Built in Hindley Street in 1878 on the site of an earlier theatre of the same name, the Theatre Royal was J.C. Williamson Ltd.’s sole performance venue in Adelaide and, as the theatre’s lessee (since October 1913), The Firm had undertaken its remodelling in 1914, which was enthusiastically described in a newspaper interview with Melbourne-based Managing Director, George Tallis prior to its reopening.
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“SMARTEST LITTLE THEATRE.”
ADELAIDE AND THE