeks, both proclaiming the success that the production had enjoyed in the New South Wales’ capital and also heralding its imminent arrival to entertain audiences at JCW’s flagship theatre in Victoria’s capital city. Various snippets of theatrical gossip pertaining to its cast members were also accorded space in the numerous local Press columns devoted to the performing arts and its practitioners:
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THE PLAY AND THE PLAYERS
One of the London critics mentioned of C.H. Workman, the comedian of “The Girl in the Taxi,” soon to be seen in Melbourne: “He is one of the few who can be a comedian and artistic at the same time.” One of the “Gipsy Love” Company at Melbourne Her Majesty's, referring to this, paid his fellow-artist a great compliment when he said: “Workman is delightful to look at. All the time he is getting in little bits of ‘business’ that are most effective, and yet he is never obtrusive. His acting is perfect, and he keeps the character in the picture all the time. Even in the finale you can see the audience watching Workman. It might well be said of him that 'every little movement of his has a meaning all its own’.”
(Public Opinion (Melbourne, Vic.), 8 October 1914, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153583911 )
Prior to its re-opening time was taken to fine-tune the show. English ingenue, Gwen Hughes was recast in the eponymous supporting role of the taxi girl herself, ‘Rose Charcot’, while local favourite, Melbourne-born actress, Dorothy Brunton now took over the role of ‘Jacqueline’(possibly as a response to the lukewarm reviews that Miss Hughes had received in the part from the Sydney Press).
To further promote the musical comedy in the week leading up to its premiere JCW’s Press agents also arranged a publicity stunt, whereby a young lady wearing a hat trimmed with a lace veil was driven in a taxi cab round and around the fashionable Melbourne city Collins Street shopping precinct known as “The Block” to attract the attention of pedestrians, while one-line “teasers” appeared throughout the Amusements columns of the respective daily newspapers proclaiming: “Look Out For the Girl in the Taxi Along The Block”, “The Masked Girl in the Taxi Will Be Along The Block This Morning” and posing the question: “Who is the Masked Girl in the Taxi Along The Block?”
Contemporary advertisements featured in Her Majesty’s Theatre programme, c. 1914.
Following its opening night the assorted critics of the Melbourne Press re-echoed the rhetorical “bouquets” bestowed on the production by their Sydney counterparts.
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HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE — THE GIRL IN THE TAXI.
Laughter, free and unrestrained, was the dominant note on Saturday night, when The Girl in the Taxi was produced at Her Majesty's Theatre. For the best part of three hours the audience laughed—laughed till sides ached and were moist—laughed till thoughts of war and stressful times were temporarily forgotten. Not that the story of the new piece is original or the situations unfamiliar—indeed, many a French farce might be regarded as the immediate forerunner of The Girl in the Taxi—but so many things happen, and happen so comically, and the play is so exceedingly well done by the New English Musical Comedy Company, that there was nothing left for an appreciative audience to do except to laugh frankly and unreservedly. It must be admitted that the general trend of the humor is what the aunts and uncles of the penultimate generation would have defined as “very French,” but there are those of us who prefer the artificial atmosphere of plays of the “Pink Dominoes” order to many of the serious but sordid problem plays so dear to the heart of the repertory enthusiast. The situations and the characters of The Girl in the Taxi are alike impossible—and this very impossibility should be sufficient to disarm the criticism of the “unco guid.” It is good to laugh—and sometimes good to forget the outside world. On Saturday night the audience did both, and happily was the better for the fact.
Musically considered the new piece is not important. The composer, Jean Gilbert, has none of the distinction we associate with Leo Fall, Oscar Straus or Franz Lehar in their best work, but, nevertheless, his music is real comic opera music. Most of it goes in at one ear, to pass out of the other easily enough; but a few waltz measures remain in the memory, while it is refreshingly free from vulgarity. The orchestra was not large enough to do full justice to the instrumental score (1), but the general effect of the orchestration was pleasantly piquant, and by no means devoid of that refined humor possible only to an accomplished musician.
The story deals with the peccadilloes of practically every character in the play. Baron Dauvray is a paragon of virtue—at home!—and brings up his son, Hubert, in the way he should go. His nephew Rene—a dashing lieutenant in the French army—encourages Hubert in his determination to shake off the restrictions of the parental abode, and being in love with Dauvray's daughter Jacqueline, arranges that Hubert shall take charge of Suzanne (an old flame of the lieutenant's) at a private supper party for two that same evening. Now Suzanne is another paragon—at home; and her husband the scent manufacturer, Monsieur Pomarel, is as unsuspecting as is the Baron's wife, Delphine; and as both Dauvray and Suzanne are the most accomplished of hypocrites, and as the second act takes place in the very “Parisian” restaurant known as the Jeunesse Doree, it is easy to foretell the probable course of events. All the delinquents meet each other in embarrassing circumstances. The Baron finds his son with Suzanne. Hubert finds his father with a lady—whom the latter met in a taxi—and who proved afterwards to be the wife of Professor Charcot, a friend of the family—Rene and Jacqueline also are concerned in the general exposure, while Monsieur Pomarel (ferocious in his military garb) runs riot with a drawn sword in his hand [in] what time he searches for his somewhat large-hearted wife, Suzanne. All very ludicrous, very impossible, and very “French”—but, in this instance, very well done. And there are two waiters, Alexis and Emile, either of whom would make the fortune of any restaurant proprietor in the world. Alexis is a philosopher without any illusions, and Emile is—an oddity. Alexis has many funny things to say, and Emile many funny things to do, while both of them were responsible for much hearty laughter on Saturday night. Alexis—in his role of philosopher—defines an optimist as a man who does not care what happens—as long as it happens to others; and a pessimist as a man whose hard fate it is to live with the optimist. His remarks—portentously delivered—are received by Emile with a deference that borders on the reverential—and which is genuinely comical. What is generally the fatal last act of French farce is in the present instance kept abundantly alive by the introduction of Alexis into the peaceful, well-ordered home of the Baron—as the new butler—the morning after the eventful night at the restaurant! Of course the erring come off scot free, and equally of course the virtuous are hoodwinked—but in this type of play the audience expects as much, and would be woefully disappointed were it otherwise.
As the Baron, Mr. W.H. Rawlins was excellent, he has unction and the easy methods of the experienced actor. Both as the hypocrite of the first act and the gay man of the world of the second, he was entirely convincing, and won the immediate approval of the audience. Mr. C.H. Workman played Monsieur Pomarel with complete success, and, although the part does not offer him those opportunities which would enable him to exhibit his fine talents to their full advantage, he proved himself a most accomplished artist. Mr. Workman comes to Australia with a distinguished reputation, and his finished work was apparent in his every movement on Saturday night. Hubert found a very good exponent in Mr. Fred Maguire, and Rene was well played by Mr. Percy Claridge, who appeared in place of Mr. Paul Plunket—the latter having injured his knee.
Mr. Field Fisher gave an inimitable performance as Alexis, and shared with Mr. W.H. Rawlins the chief honors of a laughter provoking evening. As Emile, the admiring underling of Alexis, Mr. Chris. Wren showed himself to be a thoroughly capable eccentric comedian, and Mr. D.J. Williams was well cast as Professor Charcot.
Miss Maggie Jarvis played the part of Suzanne with marked ability. She was always charming and piquant, and though her singing voice is occasionally nasal and unequal to the demands of the music, she is a distinct acquisition to the Australian comic opera stage. Her performance on Saturday night was an important element in the success of the new piece. Miss Gwen Hughes, as the girl whom the Baron met in the taxi, had not very much to do, but did what she had to do quite satisfactorily, and Miss Dorothy Brunton was well suited in the part of Jacqueline. Less important roles were capably fitted by Mr. Hugh Huntley, Misses Millie Engler and Helen Hobson. Mr. Victor Champion was the musical director, and all things went smoothly under his experienced direction. The play was produced by Mr. Charles A. Wenman, the ballets were arranged by Miss Minnie Hooper, and Mr. Redge Carey was the stage manager.
In The Girl in the Taxi, presented as it is by an admirable company, J.C. Williamson Ltd. should find one of the most successful pieces of recent years.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 26 October 1914, p.12, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190670729
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(1) The original orchestra parts for The Girl in the Taxi (which are still extant in the J.C. Williamson collection of performance materials at the National Library of Australia, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/42505853), reveal that the musical was scored for 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello, bass, flutes, oboe, clarinets, bassoon, horns, cornets, trumpets, trombone, bass trombone, drums and harp, thus a minimum of sixteen orchestral players upwards.
Flyer issued for the Melbourne season, c. October 1914, with Gwen Hughes (erroneously captioned as ‘Gladys’) pictured as ‘Jacqueline’ before her replacement in the role.
Elisabeth Kumm Collection.
PLAYS AND PLAYERS
French farce is chiefly notable for the reckless manner in which practically all the characters set out to compromise themselves, and then seek to extricate themselves by either distressingly crude or elaborately, but none the less obviously, false explanations. “The Girl in the Taxi,” which was staged in the presence of a crowded house at Her Majesty's Theatre on October 24, is really a French farce with musical trimmings. The latter, for which Jean Gilbert is responsible, are somewhat thin, but always tuneful and catchy; while there is about the dialogue of the new piece a snap and brightness reminiscent of that in “The Merry Widow,” and not usually met with in modern musical comedy. Furthermore—it seems almost too daring to be true—“The Girl in the Taxi” actually has a continuous plot, and more remarkable still—a plot which retains its interest in the third act, for at this late stage, which is usually devoted to explanations and the sorting out of all available couples with a view to matrimony, a new and amusing development is brought to notice. So that right up to the fall of the final curtain, the piece at least succeeds in avoiding dullness.
Those responsible for the naming of “The Girl in the Taxi” were evidently actuated by a desire to gratify the taste of British entrepreneurs for titles which include the word “girl.” As a matter of fact, a girl who is understood to have just stepped from a taxi-cab strolls on in the second act but she has about as much real bearing on the story as the occupation of Ostend by the Germans has on the situation in Europe. However, this irresponsible naming is in keeping with the play itself. Nobody on the stage is serious for more than a minute at a time, there being gratifying absence of sentimental ditties and semi-serious love passages. The “story,” of course, is charged with love-making, but the tender passion is treated not as “the noblest frailty of the mind” (as Dryden had it), but rather as the most amusing. The situations do not demand description, for they can be imagined by anyone with even a bowing acquaintance with French farce, since one French farce differs from another in only the same degree as next Sunday is likely to differ from last Sunday. But there is a brightness and snap about the dialogue of “The Girl in the Taxi” which makes it an entertainment, whereas so many productions of its class are merely a punishment. Allied to the play's verbal smartness is very catchy, although, for the most part, rather thin, music, composed by Jean Gilbert, and including yet another waltz tune, “Lilt that's Lazy and Dreamy and Hazy,” which seems threatened with immediate popularity.
Interpreting “The Girl in the Taxi” is a company which, with one exception, is new to Melbourne, and which contains two genuine artists in Mr. C.H. Workman and Mr. Field Fisher. Mr. Workman supplies excellent comedy as Monsieur Pomarel, and Mr. Fisher, on broader lines, presents an entertaining impersonation of a head waiter, full of wise saws and ultra-modern instances. Miss Maggie Jarvis, who appears as Suzanne, a giddy young person, who, by unrevealed methods, has annexed a prize for virtue offered by Professor Charcot, is a vivacious actress, but her voice lacks sweetness. She has a capital duet with Mr Workman, “The Happy Marriage,” another with Mr Maguire, “Not Too Fast and Not Too Slow,” and a solo, “Now Let the Toast Go Gaily Round,” but the most popular number in which she has a share is “Suzanne,” in which her partners are Messrs Percy Claridge (who took the part of Rene at short notice in place of Mr. Paul Plunket, who had injured his knee), W.H. Rawlins, and Fred Maguire. Mr. Rawlins does well as Baron Dauvray, whose theory of heredity is summed up in the phrase, “Once a turnip, always a turnip,” Mr. Maguire is equal to all requirements, as the Baron’s son, Hubert, and so is Miss Millie Engler, as the Baroness, whose simple faith in her husband and son is almost too good to be true. Other performers calling for favorable notice are Miss Dorothy Brunton, Miss Gwen Hughes, Mr. Chris Wren, and Mr. D.J. Williams. The staging and dressing are excellent, and admirable work is done by chorus and orchestra, under the experienced direction of Mr. Victor Champion.
Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 October 1914, p.8, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121116244
An edited version of the same critique also appeared in The Herald on 26 October 1914, p.2, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242290115
Theatre programme for the Melbourne season issued in late-November 1914. Most of the cast members, in fact, were not ‘Direct from the Lyric Theatre, London’, but had been recruited from British impresario George Edwardes’ various UK touring companies.
Elisabeth Kumm Collection.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
“The Girl in the Taxi.”
Book and music of this diverting Palais Royale farce are about equal in merit, and together make a most amusing “night out,” especially when done so much justice to by the excellent company that presented it for the first time at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night, in the presence of a splendid house that enjoyed the gay old story so cleverly redressed and ingeniously set amidst taking tunes, good rhythms, sweet valse refrains, dashing melodies and an abundance of first rate comedy.
It is a very simple plot reminiscent of Johann Strauss’s queen of operettas “Die Fledermaus,” otherwise “Night Birds,” with here and there flavourings of Offenbach, as, for instance, in the musical trifle “Not Too Fast and Not Too Slow,” in the charming melody “Suzanne,” and in the “Wine Song.”
… In a company strong in comedians Mr. C.H. Workman, as Monsieur Pomarel, a trusting scent manufacturer, proves himself an artist of undoubtedly high quality and finished method. He is hoodwinked and made the scapegoat of others in the same way as the foolish husband of Congreve and Wycherly days. A very quaint duet and accentuated dance with Miss Jarvis, “The Happy Marriage,” served to introduce him, and it was easily the most artistic thing of the evening, with its buoyant music and dainty flute trills. Mr. Workman’s clever comedy also helped the hilarity of the restaurant scene whenever it seemed inclined to halt, and altogether he proved himself an actor of discrimination, humour and tact. His wife, Suzanne, is most brightly taken by Miss Maggie Jarvis, who is gifted with a sprightly archness and acting qualities that help her to realise the mercurial qualities of the deceptive Suzanne. Her typical light vibrative soprano voice was all sufficient to do justice to the music apportioned her, which she sang with expression and feeling, especially noticeable in the wine song, “Now Let the Toast Go Round,” with its high range and valse refrain … Another comedian of marked merit is Mr. W.H. Rawlins, whose contribution of philosopher and night bird is the happiest of mixtures—for the audience, and with a fund of dry humour he keeps the ball rolling as much by his reserved levity as by his delectable lines, such as “I know enough to know what not to know” and “If you find you can’t be good be careful anyway,” which are really questions of art and not of morality. Miss Millie Engler adds the necessary touch of charming and refined comedy which is so essential a set-off to the strenuous and dangerous methods of the farceurs. It is, perhaps, the most difficult character to realise in the cast, but Miss Engler reconciled its absurdities with the skill of a finished actress.
In Mr. Field Fisher’s head waiter at the Jeunesse Doree we have a concrete study that is absolutely faithful to life. It is not only his make-up, carriage, and deportment that Mr. Fisher suggests so cleverly, but his estimate of gay mankind, especially those who frequent the night club. He is a world-weary philosopher, melancholy and reflective, with a dignity that can easily be wounded, suffering undoubtedly from much high living, and able at a glance to “sum up” in a pithy sentence each frequenter of the club no matter how plausible his tale. As his acrobatic understudy with concertina trousers, Mr. Chris Wren endures a wonderful kick out that simply amazes. Miss Dorothy Brunton is a bright and vivacious daughter of the Dauvrey household, and Mr. F. Maguire is equally buoyant as a son of the same family. Mr. Paul Plunket having injured his knee, Mr. Percy Claridge filled his place as Rene most creditably, and smartly taken were the Professor Charcot of Mr. D.J. Williams, his wife by Miss Gwen Hughes, and Marlette, the Dauvray maid, by Miss Helen Hobson. All the appointments and scenery are excellent, and by the favour with which the comedy was received there should be a good run in store for it.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 26 October 1914, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10813877
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Amusement is the sole and all-sufficient incentive for The Girl in the Taxi. And that this purpose is fully achieved, the laughter of audiences at Her Majesty's impresses beyond all chance of contradiction. The music of Jean Gilbert is bright and inspiring, and the fun of the farce is of the old style, which finds entertainment in the peccadilloes of others, and especially in the hypocrisy with which they are concealed. We know the kind of thing from memories of Pink Dominoes and A Night Out, and The Girl in the Taxi may claim descent from the same origin. Fun of this sort has just to be accepted in the spirit In which it is offered, without any sense of moral responsibility or meaning, and with only a midriff appreciation of its humor. A piece of this kind has to be played with facility and smartness, or it is apt to lose its scintillating quality. Fortunately, there is no reason to fear any mishap of this sort with a company so well suited to its requirements. The appreciation of the public since the opening night is the best testimony of success.
… The new company is a very capable combination. The sprightly Suzanne is played by Miss Maggie Jarvis, who sings prettily and acts piquantly. Her voice is of light quality, with a tendency to nasal intonation, but is generally adequate to requirements, and enables her to get through with credit the considerable share of vocal exercise which falls to her lot. Mr. C.H. Workman, as Pomarel, proved himself a clever and humorous artist, well able to extract every ounce of fun out of the possibilities of the part. Nothing could have been better than the duet and dance with Miss Jarvis to illustrate The Happy Marriage, and in the character of the indignant husband in the second act he was inexpressibly amusing. As the elder Dauvray, Mr. W.H. Rawlins shows discrimination and a fine appreciation of the diversities of human nature. In the character of the youthful scion of the house, Mr. Fred Maguire displayed all the buoyancy and assertiveness of his years. Mr. Paul Plunket, through an accident, was unable to appear as Rene. but his place was well taken by Mr. Percy Claridge. The waiters scored among the highest in the field of fun, and Mr. Field Fisher as Alexis was entitled to foremost consideration. His whole treatment of the part was an artistic study, justifying its being regarded as an example of high art. The second waiter was also made by Mr. Chris. Wren a distinctive character. Miss Dorothy Brunton was well placed as the lively Jacqueline. Miss Gwen Hughes was Mrs. Charcot, the girl in the taxi, and Mr. D.J. Williams, her husband, the professor. Other parts were played by Miss Millie Engler and Miss Helen Hobson. Credit must be given to the orchestra, under Mr. Victor Champion, the chorus and the management. The Girl in the Taxi is assured of appreciation.
Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 October 1914, p.37, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92034967
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… “The Girl in the Taxi” has the advantage of being well acted, on the comedy side especially, for the comedians are artists who are content to interpret the roles allotted to them as they are drawn, and to endeavor to endow them with a feasible personality, instead of burlesquing and making them grotesque caricatures. Fidelity to type is half the secret of the success of this play.
As the Baron Dauvray, the pompous autocrat at home, the elderly gay Lothario abroad, W.H. Rawlins proves himself a capable and artistic actor, with a fund of humor of his own. Then in C.H. Workman, as Monsieur Pomarel, the scent manufacturer, so mild, conventional and trusting in private life, and a very tiger and gay dog when he gets his military uniform on, we have an interpreter with real artistic instinct. He never once essays to make the role unduly prominent, nor to invest it with too pronounced comedy. He draws a personality who might be met at any time, a trifle eccentric, and with a blind faith in his pretty wife. Mr. Workman is endowed with an agreeable voice, dances gracefully, and has an alert and attractive manner.
Again, in the head waiter, Alexis, Field Fisher gives a veritable little character study. As the second waiter, Emile, Chris Wren just misses the effect. He, as so often in our productions, gives just a little too much of everything—his clothes are too baggy, his walk and mannerisms overdrawn. As Felix, the third waiter, Mr. Hugh Huntley is well advised in endowing it with realistic personality.
The son of twenty, who wants to see life but is handicapped by his limited pocket money—five shillings a week—and his lack of knowledge how to start, is well and unaffectedly depicted by Mr. Fred Maguire.
Rene, the lieutenant, with a reputation for fastness, but with a sincere desire to settle down, was undertaken at short notice by Percy Claridge, owing to Paul Plunket having injured his knee. He made a gratifying success in the circumstances. D.J. Williams satisfactorily portrayed Professor Charcot, the one and only apparently really straight-going man in the professor's set.
Suzanne, the young wife, so demure and prim, who wins a morality prize, yet has a past and is by no means averse to indulging in a fling again as soon as her husband is away on military duty, is effectively treated by Miss Maggie Jarvis, who has a piquant and winning personality, is a dainty and charming actress and makes the most of a small and rather nasal but clear light soprano voice.
Miss Millie Engler is pleasing as the Baroness, with gracious, polished manners. She invests the part with a maternal touch, and succeeds in creating a lovable, gentle and withal trusting housewife—a little narrow and circumcised [sic] in view, as housewives are apt to be. [A “Freudian slip” perhaps? Evidently the reviewer meant “circumscribed”.]
Miss Dorothy Brunton is bright and pleasing as Jacqueline, her daughter. But she should guard against getting into a rut; she is inclined to make all her roles similar in personality, business and appearance. Miss Gwen Hughes as Rose Charcot, the girl who steps in one door of a taxi as the baron steps in the other, and then consents to sup with him; and Miss Helen Hobson as Mariette, the maid, round out a more artistic and effective cast than we have had for a long time in Melbourne.
Under the direction of Mr. Victor Champion the orchestra is well managed, and all the choruses and concerted items are handled artistically.
Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 29 October 1914, p.10, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146329287
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While watching—and more notably perhaps after seeing—“The Girl in the Taxi” and her frivolous friends at Her Majesty's on Saturday evening, one approves of the old conclusion that if other people knew us as well as we know ourselves much that is conventional, irksome, and superfluous in social life would disappear; friendships such as commonly occur in comic opera would be more easily, more agreeably established, conversation be pruned of its prefixes, harmony of its overtures and the lighter side of life generally be relieved of much that is redundant. Burns put it quite the other way in—
‘O wad some Power the giftie gi’e us
To see oursel’s as others see us!’
but nothing would be gained thus; on the contrary, a great deal of suspicion, ill-feeling, and prejudice created. When you see the correct idea illustrated at Her Majesty’s any night this week, all doubt as to the correct standpoint is removed, the domestic fowl of daylight becoming a brilliant singing night bird, you are carried in spite of prudence or propriety to the conclusion, “All this is entirely after my own heart. It is life, breezy, scintillating, inspiring; but with the ‘ífs’ not as they should be I shall not mention it at the dinner table.” If the conditions precedent were as they might be, there would be no need to mention it or to do anything but book seats for the performance.
Quite a lot of the happy sort of philosophy which is more suitable for thought than conversation, and which is never fully revealed in English translations of the more sparkling French comedies, is promoted by acquaintance with this taxi girl. But to be candid, it is all better considered afterwards than during the progress of the piece, because the easy current of one’s thought is often diverted by laughs which are sometimes chuckling, significant, half repressed, sometimes given liberty in an unrestrained “Ha, Ha!” Of the musical side it is enough to say that that it is pleasantly rhythmic, and sometimes reminiscent, and that the words have sometimes more point than the score. A good deal of the conversation is clever, much of it wise in matters that concern the great world. If you can imagine an idea, a self-revelation, a confession illustrated in song and supper by players who sing sufficiently, who speak clearly, even when they seem to veil their meaning, and who frisk delightfully with each other, and indirectly with the audience, there is or ought to be quite sufficient inducement to lose no time in visiting Her Majesty’s.
… It was rather a surprise to find a man of Mr. C.H. Workman's experience and reputation in the rather eccentric part of the respectable perfumier, who is cuffed, bluffed, and rebuffed by everybody, a sort of human football in the gay game, at whom everybody, including his sprightly wife, Suzanne, has a kick. But Mr. Workman has all the detail of this particular business at his finger ends. He had a happy introduction in the first duet with his wife, one of the best items in the piece, and when the romp at the restaurant might have become wearisome it was his qualities as a comedian, his sense of stage values, and his appreciation of effective byplay that kept things humming. Mr. Workman is quite clearly a finished artist in this form of light entertainment. Like many another artist who has excelled in it, he may eventually pass on to legitimate comedy. Miss Maggie Jarvis (the gay wife) is bright, arch, and distinctive, though her light soprano voice, with a certain nasal peculiarity, is not the best part of her stage equipment. Another comedian who at once became a favourite was Mr. W.H. Rawlins as the happy hypocrite, Baron Dauvray, hampered to some extent by a wife who is “not only as good as she is, but as good as she ought to be.” The Baron, who seems to be all prudence and propriety at first, is like the moon brightened by contact with another orb—“The Girl in the Taxi.” Like Mr. Workman, he is a finished singing comedian. His songs have every point, musical and dialective, revealed; his acting is always delightful. And, as if two good comedians were not sufficient for any musical comedy, this one and the company that interprets it is enriched in a third—Mr. Field Fisher, as head waiter at the Jeunesse Doree. Because the gladsome restaurant is such a feature in musical comedy there has been great inducement to create entertaining waiters. They form quite a little stage gallery of their own, and Mr. Fisher's waiter is one of the best portraits in the collection. He gives his services to the guests and his reflections to the audience, and in either capacity is excellent. He is reinforced and aided by Mr. Chris. Wren, another kind of waiter. Miss Millie Engler, as the confiding wife of the gay Baron, finds her opportunity on the comedy side—realises it too. To the detail of this sparkling creation Miss Dorothy Brunton, Miss Gwen Hughes, Miss Helen Hobson, and other ladies and gentlemen of this new Williamson organisation give every assistance. We are content to dance light-heartedly as they set the tune, and lovers of musical comedy may be assured that the herald trumpets have not sounded a too extravagant note.
The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 October 1914, p.30, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143290360
Paul Plunkett, Dorothy Brunton and Field Fisher.
Caricatures published in the Truth (Melbourne, Vic.), “MUMMERANDOM”, 31 October 1914, p. 7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119785200; centre portrait from JCW theatre programme, c. 1913, Author’s Collection.
The season successfully launched to critical acclaim and audience approbation, J.C. Williamson’s efficient staff of Press agents continued to keep the Melbourne dailies and weeklies supplied with a constant stream of theatrical tid-bits promoting the company’s latest productions.
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THE PLAY AND THE PLAYERS
C.H. Workman, the comedian in “The Girl in the Taxi” at Her Majesty's, takes pride in the fact that he is not superstitious about the number 13. “As a matter of fact,” he says, “I consider 13 of good omen in connection with “The Girl in the Taxi.” The piece ran in London for 13 months, there are 13 of us in the cast, and we had a magnificent season in Sydney, and a jolly good time all round. We are a very happy family, we 13; and I couldn't wish for a happier time than I have enjoyed with ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ which has indeed turned out to be a real joy ride.”
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Years ago Clyde Fitch wrote “The Girl with the Green Eyes.” Field Fisher, the comedian of “The Girl in the Taxi,” now at Her Majesty's, has a suggestion for a comedy that might be entitled “The Man with the Green Eyebrows,” with himself as the hero—or victim, rather. The circumstances are these: Mr. Fisher, instead of wearing false eyebrows in “The Girl in the Taxi,” which are always ticklish things, has adopted the expedient of merely soaping over his own eyebrows. He has been doing this, for some considerable time, and lately he had noticed a change coming. To his consternation, some days ago his eyebrows turned a beautiful canary colour, and now they are green. He has tried half-a-dozen different chemicals to bring the colour back, but the green remains. If anyone happens to see a man in the street with green eyebrows and a worried look he will know that it is Field Fisher.
Public Opinion (Melbourne, Vic.), 29 October 1914, p.7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153583516
Proscenium of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, showing stage boxes and orchestra pit, 1911.
Charles Workman also took time in his daily schedule to give an in-depth interview to the weekly periodical Table Talk, in which he also gave his candid opinion for the reason behind the failure of Sir W.S. Gilbert and Edward German’s Fallen Fairies at London’s Savoy Theatre in 1909.
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C.H. WORKMAN OFF THE STAGE.
A COMEDIAN WHO IS ALSO AN ARTIST.
One morning a call is made at Her Majesty’s Theatre to have a chat with Mr. C.H. Workman, the comedian who has won such an enviable position for himself on the London stage.
“Mr. Workman told me to say he is waiting in his dressing-room,” and so the journey across the big stage—a very cold and grey expanse in the daylight—and through the big iron door at the other side is made. A friend offers to find Mr. Workman, but returns, declaring he is not there. Back to the door keeper, who assures us Mr. Workman said he would be there. So once more we invade the stage, and this time Mr. Workman really is discovered. He emerges from his dressing room and advances to greet his caller in a rather reserved but alert way. This is characteristic of him, as is discovered later.
Where to sit and chat is the first consideration, and the foyer is decided upon as being cooler than the dressing-room. But on the way one of the boxes is passed, and it looks inviting, so we settle down there and talk, while a staff of cleaners dust and polish seats and Mr. Workman asks permission to smoke as he settles down, explaining he is an inveterate smoker, so feels more comfortable with a cigar. He has a certain well-groomed, well set-up air which just escapes being dapper, but there is something too virile and yet easy about him to be exactly dapper, yet he has the spruce, well-turned-out look which just suggests it.
Grey-eyed and well-featured, he is typically English in appearance, and he has an attractive speaking voice, low-toned and full, yet quiet.
It is learned that it is only by a sort of chance we have had the luck to see this favorite of London in Australia. Some time ago he had throat trouble, which left ill-effects, and his doctor said to him one day: “If I did not know it was not possible for you to get away, what I would order for you is a long sea voyage.” So when the offer came for this engagement in Australia, Mr. Workman closed with it, thinking the voyage would thoroughly set him up.
“We let our house to an American, with our own servants there. We are very proud of our home; we have not had it very long. For years I used to be on tour so much that we had no chance to make one. When I was in London we had a flat. But for some years now nearly all my work has been in London, and we made a home at Hampstead, and have spent time and money over it. There is a garden, and I do a lot of work in it, for I am fond or gardening. It is beautiful there, and you would never guess it was so near London. As you travel out to it you can feel the change of atmosphere distinctly. After the outbreak of war we had word to say our tenant was going back to America at once, and we have felt worried about the house, but we have just heard that they secured another tenant. So that is satisfactory.
“Yes, Mrs. Workman is here with me; also our boy. Oh, no. We could not leave him behind. That would be impossible. I made a complete model of the stage at the Savoy for him. He has a play-room to himself, and I built the stage there, exactly to scale.”
“You do not wish, like so many actors, to keep your boy from the stage?”
“It would be no use. He is born for it, and is interested in everything about it. I did ask the headmaster of his school not to encourage him to recite or to foster his inclination that way. But he told me that it was useless to try and repress it, that he was the life of the school and had undoubted talents.
“Yes, he will start with better chances than I had. I began as a chorister without any influence. No, my people are not theatrical at all, though I come from a musical family. My brother is one of the finest organists in Liverpool.
“One day I was picked to play a comedy role. The manager said, ‘You are a singer, not a comedian.’ I said, ‘Yes, but I am not tall enough to play the parts I should want to, so I prefer to qualify as a comedian,’ and I have been playing the comedy roles ever since.
“Before I went on the stage I had studied singing for ten years with my brother, and it is to that thorough training I attribute much of my success. My brother used to make me practise the scales on the finals of words ‘ed,’ ‘ent;’ and that kind of thing. Therefore it came quite natural for me to give attention to the endings of words, and so I could rattle off patter songs distinctly. And I enjoy quite a little reputation for my patter songs.”
Mr. Workman is so keen and enthusiastic about his work, and views it in such an impartial, outside sort of way, that he is one of the few who can talk “shop” and make it interesting to the outsider. There is not a bit of side or affectation about him. He tells of the years he was with the D'Oyley Carte [sic] Opera Company, playing Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and the wonderful experience it was, as Gilbert was such a splendid producer.
“That must have been splendid training.”
“The very best,” he emphatically affirms.
“Look at—” And he instances a string of names of English artists who have gone from Gilbert and Sullivan to the dramatic stage, and are now at the top of the tree. “They were all Savoyards.” (The Savoy Theatre, it must be remembered, was the home of Gilbert and Sullivan opera.)
“Gilbert knew so well what he wanted, and he was a martinet. He saw the whole thing mentally, and would have it done exactly that way. He would explain his views and tell you how he wanted it done. You might have your own ideas, but it was no good; they had to go. I have seen him go over a part again and again, trying to get just the effect he desired. You might explain your idea, and he would listen. He would watch you give a part your way, then he would say: ‘Yes, I have no doubt you would make a great success for yourself that way, but it is out of the picture. You can't see it from the front; I can. Now will you try it for the success of the whole, not the individual.’ And he was right; for that is the way to work together, and in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas the one part is so connected with and dependent upon others that they must be played for the whole ensemble, not for individual success.
“We were not allowed to alter or add to anything; not to change a word. The text was there, and we had to stick to it. Sometimes on special occasions it was a great temptation to do so, as when we appeared at Oxford, and it would have been so easy to localise it. There were certain changes we had permission to make, but gags of any kind or alteration were not allowed. I believe they permit changes from the text here, and in America they take great liberties. In one company they played Koko as a low-class Jew all through. Fancy a Jewish Lord High Executioner!
“For my part I can never understand why comedians want to do that kind of thing—to meddle and put in much outside matter, and to gag. You are given a part, and it is your task to make the best of it, and build it up, but not to alter it. To introduce local gags and to have jokes with or about certain members of the audience is apt to become tedious to many.
“It is to this I attribute the falling-off of the London Follies. They were settled in a good theatre, had only a small company, and a double piano, so no orchestra to pay, and yet got the same prices as the theatres who had to employ huge staffs to stage big productions. For years they did splendidly. But if there were anyone among the audience—if I went for instance—they would gag about me, play scraps of my songs—‘Tit Willow,’ say—and that kind of thing. Funny, perhaps, for those who were in the joke; but others would wonder what was the joke and what they were laughing at. There is always a large section of the audience who do not see the application in such instances, and are bored and become impatient.
“The first thing I do when I receive a part is to get into it. I must realise it or I cannot play it. I take a tremendous interest in everything about my work. I first think the whole part out. Then I begin to consider how a man of that kind would act, under the same circumstances. Then I try to work the whole thing out on the lines of a man of that type would think under the same given circumstances. If I do not, I cannot feel the part, and I must feel it before I can act it.”
Mr. Workman goes on to tell how he went into management for himself. I produced Gilbert’s last play, ‘Fallen Fairies’, which was set to music by Edward German.
“It is beautiful; the music is delightful, for German was so elated at being associated with Gilbert that he excelled himself. It was a failure, yet it should have been a success. But we were hampered in several ways. Gilbert insisted upon giving the principal part to his adopted daughter, and she was not suited to it; she had no experience and had not the voice. Gilbert said the part had been written for her, and she must play it. So it was doomed from the first. This role had been built up at the expense of others. We were so hampered by various restrictions that we could do nothing, and after some weeks we had to withdraw it and it has never since been produced.
This managerial flight seemed doomed, for just as they were beginning to make money with a second production the death of King Edward put a stop to all theatrical enterprises. Since then Mr. Workman has been appearing, and with great success, for other people. He is a man of several interests, for besides gardening, performing odd jobs, and model building, he is something of a book man. Not only is he a reader but a collector of books and is forming a library.
“There are lovely old shops in London where all kinds of books can be picked up, and it is most interesting to visit them,” is one of his remarks.
Asked if he collects old editions, he says with a smile “When we can afford them we get them, for I like the old editions; but they are not always obtainable.” This is on the way out, and then it is “good-bye.”
Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 November 1914, p.21, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146329434
C.H. Workman as ‘Lutin’, Australian Claude Flemming as ‘Sir Ethais’ with Nancy MacIntosh (Gilbert’s adopted daughter) as ‘Selene’, the Fairy Queen and Jessie Rose as the fairy ‘Zayda’, Fallen Fairies at the Savoy Theatre in 1909.
Sir W.S. Gilbert discusses Fallen Fairies with C.H. Workman and Edward German at the Savoy Theatre, 1909.
An equally candid confession by Charles Workman also appeared in the pages of Melbourne’s Public Opinion on the same day.
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THE PLAY AND THE PLAYERS
“I was told so much about the critical attitude of Melbourne audiences at first performances,” said C.H. Workman, the famous comedian of “The Girl in the Taxi,” “that I positively perspired with nervousness the whole of the evening.” Mr. Workman was referring to his first appearance in “The Girl in the Taxi” at Her Majesty's. “It is a positive fact that every time I came off the stage I had to put on more make-up. In fact, I made up about six times that evening. However, I was agreeably surprised. I don't think Melbourne audiences are so terrible after all.”
Public Opinion (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 November 1914, p. 7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153583692
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In a patriotic gesture the daily newspaper advertisements for the J.C. Williamson attractions playing at the Theatre Royal (Within the Law starring Muriel Starr) and The Girl in the Taxi at Her Majesty’s were preceded by the announcement: ‘NOTICE—Members of the Expeditionary Forces, in uniform, will be admitted at half-price to any performance, except on Saturdays and holidays.’
The usual round of theatrical gossip and trivia published by the Melbourne Herald on 11 November also included some sobering reminders that, while the theatre continued to flourish Downunder, in London the picture was not so rosy for the members of the theatrical profession who were experiencing the immediate effects of the war in Europe.
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IN THE PROMPTER’S BOX
Mr Field Fisher, of “The Girl in the Taxi,” for years worked in London as a black and white artist. For five years he was associated with the Harmsworth firm; a good deal of his work going into its weekly and monthly papers. His animal drawings for children, under the title of “Jungle Jinks,” made a big name for him. He has also done some color work, a number of the cover designs of London magazines having been painted by him. His designs in the form of theatrical posters still figure prominently on London hoardings.
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In the London production, of “The Chocolate Soldier” Mr. C.H. Workman, now with “The Girl in the Taxi” company, played Bumerli to the Nadina of thirteen different actresses. Melbourne has had four [sic] Nadinas—Miss Winifred O'Connor, Miss Florence Young, and Miss Amy Murphy—and those familiar with the vocal score of Straus's opera will understand that in the course of a long run the physical strain on an actress playing the part must be great. It is generally considered that Miss Constance Drever was the most satisfactory of the London interpreters of the role of Colonel Poppoff’s daughter. Miss Drever is now at the front, as a nurse.
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In a letter received by Mr. George Musgrove from Mr Harcourt Beatty, at present in London, the actor writes:—“Business here all to blazes on account of the war. Mr. Wu still hangs along, but we are playing to one-third salaries, as are all the other theatres. I go to Oscar Asche for the new production at the Globe. The only white man in the play is my part, all the rest being Zulus. My salary on paper is a good one, but, of course, now heaven only knows what it will be reduced to. However, I am very lucky to be with a management which carries on and does not throw its employees out of work. In the first week of the financial panic I offered to play for nothing so that the theatre should not be closed. To many supers, stage hands, attendants, dressers, and others unemployment would mean starvation. Would you believe it? I was unpopular with some of my brother actors for suggesting this. I am afraid the modern actor does not appeal to me—no Bohemianism left. A pity, I think. You will be glad to know that I am now a special constable, No. 155, C division, and I go on duty at 2 a.m. till 6 a.m. I have a rotten beat, guarding the power-house in West street, not far from the Shaftesbury Theatre. The police are afraid of the Germans attacking with bombs or other explosives and placing London in darkness. I am also putting my name down in the National Reserve, as I was a volunteer many years ago, and therefore eligible. Who knows, I may get to the front yet if we lose enough men. At present I am nine years too old, but I’m hoping they will take them all ages before long.”
The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 November 1914, p.1, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242276258
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Later that week the Press reported the following news item in the various Entertainment columns.
* * * * * *
The Drama, &c.
There is still another change in the cast of the forthcoming pantomime, Cinderella, to be staged in Melbourne. Dorothy Brunton, who was selected as principal girl, has fitted so admirably into the part of Jacqueline in The Girl in the Taxi that it has been decided to retain her in the role. Such a clever little musical comedy artist would be hard to replace in a company of the high standard that characterises The Girl in a Taxi company. The Williamson firm has, therefore, engaged for the part of Cinderella the popular young Australian, Miss Dolly Castles, who will sail from America this week. Miss Castles, by popular vote, was recently acclaimed one of the six most beautiful actresses in America.
Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 14 November 1914, p.36, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92041938
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As Charles A. Wenman was the producer of both productions for Williamson’s, it was an indication of the worth of Dot to the New English Musical Comedy Company.
On the same day, the following tongue-in-cheek testimonials enlivened the Amusements page of the daily newspapers.
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A CURE FOR THE MOST OBSTINATE CASE -
“THE GIRL IN THE TAXI”
COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH COMPANY.
Of hundreds of testimonials received, only one comes from a man with a grievance. He writes:–“I visited ‘THE GIRL IN THE TAXI’ the other night, and am now suffering from a split lip and aching sides.”
Here are a few others:–“For five years I have been on crutches. I went to ‘THE GIRL IN THE TAXI,’ and on leaving the theatre threw my crutches away. I can now tango.”
“The lady I love wouldn’t marry me. Last night I took her to ‘THE GIRL IN THE TAXI.’ In the first act she crumpled my shirt-front; in the second she buckled my collar; in the third act she proposed to me.”
“For four years I have been known as the man that never laughed. A friend took me to ‘THE GIRL IN THE TAXI.’ Since then I have been mistaken for Sir Alexander Peacock.”
One more:– “I once had to leave home because my wife wanted to sing. We went to ‘THE GIRL IN THE TAXI’ last night. This morning I sold the canary.”
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[N.B. Sir Alexander Peacock was the Premier of Victoria at the time, appointed in June 1914 as leader of the Liberal State Government, an office that he would fulfil for three separate terms during his political career. ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Peacock]
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The cast celebrated another milestone when Saturday, 21 November was designated ‘Centenary night’—the 100th performance in Australia of The Girl in the Taxi. The Age reported on the following Monday morning: ‘Judging by the enthusiasm of the audience, and the spirit and vim the artists put into their work, it might have been the first night of the production.’ (23 November 1914, p.11, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190676574 )
However Paul Plunket and Field Fisher were not the only cast members to fall victim to minor mishaps during the run of the show, as Charles Workman, too, fell foul of a Melbourne cable tram (at the time the city could boast the largest cable tram network in the world, surpassing that of San Francisco, and even today remains the home of the world’s largest electric tram network).
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THE PLAY AND THE PLAYERS
A slip while boarding a tram, and a sprained ankle as the result, kept Mr. C.H. Workman from playing Pomarel in “The Girl in the Taxi,” at Her Majesty's for some nights. He is now back again, brisker and merrier than ever.
Public Opinion (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 December 1914, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153583401
Cable trams in Swanston Street pass the Melbourne Town Hall, c.1910.
The Girl in the Taxi continued on her merry way playing to packed houses at Her Majesty’s for its allotted seven-week season, which concluded on Saturday, 12 December in order to make way for the technical and dress rehearsals of J.C. Williamson’s traditional Christmas—New Year pantomime, the aforementioned Cinderella, which was due to commence its run at the theatre the following Saturday evening on 19 December.
Although it had ‘missed the cab’, as far as the current Melbourne season of The Girl in the Taxi was concerned, an interesting item of theatrical trivia appeared in the columns of the Melbourne Herald later that week.
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IN THE PROMPTER’S BOX
Mr C.H. Workman, who is playing Pomarel in “The Girl in the Taxi,” made a big hit with a deft little touch when he was playing Ko Ko in “The Mikado” at the London Savoy. Tettrazini was appearing in London at the time, and the famous singer used to bring down the house by lifting her voice to F in alt at the end of her song and calmly walk off the stage fanning herself, as if the achievement were a mere trifle. Workman, with the consent of Sir W.S. Gilbert, decided to emulate the prima donna. He finished up his “Tit Willow” song with a high falsetto note, and toddled off the stage leisurely fanning himself, while the audience shrieked with laughter.
The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 16 December 1914, p.1, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242266066
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Workman’s parody of Tettrazini, in fact, was further elaborated with the interpolation of a cadenza sung in falsetto with which he concluded his rendition of the song and this was preserved in his 1910 Odeon recording of “Tit Willow”.
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Unscripted real-life romance had also come to the show’s leading lady during her sojourn in the Southern capital.
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MISS MAGGIE JARVIS MARRIED.
Miss Margaret (Maggie) Jarvis, leading lady of the J.C. Williamson Ltd. Girl in the Taxi Company, was on [last] Saturday afternoon [12 December] married to Mr. Thomas S. Reynolds, of the firm of Messrs. W. Reynolds and Sons, wholesale meat merchants and exporters. The ceremony was performed by Rev. J.H. Allen, at St. John's Church of England, Toorak. Mr. Claude Grice, the well-known amateur cross-country horseman, who rode Mr. Reynolds's Swedish Lad on seven successive occasions during the winter and spring meetings, acted as best man. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds left Melbourne [last Sunday] morning on a motor tour of Victoria and New South Wales.
The Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 19 December 1914, p.41
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Further details of the happy couple’s whirlwind courtship emerged during their honeymoon stay at the Australia Hotel in Sydney later that month.
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AN IDLE WOMAN’S DIARY
SYDNEY, December 23.
A good advertisement for the Australian treatment of imported actresses is Miss Maggie Jarvis (“The Girl in the Taxi”). When she was in Melbourne recently, she met Mr. Thomas Reynolds, and they were married last week. It all fits in very well, and quite like a story book. Miss Jarvis was imported as leading lady at £20 a week. When the “Girl on the Film” was to be produced, she was offered the second part. Of course, she couldn’t think of accepting it, so she accepted Mr. Reynolds, who has three stations and five motor cars (or his family has). He is only 27, and they are both tremendously in love. Mrs. Reynolds has retired from the stage, and appeared at Saturday's races in a pretty white frock. Her young brother has secured a position on Mr. Norman Falkiner's station.
National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 28 December 1914, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article157930170
[N.B. A salary of £20 per week in 1914 would be equivalent to around A$2,363 per week today.]
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Maggie Jarvis’s departure from the New English Musical Comedy Company indicated a big break for Melbourne’s own Dorothy Brunton. After years of playing secondary and supporting characters for J.C. Williamson’s, principally as a member of the Royal Comic Opera Company, she was at last entrusted with creating a lead role—the eponymous heroine of The Girl on the Film, to star opposite Charles Workman as lead comedian under the direction of the musical’s original English producer, Harry B. Burcher, formerly of London’s Gaiety Theatre.
While continuing to perform at night and at matinees during the final weeks of the run of The Girl in the Taxi in Melbourne the company members had already commenced rehearsals for the new production scheduled to receive its Australian premiere in Sydney on 19 December 1914. Musical preparations for the show had also begun under Musical Director, Andrew MacCunn, who had arrived in Melbourne to take over the conductor's chair from Victor Champion for The Girl in the Taxi on 28 November. (In addition to serving as Musical Director for the up-coming Cinderella, Champion was also responsible for composing the pantomime’s ballets and incidental music.) Andrew’s elder brother, the Scottish composer, Hamish MacCunn had been the Musical Director for Charles Workman’s production of Fallen Fairies at the Savoy Theatre in 1909.
Amongst additional cast members arriving in Melbourne to begin rehearsals for The Girl on the Film were ballet dancers, Victor Lauschmann and Vlasta Novotna. Laushmann and Novotna had originally come to Australia in June 1913 as members of the Imperial Russian Ballet headed by Danish-born, Adeline Geneé, but had stayed on to perform in a number of JCW pantomimes, musicals and operettas, including Franz Lehár’s Gipsy Love, in which they had created a sensation dancing the “Ilona Tango” (an interpolated dance number composed by Andrew MacCunn). The Melbourne season of the Lehár operetta staged by Williamson’s Royal Comic Opera Company (under the baton of MacCunn) at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 5 September to mid-October 1914 was followed by a one-week run of Princess Caprice (in which Laushmann and Novotna also featured), and the Company then moved onto Adelaide for a season at the Theatre Royal. The conclusion of the “Royal” repertory season in Adelaide on 10 November left the dancers free to transfer to The Girl in the Taxi company in Melbourne, where they performed an interpolated “Dance Parisienne” in the Act 2 Restaurant scene as an added attraction for the closing two weeks of the run.
Sheet music cover featuring Russian ballet dancers Vlasta Novotna and Victor Laushmann. Photo by Monte Luke.
National Library of Australia, https://nla.gov.au:443/tarkine/nla.obj-169994027
Scots-born Musical Director—Andrew MacCunn.
Lady Tait collection, National Library of Australia, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-148758663/view
An additional novelty to be featured in the production of The Girl on the Film was the incorporation of actual film footage to be shown during the course of the stage show, for which the cast assembled in costume at J.C. Williamson’s movie studio on the corner of Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets (the site of the present day Comedy Theatre) to enact their film scenes for the moving-picture camera on Saturday, 7 December—an historic occasion documented by a series of photographs published in the Melbourne Punch on the following Thursday.
On Saturday morning last, on the historic sight of the old “Iron Pot” Theatre of Melbourne’s early days, opposite Her Majesty’s, an interesting scene was enacted. It was a stage scene off the stage. For the forthcoming production of “The Girl on the Film,” soon to be staged in Sydney, a film was taken, which is to be shown in the play. Surrounded by an interested crowd, the actors and actresses went through their parts, not under the limelight, but in the broad light of day, while the operator turned the handle, and the producer (Mr. Harry B. Burcher) shouted instructions to the artists. Mr. Burcher, who staged “The Girl on the Film” in England and America, was fourteen years stage manager in London to Mr. George Edwardes’s companies. Photos by Allans Studios.
Punch, (Melbourne, Vic.), 10 December 1914, p.21, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page13430946
To be continued …
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Mr. Harry B. Burcher, for nine years principal stage manager of the Gaiety Theatre, London has arrived in Sydney under contract to the J.C. Williamson management. He was engaged in London by Mr. Hugh J. Ward, having just returned from New York, where he staged “The Girl on the Film.” At the time he was induced to come to Australia he had a contract in his pocket to produce “Potash and Perlmutter” in London. However, he got a release from the latter undertaking. Under instructions from Mr. Ward, Mr. Burcher visited New York and saw all the plays that the Williamson management have secured for Australia. Of these “High Jinks” running at the Casino, particularly appealed to him. “It is chock full of good numbers” he says, “and has movement and comedy from the curtain rise to curtain fall.” “High Jinks” had then been running seven months. Of course he saw “Potash and Perlmutter.” He had seen it when previously in New York. “But it is one of those productions you can see again and again. Some of the lines have comedy and pathos so intermingled that you smile and gulp at the same time.” “The Yellow Ticket”, was also to him an arresting play. “It is powerful to a degree,” he says, “owing to the way in which it keeps close to life.” Mr. Burcher was the original Gibson man in “The Belle of Mayfair” in New York. In addition to stage managing the Gaiety, he understudied George Grossmith Jun. at the theatre and Joseph Coyne at Daly’s. He has on many occasions appeared for one or other of the two popular comedians.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 10 June 1914, p.17, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15514839
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GILBERT AND SULLIVAN MEMOIRS.
New Book Reviewed by a Savoyard.
C. H. Workman, the London comedian appearing as Pomarel in “The Girl in the Taxi,” is a distinguished Gilbert and Sullivan artist. Sir William Gilbert, in a public speech, referred to his performance of Jack Point as being of “the finest and most delicate finish.” Compliments from Sir William were rare. “The Theatre” asked Mr. Workman for an article upon the Savoy. He has complied with a very readable contribution.
As I was leaving England a messenger hurried up the gangway of the Orontes with a parcel and a note. The latter explained the former. It was from Cunningham Bridgeman saying that he was sending me the first book from the press, a copy of “Gilbert. Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte,” a volume of “reminiscences of the Savoy and Savoyards” by the late Francois Cellier and himself. Mr. Bridgeman apologised for the pages being uncut. “If I had had them cut,” my friend wrote, “the volume would have missed the boat.”
Very pleasant reading the book proved on the voyage [to Australia], reviving many delightful memories of my associations with the great librettist and composer of the inimitable Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
A Strenuous Day.
For fifteen years I was appearing in Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and was in the big revival season at the Savoy. I well remember the wind-up of the series. We started at four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. We did the first act of “The Yeoman of the Guard,” the second act of “The Gondoliers,” the second act of “Patience,” the second act of “The Mikado,” and the first act of “lolanthe.” My parts for the day were Jack Point, the Duke of Plaza Toro, Bunthorne, Ko-Ko, and the Lord Chancellor.
It will be recalled that at about this time Prince Fushimi visited London. His being a member of Japanese royalty caused a ban to be put on “The Mikado.” This was removed in time for us to include the second act at the performance I have mentioned. When “The Mikado” music was struck up by the orchestra the Savoy audience
cheered and cheered. That was a great day.
A Mythical Mikado.
I find Cunningham Bridgeman in the volume I set out to review failing to find in Gilbert's portrait of the Mikado any sovereign potentate “from the Emperor Jimmu, founder of the Empire, down to the present dynasty, or Meiji Period, who could by the greatest stretch of imagination be taken for the Mikado to whom we are presented in the Town of Titipu.”
Let me quote from Bridgeman's pages a recollection on this point:
One of the first observations made by Sullivan after reading the libretto in the rough, was that he was rather surprised to find that the author had not made use of the distinctive class of titles of old Japan, such as, for instance, “The Shoguns.” Gilbert’s reply was, “My dear fellow, I agree with you. Some of those names were very funny; in fact, so ear-tickling as to invite excruciating rhymes. But when I found that the aristocracy of Old Japan were called “Samurais” I paused. Supposing I wanted to introduce the Samurais in verse, the obvious rhyme would have seriously offended those good gentlemen who worship their ancestors.”
It is necessary to say that the obvious rhyme is “D— your eyes”? Bridgeman didn’t think so.
There is a passing historical note on Japan that is interesting in these days when nation is ranged against nation. The last decades of the nineteenth century, we are reminded, marked the full awakening of Japan. In 1857 Queen Victoria had sent the Emperor a present of a warship, following on which the Emperor assented to his subjects visiting England for the purpose of studying western civilisation. How swiftly events have moved since then! Japan, when “The Mikado” was written, was a comic opera country. Now it is a world power. It defeated Russia on land and sea. The gift warship has grown into one of the great modern navies, and to-day it is protecting British commerce in the seas of the Orient.
Another interesting note—this time theatrical history—is that the queue system was first introduced into London in the early days of the Savoy regime. D'Oyly Carte's judgement in this was very much questioned at the time. “The public,” it was vowed, “will never stand being marshalled and driven like a flock of sheep to their pens.” Patrons of the Savoy, however, did not look upon the innovation in that light. They regarded it as a convenience. D'Oyly Carte, also, was the first manager to have the thoughtfulness to refresh the waiting crowds with tea and cake on first nights.
Savoy First Nights.
These premieres were anxious times. Their consistent success is explained by the evidence of the great care expended upon them. I have personally had experience of both Gilbert and Sullivan at rehearsals. Nothing was ever left to chance. Both the librettist and the composer satisfied themselves on all points before a production went to the public. It has been said that never before or since have collaborators so taken matters into their own hands. Others have argued that were this possible with them, similar success would have been theirs. But Gilbert and Sullivan were able to command the situation, and to retain it. They worked from one success to another, and were never “satisfied by the luxury of attainment.”
D'Oyly Carte was the first to arrive at the theatre on a first night. Long before the doors opened he went through the house peeping into every corner, overlooking nothing. The head of every department was visited by him, and inquiry made whether everything was all right. Sullivan also appeared well before the public were admitted. He would kill half-an-hour in the band-room with the musicians, cracking jokes. Gilbert's “nervous devices for killing nervousness” are also recorded. He is described as inspecting the stage set, passing a joke with the stage carpenter, and then knocking at the door of the prima donna's dressing-room, to ask. “All right, my dear?” The lady, in reply, shouts. “Oh, is that you Mr. Gilbert? I wanted to ask you if you would mind if I—” “My dear girl,” he anticipates, “do just whatever you like. I don't mind. The rehearsals are over, and I am now at your mercy!” Then he would pass on to Grossmith and Barrington, and afterwards disappear through the stage-door and stroll on the Victoria Embankment.
I must say I personally found great difficulty in ever getting any stage business that occurred to me incorporated in a performance. The only way I ever succeeded was by saying that at some previous rehearsal Gilbert had suggested it himself. Gilbert would say that he didn't remember it; but the idea that it originated with him always got it a friendly hearing. The fact of it not being his own idea, however, was absolutely fatal to a suggestion. The public were as exacting as Gilbert in this matter. They knew the operas so well that they resented any departure from tradition. I recall Gilbert altering some lines in “The Yeoman of the Guard” for one of the revivals. It fell to my lot to speak them, and in several towns letters were written to the newspapers protesting against the unwarranted liberty I had taken with the librettist's text. At Leeds I broke a long-established rule, and went into print in answer to one of these letters. I simply stated the facts. Next day the outraged correspondent answered by saying it was like Gilbert's impertinence to alter his original work.
Gilbert was a martinet. I produced his “Fallen Fairies,” and he insisted against all reason in allotting an important role to a lady who was totally unsuited to play it. After a few nights I managed to bring about a change. In doing this I restored a song that had been “cut” on account of the inability of Gilbert's nominee to sing it. When he saw in the press that the song had been sung he wired prohibiting a repetition of this. Accordingly I put up a fortnight's notice to the company. It was bluff on my part; but it had the desired effect. Gilbert wrote that rather than throw a number of people out of work the song could be sung. He made the stipulation, however, that his consent should be published in the programme. Thus in his own opera his own song was announced as being given by permission of himself.
Sullivan was the most charming of men. With him it was anything for a quiet life. His tact and good nature, however, were not sufficient to avert trouble in the triumvirate. Gilbert, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte had given the public ten delightful operas when the split occurred. It was over a carpet! Let Mr. Bridgeman tell the story:
It appears that D’Oyly Carte, as duly authorised business manager of the firm, conceived it to be, not only polite, but right and proper, to minister to the comfort of clients through whose patronage and support their business had thrived so remarkably. Accordingly Mr. Carte purchased, amongst sundry other items of furniture for renewal and repair of the theatre, a carpet. The carpet, et cetera, were in the usual course charged to the joint account. Sir Arthur Sullivan, on his part, raised no objection to the outlay, and for the sake of peace did his utmost to persuade Mr. Gilbert to take a similar view of the matter. But Mr. Gilbert remained obdurate in his opposition to such lavish expenditure. He was of the opinion that a new carpet, costing £140, would not draw an extra sixpence into the exchequer that the theatre was so crowded nightly that no one could possibly tell or care a jot how the floor was covered. Mr. Gilbert thought it a sheer waste of money. He was then politely reminded that by the terms of their partnership agreement, he had no voice in the matter. Whereupon our author waxed exceedingly wrath, went to law against his old friends and comrades, and parted company with the Savoyards.
After a few years of estrangement the composer and librettist were brought together again, and united in the production of “Utopia, Ltd.” but they never succeeded in capturing the public with any subsequent operas. In 1900 Sullivan passed away, and three years later his collaborator wrote to Francois Cellier, “A Gilbert is of no use without a Sullivan, and I can't find one!”
C. H. WORKMAN.
The Theatre Magazine (Sydney, NSW), 1 September 1914, pp.8–9.
Ralph Marsden, ‘Melbourne’s Forgotten Movie Studio’, On Stage, vol. 10, no. 2, Autumn 2009, pp.1- 6, https://theatreheritage.org.au/images/OnStage/backissues/2009-2.pdf
Robert Morrison, ‘Fallen Fairies: the controversy surrounding Gilbert’s last opera’, Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, https://gsarchive.net/gilbert/plays/fallen_fairies/article.html
Frank Van Straten, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne: the shows, the stars, the stories, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Kew, 2018
The players made their way to the wings with eager anticipation, butterflies in their stomach, the smell of greasepaint in their nostrils and the faint murmur of the audience on the other side of the plush velvet curtain in whose hands their ultimate fate would rest. Would the show prove to be a “hit”, providing months of employment to come, or a fast and feeble flop? (Certainly, it had been a “hit” in the West End, but the English players had been told that Colonial audiences had their own individual tastes and could be hard to please!)
The last notes of the Overture finally faded away, the footlights faded up and the curtain rose on the Australian premiere of The Girl in the Taxi at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney on the evening of Saturday, 8 August 1914 …
Part of the auditorium of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, 1903.
Mitchell Library, Sydney from Dictionary of the Australian Theatre 1788-1914, Eric Irvin, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1985.
Musical Director, Victor Champion. Photo by Burlington Studios.
State Library of Victoria, https://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/244552
Certainly, the audience loved the show—they had laughed in all the right places, they clapped and cheered and encored the songs and they gave a rousing reception to the company at the curtain calls—but what would the critics think?
It was only a few hours wait to find out the Sunday paper drama critics’ verdict, but a full day’s wait until the respective daily paper’s appointed scribes delivered their opinions in the Monday morning and evening editions.
“GIRL IN THE TAXI.”
A MUSICAL FARCE.
“The Girl in the Taxi”, (who was always out of it!) enjoyed a first night of uproarious laughter at Her Majesty's Theatre on Saturday and may be summed up as a farcical comedy of the old French school, with musical numbers. Jean Gilbert's music is of the lightest character, often piquantly scored, and with at least one captivating valse air, and it presents another vital melody, “Suzanne”, likely to be whistled and hummed all over the town.
However, in the main “the plays the thing.” This is by George Okonkowski, and has been adapted by Frederick Fenn and Arthur Wimperis without much deviation, one may reasonably suppose, from the original. In spite of the author's name, the dramatic scheme is of that essentially French character formerly known as a “Palais Royal" farce, and identified on our stage with such pieces as “Pink Dominoes” and “A Night Out.”
The new J.C. Williamson Company formed for “The Girl In the Taxi” proved strong in comedians, and Mr. C.H. Workman as a frisky scent manufacturer. Mr. W.H. Rawlins as the hypocritical Baron Dauvray, Messrs. Field Fisher (transferred from “Gipsy Love”) and Chris. Wren as waiters, and Messrs. Fred. Maguire and Paul Plunket in juvenile light comedy, were included in a septette of fun makers, amongst whom Miss Maggie Jarvis, a bright soubrette with a small, light soprano voice, was also successfully prominent. Except in the case of Miss Jarvis, the new piece affords few vocal opportunities, and the other imported “English ladles” are not singers, merely moving easily through parts that they fail to stamp with any particular individuality. All the same, the cast was sufficiently well formed for the work in hand, and the crowded house revelled in the nonsensical complications of the plot, laughter and applause being the rule of the evening.
The curtain rose upon the Baroness Dauvray's spacious reception-room in Paris, with sienna-marbled wall paper in black-bordered panels (a mid-Victorian “outrage”, which is possibly coming in again), a view of a garden with its fountain and lawns outside, and a harmonious full chorus confidently rendered under Mr. Victor Champion’s baton.
Baron Dauvray is the hero of the moment as a newly-elected Academician, the result of his researches in “Heredity”, and the family circle includes the gentle unsuspecting Baroness, Jacqueline, their daughter, in love with Lieut. Rene, and their son Hubert, whose allowance is five shillings a week, so that, after paying his laundry bills, he has but sixpence left for wine, women, and song!
Rene, a dashing young officer in a grey coat, silver epaulettes, and cherry-coloured trousers, is stigmatised by the faultless Baron as “a girl snatcher”, and the supposed scientist refuses to recognise any engagement, because, under the law of heredity, it would be “like grafting a wild oat upon a Lily of the Valley”, nor does he want a weed in his family garden, nor will he accept Rene’s suggestion that a rake might be useful in it! Into this Parisian circle Is suddenly precipitated M. and Mme. (Suzanne) Pomarel. Pomarel, a scent manufacturer from a country centre, where he is also a militia colonel, has arrived on purpose to thank Dauvray for adjudicating the “First Provincial Prize for Virtue” to his pretty Suzanne, noted also as founder of the Rescue Club for Grass Widows. Now, Suzanne was formerly Rene’s flame, and immediately coaxes him to take her to the gay Jeunesse Doree restaurant, but he persuades the joyous Hubert to take his place; and he also playfully bullies Dauvray into agreeing that if he can detect him in a single peccadillo he will immediately consent to Jacqueline's marriage. Undeterred by this agreement, old Dauvray flourishes an electric torch after midnight in the dark and empty reception-room en route to the restaurant. Good-night music, with tender strains for oboe and flute and harp, charms the ear, whilst electric lights—like will-o’-the-wisps flash about the darkened room. Soon the flute plays a merry, mischievous, school-boy tune, and the lieutenant with Jacqueline, and Hubert with a family picture he intends to pawn, pass out unconsciously in the steps of the gay old paterfamilias!
An imposing interior, in which a semicircular balcony of white leads down to a grand staircase to the restaurant, with curtained supper alcoves on either side, and everywhere luxurious carpets and draperies of "rose du Barry" tints, represented the splendidly-illuminated “Jeunesse Doree.” Amidst these gay surroundings many well worn, but still laughable, situations were presented, including the comic waiters, the lovers alarmed by recognising their elderly relatives, the tipsy husband in military uniform, who is so ludicrously in the way, the final police raid, and the meeting at breakfast next morning, when the new butler proves to be the head waiter of the previous night!
Mr. C.H. Workman, a comedian whose genial humour resembled that of George Giddens in “Are You a Mason?” drew cleverly the portrait of the dapper M. Pomarel, a foolish, doting husband, whose attempted embraces of his elusive little wife always ended in an absurd kiss on the shoulder of her latest costume! A quaint dance, entirely in character, brought forward the comedian with Miss Jarvis in the duet, “The Happy Marriage”, with its buoyant music and trills for flute; and his tipsy solemnity as a colonel in a preposterous uniform, topped by a scarlet feather all awry, kept the audience in convulsions of laughter. Miss Maggie Jarvis, as Suzanne, a plump and smiling English girl with a typical light soprano voice, small, sweet, vibrative, and with little variety of expression, acquitted herself with acceptance both as singer and as a bright and roguish actress. This artist was well placed with a clever light comedian in Mr. Fred Maguire (Hubert), and to whom fell one of the musical trifles which delighted the house, “Not too Fast, and not too Slow.” The “business” of the scene was neatly carried out, and the little melody of the duet was worthy of Offenbach. Miss Jarvis sung also the “Wine Song”, with its high range, harmonious choral entries, and valse refrain, and joined with Messrs. Rawlins, Maguire, and Plunket in the dashing melody of “Suzanne”, which was twice encored.
Mr. W.H. Rawlins played a character of central importance as Baron Dauvray, whose fatuous vanity, pompous hypocrisy, and jolly dog-ism when once “off the chain”, were amusingly shown. Mr. Paul Plunket, though awkward in his uniform, proved a gay and buoyant Rene, and used his light baritone with judgment and effect in the captivating valse-air and chorus, “Lilt that’s Lazy, and Dreamy, and Hazy.” His duet with Jacqueline revealed that his partner possessed very little voice, but Miss Gwen Hughes played the girlish role gracefully. Miss Vera Probyn presented on somewhat similar lines the part of Rose Charcot. Rose was the girl in the taxi when Baron Dauvray entered by the other door, and compromised upon the joint exclamation “My Cab, I believe”, with the gallant “Ours, I hope!" Miss Millie Engler, another colourless importation, was in character as the gentle baroness, and D.J. Williams’s evident experience enabled him to give passing interest to the character of Charcot.
Mr. Field Fisher made a hit as that melancholy philosopher and world-weary headwaiter, Alexis, and his pose of wounded dignity when recognised at the breakfast table next morning was worthy of a Secretary of State! Mr. Chris. Wren further increased the general hilarity as the second waiter, a sandy-haired little man with his mouth all on one side, wearing a shabby dress-suit, with trousers like a concertina! Mr. Wren has acrobatic tendencies, and unflinchingly endured a marvellous kick-out.
At the close of the evening Mr. Charles A. Wenman (producer) was called before the audience, and Miss Minnie Hooper (ballet mistress) was presented with flowers. Excellent work resulted from orchestra and chorus under Mr. Victor Champion, who opened with the “Marseillaise” and the National Anthem, in which the entire audience, standing throughout, heartily joined. This patriotic demonstration, with the ringing cheers at the end, was neatly carried out as if it had been rehearsed for weeks.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Monday, 10 August 1914, p.4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15528730
[Review written by Gerald Marr Thompson—music and theatre critic of The Sydney Morning Herald.]
Suzanne (Miss Jarvis) and Pomparel (Mr Workman).
Newspaper photo of the Two Waiters of the Jeunesse Doree.
Sun (Sydney), Sunday, 6 September 1914, p. 14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229860758
Producer, Charles A. Wenman, 1909. Photo by Burlington Studios.
State Library of Victoria, https://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/244552
‘Worshippers at the Shrine of Suzanne’ (Maggie Jarvis with Messrs. Rawlins, Plunket & Maguire).
Extracts from other Sydney newspaper reviews
SPARKLING COMEDY OF THE SUPPER CLASSES
MIRTH AND MELODY AT HER MAJESTY'S.
Girls in taxis and their escorts arrived in great strength to see and hear “The Girl in the Taxi,” which was successfully presented at Her Majesty's Theatre last night by a new J.C. Williamson Company, headed by English principals for the first time in Australia. Instead of the war keeping people away, there seemed to be even more than the usual first-night audience, and a great many had to stand.
The play is exceptionally well furnished on the comedy side. “Does she belong to the upper classes?” is the question asked concerning the principal female character. “Well, no”, is the reply; “rather what you'd call the supper classes.” That certainly describes the persons of the chief part of the play, which passes in a gilded cafe.
… In the restaurant scene, where all the trouble occurred, one of the waiters remarks, most truly: “I suppose you take all these couples for husbands and wives? So they are—other people’s.” The girl in the taxi is one of the spouses in question. She is Professor Charcot’s pretty young wife, and she hails the same taxi as Baron Dauvray, a bald-headed old roue, who poses in the bosom of his family as a model of all the virtues. The Baron enters a taxi at one door and the lady at the other. He says: “My cab, I believe.” She says: “Mine, I think.” Then the Baron says: “Ours, I hope.” They go off together to the Restaurant Jeunesse Doree.
… The Baron is well-known at the Jeunesse Doree. He is always accompanied by a niece. And none of them know uncle's name. The waiter says of him that he is in the same box. He generally calls his niece ‘Marie’ with the soup, ‘Fifine’ with the fish, ‘Tu-tu’ with the entree, and ‘Darling’ with the liqueurs.
… Among the new play's many claims to popularity are its musical appeal, its sumptuous staging and dressing, its bevies of gaily-attired pretty girls, and the novelty of a new company. The restaurant scene, with its wide central stairway, semi-circular balcony, and cosy supper-rooms, is a finely-designed set, and the spectacle it presents when crowded with spangled revellers is animated and pleasing to the eye. There are many tuneful musical numbers. Two will be whistled everywhere—the waltz (‘Lilt that’s mazy and dreamy and hazy’) and ‘Suzanne, Suzanne, we love you to a man.’ They are the plums. The melodious score is by Jean Gilbert, the production by Charles Wenman, and the ballets by Miss Minnie Hooper. The book abounds in bright play on words.—N.L.
Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p.4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126761983
‘The wife of one of them. But the question is which?’ (C.H. Workman and Fred Maguire).
Dance at the Jeunesse Doree Restaurant.
BRIGHT MUSICAL COMEDY
As regards the principals. Mr. C.H. Workman, as M. Pomarel, claims first mention because of his fine comedy powers, and the possession of a voice which well fits the requirements of such music as he has to sing. In Mr. W.H. Rawlings, who plays the Baron on broad comedy lines, he has a good second. The work of Mr. Maguire as Hubert, the son, is also of right good quality. Miss Maggie Jarvis, a beauty musical comedy actress, looking quite ravishing in her dainty frock of silver grey touched with pale pink, fills the role of Suzanne with outstanding distinction, and vocally gives evidence of a small, sweet voice, which she has the good sense not to force beyond its natural capabilities. Miss Hughes is also entitled to favorable mention for her treatment of the role of Jacqueline. Willie Mr. Plunket is a sufficiently gallant and handsome young lieutenant without making the very best on all occasions of his opportunities. Mr. Fisher, as the head waiter, has capital scope for his sound comedy powers, and in the role of the second waiter, Mr. Chris Wren is discovered as a pocket comedian, the like of whom we have not seen in Sydney for some considerable time; indeed he supplies some of the very finest work of the piece.
Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p.4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229852169
‘The late Head Waiter of the Jeunesse Dore Restaurant appears in the house of Baron Dauvray and causes consternation’ (standing—Field Fisher and Millie Engler, crouching—Fred Maguire, W.H. Rawlins and Paul Plunket).
Scenic photos from The Australasian (Melbourne), 24 October 1914, p.vi, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page15099242
While the plot of the show came in for some trenchant criticism from the reviewer for the weekly Bulletin, he none-the-less praised most of the principal cast members, including the soubrette and the lead comedian.
You can take “The Girl in the Taxi” in two ways. One is to approach it as though it were intended to uplift the playgoer in an ethical sense. It doesn’t uplift worth a cent. Everyone in the show is either wicked, or imperceptive to the point of idiocy, or both. Two of the characters want to get married; the chief aim of the others is apparently to get compromised. The heavy father frequents a Paris restaurant, filled with members of the half-world, and there meets his son, his daughter and her admirer, and most of their friends. They all lie vigorously to each other and to the incredibly dull Baroness (wife of the heavy father), who remains virtuously at home. Everyone embraces everyone else's wife, or tries to, and is discovered and is driven, in consequence to lie harder than ever. The erring father finds that his only son has the same dashing temperament as himself, and is the prouder and happier for it. He meets his daughter and the lover whom he had previously barred as a rake, at the Jeunesse Dorèe Restaurant, in the early hours of the morning, and the encounter impels him to agree to their engagement. The lady who had won a “virtue prize” is observed by her inebriated husband having supper with the Baron’s son, and is pursued by him (the husband) sword in hand, twice round the stage. This husband also causes the Baron and his son to be arrested for frivolity—all that the censor has left of the “flagrant délit” scene which probably figured in the original farce. If it were the sort of work that inculcates a Lesson, it would deal Morality a blow which the combined efforts of the Churches could never repair. As it is all palpably nonsensical as a pantomime, it does Morality no earthly harm, and makes those people laugh who have not seen every one of the situations exploited in other plays of the sort a thousand times before. These are the people to whom “The Girl in the Taxi” may appeal, and the right way for them to take it is laughing; for if they cannot laugh they will fume or openly curse, the music being thin, though melodious, and the acting poor, on the whole.
The stars are Miss Maggie Jarvis, who plays Susanne, the Virtue-Prizewinner, and C.H. Workman, who is Susanne's comic husband. She has much charm and grace, and her vibrant little voice is well suited to her numbers. He is a comedian with a personality, and Pomeral, in his hands, is an amusing, and almost human circumstance. W.H. Rawlins (Baron Dauvray) is an indifferent singer, but his unctuous humor has an allurement of its own. Fred Magnus [sic] plays the rôle of the Baron's 20-year-old son with a youthful zest, and Paul Plunket is a good looking lover with a fine baritone voice. Field Fisher and Chris Wren are a couple of preposterous waiters. Miss Gwen Hughes has nothing much to do but stand round and give an imitation of an affable virgin, which task she performs to perfection, looking perfectly lovely the while. There are several other characters of this sort—nebulous creations which float vaguely into the mind of the onlooker, and a little later vanish forever. The writer almost forgot in his haste (the same thing that David used when be said all men were liars) to mention that the address is Her Majesty’s, Sydney.
The Bulletin, (Sydney, NSW), Vol. 35, No. 1800, 13 August 1914, p.8, https://nla.gov.au:443/tarkine/nla.obj-656514464
Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 13 August 1914, p. 8.
Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 20 August 1914, p. 8.
Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 20 August 1914, p. 8.
The production successfully launched, public interest in the piece was maintained by the daily newspaper advertisements, the weekly round of “Green Room Gossip”, featured articles and items on the principal players in the weekly periodicals, plus garden parties, fêtes and social gatherings at which the players could mingle with a star-struck public eager to see their latest theatrical idols making such personal appearances. Charles Workman contributed to his fair share of keeping the cogs of the relentless publicity machine turning by providing a few nuggets to the weekly press of his past experiences with the redoubtable Sir W.S. Gilbert.
MEMORIES OF GILBERT
RECALLED BY C.H. WORKMAN.
Mr. C.H. Workman, who has so much of the fun-making to do in “The Girl in the Taxi,” was well acquainted with W.S. Gilbert, and did much of his early work in Gilbert and Sullivan plays. He has a host of Gilbert stories.
When Mr. Workman was playing Jack Point in “The Yeomen of the Guard”, he had to sing the trio with Elsie Maynard and Phoebe Meryll, and he introduced into it the kissing of each of the girls on alternate notes of the vocal shake.
“Don't you think, Mr. Workman”, said Gilbert, “that there is a little too much kissing?” “You'd cut it, then?” “No, I wouldn't, but I must ask you to!”
Mr. Workman produced on his own account one of the latest of the Gilbert pieces, “Fallen Fairies,” based on the same author's earlier “Wicked World.” When he went to visit Sir William and Lady Gilbert, and to make final arrangements about the play, he was telling Lady Gilbert some German stories, while Gilbert was writing at a desk in a corner of the room, and did not appear to be listening. One of the stories concerned the trombonist who found some new and strange symbol on his music, and after making a weird noise said: “I don't know vot it was, but I blayed it.” “As a matter of fact”, continued Mr. Workman, “it was a squashed fly.” Gilbert quietly interjected, “Are you sure, Workman, that it wasn't a bee flat?”
Gilbert was once mistaken by a short-sighted old gentleman at a club for one of the employees. “Call me a cab” he said, peremptorily. “You’re a four-wheeler”, said Gilbert. “What do you mean?” demanded the indignant citizen. “Well, I couldn't call you han’some!”
“Gilbert was rightly very strict about the introduction of new business”, says Mr. Workman, “and there can be no doubt that that is one of the main things that keep the plays so alive and enjoyable. He was such a master of all things connected with the stage, that his ideas could not possibly be improved upon once in a hundred times. If you could persuade him, however, that a new piece of business was his own idea, he would generally accept it if it were really good.”
Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p.15, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126761625
W.S.G. in 1893.
C.H. Workman, 1914. Photo by Monte Luke.
G.B.S. in 1904.
While the Sydney Sun published Workman’s recollections of the equally redoubtable George Bernard Shaw and thoughts on the then popular public craze for Ragtime music.
THEORY OF RAGTIME.
CHAT WITH C.H. WORKMAN.
A member of the Garrick Club, C.H. Workman, the distinguished London comedian appearing with The Girl in the Taxi, at Her Majesty’s, has met on intimate terms many London celebrities. “I went into management at the Savoy”, he said “and produced three musical plays—Fallen Fairies, The Mountaineers, and Two Merry Monarchs. They left the exchequer £14,000 on the wrong side. Getting a success in London is a costly business. The average is about one in a dozen. That one will bring wealth. Sometimes it is got first pop, but rarely. Faraday hit it with The Girl in the Taxi first crack out of the script box, but it had already scored in Paris and New York, and consequently it cost a large sum of money to secure it. It ran well over the year. I was playing the part I am playing here. I seem to be lucky to other managements (touching wood). In the case of The Chocolate Soldier, in which the name part fell to me, it was a two years’ run. There again the management was lucky in striking success with the first venture. But with the successors it was miss one after the other. Bernard Shaw took only a cynical interest in The Chocolate Soldier’s success. Of course it was his arms and the man idea. He asked for the script before the piece was put into rehearsal and carefully deleted every line of his original dialogue. Then he demanded that it be announced, “with apologies to Bernard Shaw.” This was done.
“There has been a lot of talk”, said Mr. Workman, changing the topic, “of the origin of ragtime. I developed a theory on the voyage to Australia. On board the piano was not what it might have been. Some of the notes when struck took the count, so to speak. They didn’t get up again, consequently, when playing, you had to get them back into position to the dislocation of the tempo.
Thus a waltz became syncopated in the act of knocking the keys up with the backs of the finger tips. Now, my theory is that composers in America—composers are always hard up until they write their successes—had pianos with similarly defective keys. The halting tune thus originated playing over their compositions. Don’t you think it rather likely?”
Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p.14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229852145
[N.B. £14,000 in 1911 would be the equivalent to around £1.6m today = $A 2.9m = $US 2.1m]
Later that week, the daily newspapers reported the establishment of the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund, which, by common agreement of the respective Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, would be a united Australian fund to be used primarily for the benefit of widows, orphans, and others who might be dependent upon Australians who might fall or be wounded in action. (Ref: Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, 11 August 1914, p.8, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15529004 )
The combined theatrical managements were quick to respond to the “call for alms.”
A MONSTER BENEFIT.
Thursday, September 3. has been fixed for the effort of the theatrical profession designed to swell the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund. On that day a matinee on a monster scale will be given, every management in Sydney placing the whole of their resources into the undertaking. The organiser is Mr. Hugh J. Ward who will be assisted by a committee that comprises Mr. George Musgrove, Mr. George Willoughby (Adelphi), Messrs. Ed. Covell and Clifton Clarke (Tivoli), Mr. Ben. J. Fuller (National Amphitheatre), Mr. E.J. Carroll (Palace), and Mr. E.J. Tait (general manager for J.C. Williamson, Ltd.).
It is estimated that nearly 1000 people connected with the various theatres will immediately be working for the success of the entertainment. These include, besides the artists of the various companies, the stage staffs of all the managements. The scope of the program is designed on the grand spectacular scale. Sudden big stage effects will take the audience by surprise. At times 500 people will be grouped in a stage picture. The talent available to be drawn upon is unusually plentiful. There will, for instance, be more than thirty comedians, from the musical comedy, drama, and vaudeville organisations. On September 3 the “Gipsy Love” Company will be in Sydney, en route from Brisbane to Melbourne. This popular combination of artists will accordingly take part. The children of the stage are to be utilised in the big ensembles, and at present the ballet mistresses and producers are already drilling them. Mr. Ward states that the Williamson management is giving a matinee with every company now under its control throughout Australasia and South Africa in aid of patriotic funds.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Thursday, 20 August 1914, p.8, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15531035
Further details of the planned event were released to the press over the ensuing days.
THEATRICAL MANAGERS COMBINE.
A HUGE PROGRAM.
The combined theatrical managers of Sydney are shaping the program for the monster matinee to swell the patriotic fund. Everything points to an entertainment of unique magnitude and attraction. The numbers of artists available exceed those ever before available for a matinee. Seven organisations will be drawn upon. These are “The Girl In the Taxi”, the company headed by Miss Muriel Starr, the “Gipsy Love” company, Miss Nellie Stewart and her “Du Barry” company, Mr. George Willoughby's Adelphi dramatic company, the Tivoli and National Amphitheatre stars, and Bosco, Talma, and Le Roy, now at the Palace.
Mr. Hugh J, Ward, who is organising the entertainment, estimates that nearly 1000 theatrical workers will be enlisted. Of these many popular dramatic stars are available and no fewer than 30 comedians.
The scope of the matinee allows for big spectacular effects, upon which the producing staff of the various theatres are now busily engaged.
Miss Maud Allan has volunteered to appear, and her offer has naturally been readily accepted.
Many popular favourites not at present appearing before the public will also take part.
The aim of the theatrical managers is to present so huge a theatrical program that a new record for Her Majesty's, where the matinee will be held, will be established. The existing record for a public fund is £2000 at this theatre.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday, 22 August 1914, p.14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15531740
[N.B. £2,000 in 1914 would be equivalent to around $A 236,267 today]
The Managing Directors of J.C. Williamson Ltd in 1914: Clyde Meynell, George Tallis and Hugh J. Ward.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday, 26 August 1914, that: “Mr. Hugh J. Ward has brought Mr. Wybert Stamford, one of the Williamson producers, specially from Brisbane to devote his entire attention to the stage details of the monster theatrical gala at Her Majesty's on Thursday week.” (p.10, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article239081403), and The Sunday Times subsequently elaborated on the mammoth task that Stamford had taken on by publishing full details of the afternoon’s projected program.
SUPREME THEATRE EFFORT
GIANT PATRIOTIC MATINEE
That the aim of the organisers of the actors’ patriotic gala will succeed in submitting to the Sydney public the greatest program Australia has known is no idle boast. Particulars of the entertainment announced for Her Majesty’s next Thursday leave no doubt about it.
As is fitting, the patriotic appeal will be stirringly made. Mr. Hugh J. Ward has designed a stage pageant on the grand scale, and has secured for the occasion some notable names. Miss Essie Jenyns will represent Britannia; Miss Nellie Stewart, Australia; Miss Muriel Starr, Canada (her native land); Miss Gwen. Burroughs, India; Miss Olive Godwin, New Zealand; and Miss Celia Ghiloni, Africa. The spectacle, which at its climax will have an ensemble of over 500 people, will dramatically depict Britannia's call to the Empire. Britannia will be shown alone in the midst of a raging storm, the clashing of arms symbolising war and its terrors. She places the trumpet to her lips and sounds the alarm, which will be echoed, as it were, round the British world. Then one by one the Dominions will make offering of their blood and their treasure, until the might of Empire is realised in a pulse-quickening scene. Dramatic verses for Britannia and the representatives of the Dominions have been written by Mr. Adam McCay, and music specially composed by Mr. Victor Champion. In the pageant the military are assisting. Guns captured by the Australians in South Africa and presented to “our boys” by Lord Roberts will be swung into action when the picture realises its most stirring moment.
The rise of the curtain on the matinee will disclose the quarter-deck of a British Dreadnought, the orchestra playing “Rule, Britannia.” An admiral will here receive officers of the French and Russian armies. This will offer an appropriate setting for the singing of “The Marseillaise” by Mr. Derek Hudson. The chorus of “Pinafore” will be given in this portion of the program by the full company.
For the first-part finale the prize National Anthem has been chosen. The words, as is known, are by Arthur Adams, and the music by Theodore Tourrier. This will be the first time in Sydney that the song has been rendered in public. Mr. Derek Hudson will sing it—he sang it with great success in Brisbane last week—and the chorus will be given by the combined “Gipsy Love” and “Girl in the Taxi” Companies. (The Australian National Song, ref: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-165025145/view?partId=nla.obj-165025159 )
The scheme of the first part of the matinee is the old-time minstrel show. Mr. Lincoln Plumer; of “The Chorus Lady” Company, will be interlocutor, and the corner-men are announced as follows:—Bones: Messrs. Jack Cannot, Johnny Osborne, Phil Smith, Claude Bantock. Tambos: W.H. Rawlins, C.H. Workman, Field Fisher, Chris Wren. In addition to amusing interludes in the way of conundrums and interruption, these popular comedians will appear in individual specialties. Mr. Jack Cannot will give imitations of Paul Dufault, Talleur Andrews, Caruso, and other tenors not in this country, and so unable to effectively protest.
Songs in this section of the program will include “Here’s to Love and Laughter” (Miss Olive Godwin), “A Regular Army Man” (Mr. Julius Roscius), “Meet Me To-night in Dreamland” (Miss Celia Ghiloni), Mr. Phil Smith and Miss Dorothy Brunton (duet, “Carnival for Two”), “Susanne” (Miss Maggie Jarvis and corner-men), and numbers by Miss Elsie Spain and Mr. John Ralston.
The second part of the program will present the greatest selection of vaudeville stars ever seen on one bill in Australia. The Tivoli are sending Paul Cinquevalli, Beth Tate, Baroness D'Astreel, Marco and Fanchon, and Wolff; the National Amphitheatre, Miss Fanny Rice, Cunningham and Ross, and the Bodini Bros.; Mr. E.J. Carroll, Warner and White, eccentric dancers with Bosco, Talma, and Le Roy; and Santo Santucci. Miss Minnie Hooper, ballet mistress of the Williamson management, is bringing forward the clever pony ballet that made so marked a success in “Come Over Here.”
Those attending the matinee—and who will not be there who has the price?—will be delighted to see the names of Miss Florence Young (to sing the big aria from “The Climax”), Miss Grace Palotta (to give her old hit, “Soldiers in the Park”), and Mr. Reginald Roberts, who is to sing, in the program.
The Cherniavskys, artistic Russian violinists, are also appearing.
The sale of tickets is indicating the tremendous interest the occasion has already created. Yesterday morning Miss Maggie Jarvis and Miss Muriel Starr sold 50 guinea seats in the vestibule of Her Majesty's. Tickets are also being eagerly sought at Paling’s, where they are on sale. The plan will open on Tuesday.
Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 30 August 1914, p.6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126763803
A packed auditorium at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, c.1903. Photograph by Talma & Co., Sydney.
State Library of New South Wales, SPF/3194.
The combined proceeds of the afternoon’s entertainment, preceded by a grand theatrical motorcade through the streets of Sydney and impromptu vaudeville performances given in Railway Square and in front of the Town Hall, were duly reported in the Sydney press as having broken all previous records established for such charity matinees.
MATINEE BRINGS £2100 TO PATRIOTIC FUND
£250 FOR THE UNION JACK—£330 COLLECTED IN THE STREETS.
The huge actors’ matinee in aid of the Patriotic Fund at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, on Thursday last was a record success—about £2100 being realised. The theatre was packed as it had never before been packed. During the morning an actors’ motor car street raid was carried out, and gathered in £330 in about two hours. The sale of seats and photographs brought in £90. The auction sale of the Union Jack presented by Mr. Hugh J. Ward was a big success and highly amusing. Miss Nellie Stewart held the flag, and Mr. Jack Cannot and Mr. Lincoln Plumer figured successfully as the auctioneers.
Referee (Sydney, NSW), Wednesday, 9 September 1914, p.15 [extract], https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120279698
[N.B. £2,100 in 1914 would be the equivalent to around $A 248,081 today; £250 = $A 29,533; £330 = $A 38,984 and £90 = $A 10,632]
Pictorial advertisement for The Girl in the Taxi.
From The Silent Showman, Michael & Joan Tallis, Wakefield Press, 1999.
The soubrette—Maggie Jarvis. Photo by Monte Luke.
State Library of New South Wales, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/262596885
The New English Musical Comedy Company continued to delight its audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre, with an added feature introduced into the action of the play commencing at the evening performance on Saturday, 19 September.
THE CABARET CUDDLE.
HOW IT WAS EVOLVED.
The Restaurant Rag is the title of a dance number introduced into “The Girl in the Taxi” last night at Her Majesty’s. It is known to the members of the company, however, as The Cabaret Cuddle.
As about 50,000 people have seen “The Girl in the Taxi” since it was produced in Sydney, that number at least are aware that the second act is a cabaret set. It is the Jeunesse Doree, the speed limit in smart and discreet resorts.
Everything takes place there so far as the musical play is concerned, but a novelty dance. The fact of this omission seems to have upset the peace of mind of Jack Hooker and Chris Wren, and goaded them into invention. Between them they evolved the Cabaret Cuddle.
Jack Hooker was on the payroll, but not in the piece. He was last giving a step dance in “Come Over Here” to celebrate the leaving of the midnight choo-choo for Alabam. He considers that, all things considered, he has more justification for dancing in a cabaret in “The Girl in the Taxi” than there was for dancing on a railway platform in “Come Over Here”.
Chris Wren, the diminutive waiter in “The Girl in the Taxi” , has practically no lines to speak. His chief job at the Jeunesse Doree is being kicked out of private rooms when he enters without knocking. This explains in a measure how he and Jack Hooker got together on an idea.
It is an understood thing in stage creative work that any one—or two—with an idea is given full scope in the choice of assistance required. Consequently Mr. Hooker and Mr. Wren had the pick of the chorus, ballet, and show girls to help them. Obviously two men wouldn't rag together in a cabaret. Both Mr. Wren and Mr. Hooker were actually besought by all the ambitious young ladies in the company. After the hesitation of a week or two they finally lost their comprehensive popularity through having to make a definite selection. These were Violet Hooper and Helen Devlin. Miss Devlin is one of the most imposing show girls in the world. She is six feet in silk stockings. Miss Hooper is also Amazonian, but not quite as much so as Miss Devlin. For this reason Mr. Wren, being, like his feathered namesake, diminutive, chose Miss Devlin as his partner. In his Cabaret Cuddle he has become expert in making flying leaps at the statuesque Miss Devlin, who can now catch him, and swing him about to the music of the orchestra. The contrast in heights provides half the fun of the new feature.
Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 20 September 1914, p.14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229851367
For Australian audiences, (fearful of the unfolding events in Europe and with concerns of how it would effect a young nation loyal to the mother country and the British Empire), The Girl in the Taxi was “just the ticket” to provide good escapist entertainment and make them forget the troubles of a work-a-day world for a good three hours of farcical comedy. Consequently the taxi remained on the rank at Her Majesty’s in Sydney for a good 10 week run, closing on the 16th October and then preparing to head southwards to continue spreading its message of happy times and good cheer to the awaiting masses; (while the ominous storm clouds of war continued to gather apace in Europe.)
To be continued …
The Girl in the Taxi is the English-language adaptation by Frederick Fenn and Arthur Wimperis of the operetta Die keusche Susanne, after the farce Fils à Papa by Antony Mars and Maurice Desvallières. (First produced at the Wilhelm Theater, Magdeburg on 26 February 1910), with music by Jean Gilbert. The German original had a libretto by Georg Okonkowski. It opened at the Lyric Theatre, London on 5 September 1912 where it ran for 385 performances.
The Girl in the Taxi midi files, featuring the full score of the musical, may be heard on-line at: https://www.gsarchive.net/british/girlintaxi/index.html
The Girl in the Taxi (1937)—A British Unity Production released through Ealing Distribution Ltd.
Starring Frances Day, Henri Garat, Lawrence Grossmith, Jean Gillie and Mackenzie Ward with Helen Haye, Ben Field, Joan Kemp-Welch, John Deverell and Albert Whelan.
Screenplay by Austin Melford, after a screen story by Fritz Gottfurcht, after the operetta by Georg Okonowski
Music by Jean Gilbert, lyrics by Arthur Wimperis and Frank Eyton
Produced by Eugene Tuscherer, directed by Berthomieu
Available on DVD on “The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection—Volume 3” from www.networkonair.com
A scene from the 1937 film with Melbourne-born Albert Whelan as ‘Alexis’ and Lawrence Grossmith as ‘Baron Dauvray’.
The first D’Oyly Carte repertory season of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas staged at the Savoy Theatre, London between December 1906 to August 1907 under the personal direction of W.S. Gilbert, resulted in the renewed popularity of the operas amongst West End theatre-goers and also brought fame and great personal success to the company’s principal comedian, Charles Herbert Workman, who, in the midst of the season, penned the following reminiscences for The Tatler [No. 301] published on 3 April 1907.
NAY, good Sir Tatler, I was not intended for the Church. Unlike many of my brethren of the sock and buskin I never aspired to holy orders. My preferment lay rather with orders pertaining to our local theatre. These were the gift of a friendly greengrocer who, good honest soul that he was, whilst himself abjuring the playhouse, was broad-minded enough to exhibit playbills, in return for which he received periodical vouchers admitting “two to pit.” To me he was kind enough occasionally to bequeath one of those magic scraps of paper because I happened to be a choir boy in the church of which he was a warden. Thus to the inadvertent encouragement of a worthy Churchman may be attributed my first desire to be an actor.
My first theatrical essay was in an amateur pantomime of which I was joint author. In it I took the humble parts of the Demon King, Fairy Queen, Cogia, and also one of the Forty Thieves, or rather, to be precise, one of a dozen (our local talent being limited), who by clever stage-management were able effectively to represent the full forty. I made it my earnest endeavour to impart to each of my robbers a distinct personality. I suppose I succeeded. Anyway, everybody who witnessed the performance declared 1 was a born actor. That was enough. I was now quite convinced that the commercial office to which I had been consigned was no place for me. I must be an actor.
Proud was the moment when after a further period of amateur strutting I presented myself at the Savoy Theatre for audition, prouder still when I received my first professional engagement as chorister from Mr. D'Oyly Carte, but far greater my elation when shortly afterwards I was cast for first citizen in The Yeomen of the Guard. That was just twelve and a half years ago.
Since then it has been my good fortune to sustain all the leading comedian parts in the Savoy répertoire in the provincial touring company. My favourite character—Jack Point—I have played about 1,000 times, Koko in The Mikado far oftener. How many thousands of miles I travelled—north, south, east, and west—through the United Kingdom during those years is a mathematical calculation which may well be left to the unemployed to work out.
Workman as the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, 1907. Engraving by Swain Sc.
Workman as Ko-Ko in The Mikado, 1908. Photo by Dover Street Studios, London.
One of the most stirring incidents, lending colour to an otherwise "bald and unconvincing narrative," occurred at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. We were playing Iolanthe when a fire broke out somewhere. I was in the middle of the Lord Chancellor's song, “Said I to myself, said I,” when I beheld the audience suddenly jump from their seats and deliberately turn their backs on me. Wondering how I could have offended them I was about to “dry up” when Mr. Bellamy, our manager, shouted to me from the wings, “Don't stop; for heaven's sake go on! Give it 'em strong!”
In a moment I grasped the situation and, closing my eyes, sang fortissimo:—
I’ll assure all my friends who are ready to choke
That the fire that they fear is nothing but smoke,
It's only a sort of Gilbertian joke.
Said I to myself, said I.
That was, I think, the first and only time I dared to play tricks with Gilbert and Sullivan. To gag in a Savoy opera is, as every actor knows, only a degree less than high treason—a crime for which even the Mikado himself has failed to find a fitting punishment. In this instance, however, my offence was overlooked. The effect of that perversion was magical. The fire went out, the people stopped in.
Ever memorable will be my visit to South Africa with the D'Oyly Carte company, and full of happy reminiscences my three-months' stay in Johannesburg. I have always been devoted to horses, so much so that I often vowed if I failed as an actor I would turn jockey or drive a hansom cab. So I was truly grateful for the kindness shown me by Major McFarlane of the Rand Club there, who placed at my disposal a dogcart and nag for the period of my visit, I was also privileged to tool a coach to a race meeting, my team comprising three playful polo ponies and a hunter.
On the eve of our departure from Johannesburg I asked François Cellier if he would drive round with me to leave P.P.C. cards on our hospitable friends. It chanced that day that the major’s cob which I usually drove was otherwise engaged, and so the groom—knowing me to be no novice at handling the ribbons—harnessed in the trap the major's racehorse, Bishop by name. Now this good gee evidently could not turn his back to music, for the moment our worthy chef d’orchestre was seated beside me Bishop reared and commenced to beat time with his fore legs. Whereat Cellier remarked, “Look here, Workman, old chap, this, is all very pleasant, but please don't forget we’ve got a performance to-night.”
The D’Oyly Carte Company in Africa: Charles H. Workman sitting cross-legged in front (second from left), next to Business Manager, Henry E. Bellamy (centre) and Musical Director, François Cellier seated in chair at far right.
Reproduced in Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte: Reminiscences of the Savoy and the Savoyards by François Cellier & Cunningham Bridgeman, Isaac Pitman and Sons, London, 1914. Courtesy of David Stone.
The crowning joy of my career came in December last when I found myself rehearsing The Yeomen on the Savoy stage for London revival. I looked around the company and saw few but new faces. It was not without a pang of regret I missed many old colleagues and companions, notably my good old friend and playmate, Fred Billington, with whom for so many years I had been touring those thousands of leagues. Still, by my side I was glad to find the same delightful Phœbe—Jessie Rose. I had been rather dreading those rehearsals. Mr. Gilbert might, I feared, think my Jack Point a libel on his famous jester. Happily it turned out otherwise, and from the author I received nothing but words of satisfaction and kindly encouragement.
The Yeomen of the Guard: front cover of The Theatre Magazine, ‘Savoy Number’, vol. II, no. 7, Feb 1907, featuring C.H. Workman as Jack Point. Illustration by H. Granville Fell.
Courtesy of David Stone.
Image from Henry A. Lytton, The Secrets of a Savoyard.
The only notable mistake Mr. Gilbert discovered was my conduct in the trio, “A Man who would Woo a Fair Maid.” It had been my business in the country to kiss Elsie and Phœbe alternately on each note of their vocal shake. Gilbert observed, “There's rather too much kissing—for London.” “Then,” I asked, “you would cut those last kisses?” “No; I wouldn't, but I think you had better.” Again, when I paused after the words, “under her very nose.” Gilbert asked me why I didn't go straight on. I explained that there was always a big laugh after that line. “Really? I must be a very funny fellow then,” was the rejoinder.
The Yeomen of the Guard: Nora McLeod as Phœbe, Lilian Coomber as Elsie, Pacie Ripple as Col. Fairfax and C.H. Workman as Jack Point, 1906. Photo by Raphael Tuck & Son.
One of the penalties attached to an actor who makes himself at all conspicuous on the stage is the private and personal correspondence it entails. From one fair but perhaps o'er-bold playgoer I received a note the other day saying, “I do so admire your acting and should so like to see you again if you will kindly send me a ticket.” Then come the autograph-seekers. These I am always ready to gratify provided they reciprocate by sending me a small contribution to the Actors’ Benevolent Fund. I never knew before how easy it is to raise money by one's unwitnessed signature on a mere scrap of paper.
One little lady admirer addressed me flatteringly in verse so admirable that I hope she will pardon my quoting a few of her lines:—
As the duke so delightful I saw you last week,
The result of it is I your autograph seek.
I saw you also as the Jester one night,
And to see you drop dead was a very sad sight.
I hope my request you won't mind, for I'm sure O
I'd hate to offend the great Duke Plaza-Toro.
My autograph with a note complimenting the poetess brought me another charming canto containing:—
You’re really too good to afford me such pleasure.
For I’m sure dukes and jesters don't have too much leisure.
For even a duke’s life is not always honey,
And a jester is told that he's “paid to be funny.”
You call me a poet, but alas that's not true,
I'm only a schoolgirl whose tasks are not few.
I hope once again your acting to see.
Patience meantime my motto must be.
N.B. — Patience being our next revival.
C.H. Workman as Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard & the Duke of Plaza Tora in The Gondoliers, 1907. Photo by Dover Street Studios, London.
I never cease to thank the “lucky star” that guided me to the Savoy. From no other management has ever “poor player” received such unfailing kindness, courtesy, and consideration as that shown by Mrs. D’Oyly Carte towards all who are privileged to be professionally engaged by her. Apart, therefore, from the personal gratification I feel in not having failed in my efforts to please both management and public, no one more heartily rejoices in the great success of the present revivals than their faithful servant, C.H.W.
Helen D’Oyly Carte.
Image from Henry A. Lytton, The Secrets of a Savoyard.
Patience: Clara Dow as Patience, C.H. Workman as Bunthorne & Louie Réné as Lady Jane. Photo by Dover Street Studios, London.
Compiled by Robert Morrison
with additional information supplied by Andrew Lamb and George Low
Fellow artists on the tour included Fred Billington in the heavy baritone ‘Pooh-Bah’ roles, Jessie Rose in the mezzo-soprano soubrette roles and Charles H. Workman’s wife, Bessel Adams in featured soprano roles and occasional appearances as understudy to the lead soprano.
P.P.C. = Picture Post-Cards.
During the season W.S. Gilbert received his knighthood from Edward VII to become Sir William S. Gilbert on 15 July 1907. (A somewhat belated tribute, in Gilbert’s view, given that the late Sir Arthur Sullivan had received his title on 22 May 1883.)
The success of the first repertory season led to a second season staged at the Savoy Theatre between April 1908 to March 27, 1909, when the repertoire included revivals of The Mikado, (from 28 April), HMS Pinafore, (14 July), Iolanthe, (19 October), The Pirates of Penzance, (1 December), The Gondoliers, (18 January 1909) and The Yeomen of the Guard, (1 March).
An added feature of the second repertory season was the return of famed Savoyard, Rutland Barrington to play the same parts that he had created in the original productions some 20 to 30 years earlier, plus the added roles of ‘Don Alhambra del Bolero’ and ‘Wilfred Shadbolt’ in the latter two operas. Fellow Savoyard, Richard Temple also returned to replay his original role of ‘Sergeant Meryll’ in The Yeomen for the last four weeks of the season.
Clemence Bettany, ‘100 Years of D’Oyly Carte and Gilbert and Sullivan’ in D’Oyly Carte Centenary 1875-1975, D’Oyly Carte Opera Trust, London, 1975
François Cellier & Cunningham V. Bridgeman, Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte: reminiscences of the Savoy and the Savoyards, Isaac Pitman and Sons, London, 1914
Henry A. Lytton, The Secrets of a Savoyard, 2nd ed., Jarrolds, London, c.1925
Cyril Rollins & R. John Witts, The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1961
Robin Wilson & Frederic Lloyd, Gilbert & Sullivan—The D’Oyly Carte Years—The Official Picture History, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1984
Charles H. Workman recorded the following songs from the G&S repertoire (plus Sullivan and Basil Hood’s The Rose of Persia), for the Odeon Company at various recording sessions in 1910 and 1912 (the latter featuring an orchestra under the direction of noted West End musical director and composer, Herman Finck).
Recordings courtesy of Dominic Combe [Palaeophonics], https://castalbums.org/releases/browse/?in=Labels&order=Label&limit=500&search=Palaeophonics
Singer, comedian and Savoyard C.H. Workman arrived in Australia in 1914 as a member of The Girl in the Taxi company. He spent a total of nine years performing in various stage musicals, operettas and variety ‘turns’ for J.C. Williamson Ltd and on the Tivoli circuit, including tours to New Zealand, India and the Far East, before his premature death in 1923. In this article, the first in a new series, Rob Morrison draws on original interviews, anecdotes and newspaper reports to present a pictorial overview of C.H. Workman's life and career.
C.H. Workman in his favourite role of Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard.
Photo by Elliott & Fry, London. Author’s collection.
Portrait of C.H. Workman, c.1907.
Photo by Dover Street Studios, London. Courtesy of Elisabeth Kumm.
In addition to his recordings from the G&S repertoire in 1910 and 1912, Charles H. Workman featured in the following duets and concerted numbers from the score of Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier recorded by the Odeon Company in June of 1911.
The renowned British singer, actor and comedian, Charles Herbert Workman was born at 5 Richmond Terrace, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Lancashire on 5 May 1872, the youngest son (of four children), of Sarah and Charles Workman. From his early years he was keenly devoted to musical art in its operatic and comedy forms and his favourite amusement as a youngster was the production of home-made versions of plays he had seen. After schooling at Waterloo College in Liverpool, followed by a stint in ‘commercial life’ as a clerk in a merchant’s office in that city, which he could not stick at, Workman’s early ambitions to tread the boards achieved fruition when his older brother and singing teacher, Albert E. Workman overcame their father’s objections and arranged to have ‘Bert’ placed with a touring provincial D’Oyly Carte Opera Company staging Gilbert and Sullivan’s penultimate comic opera, Utopia, Limited at Torquay, where he made his debut as a chorister in October 1894, before graduating to the roles of Calynx/Captain Corcoran in Stratford-on-Avon in November.
It was through the D’Oyly Carte that he also met his fellow performer and wife-to-be, the Belfast-born Totie Adams,1. around 1897 and following a whirlwind romance and courtship, they were wed in her hometown in 1898 during the opera company’s tour of Ireland in December of that year. Their son, Roy was also born in Belfast in 1902. By this time Workman had worked his way through the ranks to achieve the position of principal comedian of the company and a prime exponent of the perennially-popular patter-songs. Under W.S. Gilbert’s personal direction, Workman achieved fame at the Savoy Theatre, London appearing in the respective repertory season revivals of the evergreen Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas between December 1906 to August 1907 and April 1908 to March 1909, earning particular praise for his portrayal of the tragi-comic jester Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard, of which Gilbert himself expressed his opinion in a public speech: ‘In Mr Workman we have a Jack Point of the finest and most delicate finish, and I feel sure that no one will more readily acknowledge the triumph he has achieved in their old parts than his distinguished protagonists, Mr George Grossmith, and his immediate predecessor, Mr Passmore.’2.
With such praise ringing in his ears, Charles Workman then took on the role of an actor-manager leasing the Savoy Theatre between September 1909 to May 1910 in a venture that proved to be less-than-successful and of which, more anon.
Bessel Adams (Mrs C.H. Workman) as Fiametta in The Gondoliers, The Theatre Magazine, ‘Savoy Number’, vol. II, no. 7, Feb 1907.
Photo by Dover Street Studios, London. Courtesy of David Stone.
Postcard of C.H. Workman and his son James Roy Workman. Published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, T1045.
Courtesy of David Stone.
Turning his attention now to the burgeoning craze for Musical Comedy (which had first been fostered by ‘The Guv’nor’ George Edwardes at London’s Gaiety Theatre in the 1890s), Workman achieved considerable success in principal and featured comedy roles in such shows as The Chocolate Soldier, Nightbirds [Die Fledermaus], The Girl in the Taxi and The Girl Who Didn’t, of which the penultimate provided his passport to further adventures in the land of the Southern Cross. When approached by J.C. Williamson’s London representative, Pat Malone, to recreate his role of Pomarel in the subsequent Antipodean production scheduled for early-August 1914, Workman readily accepted (with the added impetus of his doctor’s advice to seek sunnier climes to assist with his recovery from throat problems).
C.H. Workman as Monsieur Pomeral, with George Carroll as Emile, in The Girl in the Taxi, London, 1912.
Poster for The Girl in the Taxi, Lyric Theatre, London, 1912.
Packing his trunks and accompanied by Totie and 12-year-old, Roy, Workman joined with his fellow principal players of the Lyric Theatre, London (who had also been engaged for the Australian tour of The Girl in the Taxi by Malone), aboard the RMS Orontes, which set sail from the London docks on 19 June 1914 travelling to Australia via Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said and Colombo.3.
J.C. Williamson’s efficient publicity department, under the direction of Claude McKay, having already primed the local press with ‘copy’ concerning the imminent arrival of a new Musical Comedy company of English principal players as far back as late March,4. now swung into full action and ensured that there were reporters on hand to greet the ship at its first Australian port of call in Freemantle, Western Australia on 21 July.
FOR SYDNEY TOWN.
Theatricals En Bloc.
ARRIVAL OF MUSICAL COMEDY COMPANY.
Quite a large contingent of theatricals arrived at Fremantle to-day on board the R.M.S. Orontes. They are bound for Sydney where they will open a lengthy Australian season in the musical comedy, “The Girl in the Taxi.” The members of the Orontes company are as follows :—Messrs. C.H. Workman, W.H. Rawlins, Fred. Mcguire [sic] Paul Plunket, D.J. Williams, Chris. Wren, Hugh Huntly [sic]; Misses Maggie Jarvis, G. Hughes, Milly Engler [sic], Beda Probyn [sic], and Helen Hobson. In fact, the Orontes carries a complete musical comedy company, which is billed to open in Sydney on August 8, and which is engaged to stay 18 months in Australia.
Daily News (Perth, WA), Tuesday, 21 July 1914, p.10, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79954247
[The article continued with a profile on the background and career of the company’s soubrette, Maggie Jarvis.]
The Orontes continued its voyage to Adelaide, where further press coverage and interviews followed on board ship following its arrival on there on Saturday 25 July.5.
By the time the ship had docked at Port Melbourne en-route to Sydney, a press photographer was on hand to capture for posterity the assembled company’s first visit to Antipodean shores, with a photo that was published in the Melbourne Australasian on Saturday, 1 August 1914.6.
Left – The Girl in the Taxi Company on board the Orontes, July 1914. Right – Workman on board the Orontes, July 1914.
Photos by H. Neville S. Skeffington. Published in The Australasian (Melbourne), 1 August 1914, p. 67. State Library of Victoria.
When the Orontes had at last arrived at Circular Quay in Sydney harbour on Thursday, 30 July, the Australia-wide theatre-going public’s interest and appetite had been thoroughly whetted in eager anticipation of the delights to come from the latest Musical Comedy production to arrive Downunder from the fabled West End theatres, of which its weekly exploits, fads and fashions continued to receive wide newspaper coverage and readership around the nation. Of the new arrivals to the Sydney shores, the company’s chief comedian was spotlighted for a couple of puff pieces in the press; the first making front page news in a few paragraphs in the evening editions, while a more detailed profile appeared on Sydney-side breakfast tables the following morning.
GIRL IN THE TAXI.
LEADING MAN ARRIVES.
SURFEIT OF REVUES.
Mr. C.H. Workman, the leading man of The Girl In the Taxi Company, who arrived on the Orontes this morning, says he endeavors to live up to his name. He hurried through his breakfast, supervised the packing of his luggage, said dozens of good-byes, and within an hour of the time of arrival he had rushed off the boat and was on his way to rehearsal.
“You can never tell how the public will take a play,” he said, “but London enjoyed it for thirteen months and declared it to be the best thing of its type they had seen for many years. Personally, I think it grand. I created the part I will play here. It is funny, it's full of interesting situations, and it carries a story. In fact, it's more like a French farce set to music than the ordinary run of comic operas. The first act is good. The second is better, and the third, which the public expects to weaken, is the best of all.”
Mr. Workman was for many years with Gilbert and Sullivan's Opera Company, and he thinks that comic opera is coming back to its own. Revues have been so numerous that the public wants a change.
The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Thursday, 30 July 1914, p.1, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229855143
A DISTINGUISHED COMEDIAN.
Mr. C.H. Workman, whose position as a comedian in musical pieces on the English stage approximates to that of his English predecessors on this side of the world, William Elton and G.P. Huntley, arrived here yesterday from London by the Orontes. The newcomer will head the company formed by J.C. Williamson, Ltd., for the production of “The Girl in the Taxi” at Her Majesty's Theatre on August 8. In this piece he will play his original London character. Miss Maggie Jarvis, Mr. W.H. Rawlins. Mr. D.J. Williams, and the other artists of the combination, arrived here two or three days ago, and complete “finishing” rehearsals will begin to-morrow.
Mr. Workman, unlike most comedians, was primarily a singer. As a boy he was soloist at the Emanuel Congregational Church, Liverpool, and later he studied as a baritone under his brother, A.E. Workman, a voice producer of reputation in that great city.
His first appearance on any stage was as Captain Corcoran in “Utopia Limited,” that character from “Pinafore” having been reintroduced by W.S. Gilbert as one of the Flowers of Progress imported as examples of manners and morals in the imaginary kingdom. This was at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, so that the new career was taken up under romantic conditions. After some months Mr. Workman applied to D'Oyley Carte [sic] in London, who sent him on tour, and it was whilst appearing in “Patience” as Bunthorne's solicitor that he won promotion in a part whom he had “nothing to say and still less to sing.”
However, the audacious young artist invented an exit. When heartily cursed by the other characters, he executed a whimsical pirouette of horror, contrived so as to bring him within range of a vicious boot with a kick in it, and this kick landed him, after a lofty aerial flight, in the wings. It happened that Mr. D'Oyley Carte [sic] visited the show unexpectedly, observed the innovation, soundly rated the young artist for thus tampering with the traditional “business”—and at once promoted him to the Savoy Theatre! Mr. Workman was placed in the chief character in a curtain-raiser, “After All,” in which he appeared 500 nights, and a little later he replaced George Grossmith in “His Majesty,” playing the name part. After a Scottish tour, which opened at Dunfermline on Christmas Day, when he played Jack Point in the afternoon, and Ko-Ko at night, Mr. Workman was appointed principal comedian to the No. 1 company on tour and during ten years he played all the central Gilbert-Sullivan characters (except “Ruddigore”), and made a big reputation in the great provincial centres. In 1906 he toured South Africa with success, and then he played all the Gilbert-Sullivan characters at the Savoy Theatre. Mr. Workman briefly describes his subsequent London career in the words:–
“I then became lessee of the Savoy for a starring season, and produced ‘The Mountaineers,’ Gilbert’s last piece, ‘Fallen Fairies’ (to Edward German's music), and Reginald Somerville’s ‘Two Merry Monarchs.’ The first two pieces did not catch on, but the last pleased the public, and would have put me on my feet as an actor-manager but for the lamented death of King Edward. However, without loss of time I accepted the role of Bumerli, which I created at the Lyric Theatre during the immense run of ‘The Chocolate Soldier.’ Constance Drever was the Nadina, and the cast included two Australians, Roland Cunningham, (Alexis) and Lempriere Pringle, as well as Elsie Spain, now in Sydney. We played 12 times a week, then ten times, and never less than eight times. I stood the work splendidly, having a good natural, ‘forward’ production for a light baritone singing role, ranging up to the high A flat. The prima donnas were knocked out right and left, and, in all, I sang with 13 of them in 18 months! My next engagement was also at the Lyric, as Max Cliquot in ‘Night Birds,’ and I was also the chief comedian as the scent manufacturer in ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ and, before leaving for Australia, I appeared in Jean Gilbert's ‘The Girl Who Didn't.’ ‘The Girl in the Taxi’ is a wonderfully bright and taking production, and I feel sure that Australian playgoers will be pleased with it.”
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Friday, 31 July 1914, p.7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15526435
Constance Drever and C.H. Workman in The Chocolate Soldier, 1910.
Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. The Play Pictorial, vol. XVI, no. 98, 1910. Courtesy of Dominic Combe.
Constance Drever, C.H. Workman and Australian actor, Claude Flemming, in Nightbirds, London, from The Play Pictorial, no. 115, vol. XIX, 1911.
Courtesy of Andrew Lamb.
C.H. Workman as Count Max Cliquot in Nightbirds, London, from The Play Pictorial, no. 115, vol. XIX, 1911.
Courtesy of Andrew Lamb.
Elsie Spain as Mascha in The Chocolate Soldier, 1910.
Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. From The Play Pictorial, vol. XVI, no. 98, 1910. Courtesy of Dominic Combe.
Under the practised hands of J.C. Williamson producer, Charles A. Wenman and the experienced guidance of its Sydney-based ballet mistress, Miss Minnie Hooper, the imported English players joined their Australian counterparts (who had already begun rehearsals some weeks earlier), and the production continued to take shape and achieve its final polish in readiness for its scheduled opening night a mere week-and-a-half away.
Some months prior to this in the Melbourne-based workshops of ‘The Firm’ located at the rear of the southern capital’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, carpenters, scenic artists, dressmakers and all other artisans and craftsmen attendant to the staging of a major musical production had been hard at work reproducing in fine detail the costume and scenic designs that had so enthralled and enchanted London audiences at the Lyric Theatre during the show’s initial West End run of 385 performance some two years earlier, and the fruits of their collective labours were freighted to the northern capital via train to be ‘bumped in’ at Sydney’s regal counterpart.
The Girl in the Taxi, Acts 1 & 3 – Reception room in Baron Dauvray’s house in Paris. The scenery was painted by JCW’s scenic art department based on original designs by Baruch & Co.
JCW Scene Books, Theatre Heritage Australia, Book 08-0075.
The Girl in the Taxi, Act 2 – Restaurant Jeunesse Dorée.
JCW Scene Books, Theatre Heritage Australia, Book 08-0075.
Meanwhile half-a-world away, on 28 June 1914 an assassin’s bullets put paid to the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, whilst on a tour of Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shots that would reverberate around the world and would leave lasting scars that would take many generations to heal.
On 5 August at the Spring Street Parliament House of the nation’s then temporary capital in Melbourne, the Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Cook announced that: ‘Australia is now at war. Our duty is quite clear—to gird up our loins and remember that we are Britons’, pledging full support to the mother country following his British counterpart, Mr Herbert Asquith’s declaration of war against Germany in the House of Commons the previous day. German troops had invaded Belgium hours earlier breaking the terms of its 1839 agreement with Britain and France to respect Belgium neutrality. Following Asquith’s announcement, huge cheering crowds surged through London to gather outside Buckingham Palace, to sing the national anthem. Similar patriotic demonstrations followed suit throughout Australia once the news had been cabled to Antipodean shores.
But the theatrical profession pays little heed to the world of politics for ‘The Play’s the Thing!’ and ‘The Show Must Go On!’
Opening night approached, preceded by sitzprobes with the theatre’s orchestra under the baton of Victor Champion, plus the refinement of the lighting plots and technical rehearsals for the benefit of the back-stage crew under the direction of the Stage Manger, Redge Carey, followed by dress rehearsals with the cast becoming fully comfortable with their costumes and the scenery on the stage of the theatre itself.
Time passed until the big day finally arrived, with its attendant opening night nerves and backstage cries of ‘Break a leg!’ and that curious Australian theatrical expression—‘Chookahs!’ The call-boy made his appointed rounds of the theatres’ dressing rooms, starting with a knock on the respective doors of the principal players located at stage level and ending with those of the communal chorus boys and girls located off the first floor galleries in the ‘flies’ above— ‘Overture and Act one beginners please!’
To be continued ...
Special thanks to: Dominic Combe, Scott Farrell, Elisabeth Kumm, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Lee Hart, George Lowe, Chris Webster & David Stone; also State Library of Victoria & Victoria and Albert Museum (London).
Workman as Pierre in The Mountaineers, London, 1909.
Photo by Dover Street Studios. Courtesy of Scott Farrell.
Workman as Lutin in Fallen Fairies, London, 1909. From The Sketch, 29 December 1909, p. 361.
Courtesy of Scott Farrell.
Savoy Theatre, London, 1881. Drawing by Charles J. Phipps.
H. Beard Print Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, S.1121-2011.
Robert Whyte Jr, Lennox Pawle and C.H. Workman in Two Merry Monarchs, London, 1910.
Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. Courtesy of Scott Farrell.
Programme for Two Merry Monarchs, Savoy Theatre, 10 March 1910.
Courtesy of Scott Farrell.
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, c.1908.
Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney, 85/1286-51.
Portrait of C.H. Workman, c.1914.
Photo by Monte Luke. Author’s collection.
Minnie Hooper and Charles A. Wenman discussing a ballet.
Photo by Monte Luke. Punch (Melbourne), 5 December 1912, p. 28. Trove, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/20511862.
‘Victor Champion conducting’, from Theatrical Caricatures by Harry Julius, with marginal anecdotes by Claude McKay, Bookstall Co. Ltd., Sydney, NSW, 1912, p. 52.
A post-WW2 aerial photo of C.H. Workman’s birthplace at Richmond Terrace, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Lancashire, England (now demolished).
Courtesy of Chris Webster.
Poster for Two Merry Monarchs, London, 1910. Printed by David Allen & Sons.
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, S.2019-1995.
C.H. Workman featured in the following duets and concerted numbers from the score of Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier recorded by the Odeon Company in June of 1911.
Recordings courtesy of Dominic Combe [Palaeophonics 135], https://castalbums.org/releases/browse/?in=Labels&order=Label&limit=500&search=Palaeophonics
François Cellier & Cunningham V. Bridgeman, Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte: reminiscences of the Savoy and the Savoyards, Isaac Pitman and Sons, London, 1914
Scott Farrell, The Final Savoy Operas: a centenary review, e-book, 21 March 2013
Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchensen, Musical Comedy: a story in pictures, Peter Davies, London, 1969
Viola Tait, A Family of Brothers, Heinemann, Melbourne, 1971
Various newspapers & journals including: The Australasian (Melbourne), The Bootle Times (Bootle), Daily News (Perth, WA), The Play Pictorial (London), The Register (Adelaide), The Sun (Sydney, NSW), The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Table Talk (Melbourne), The Times (London)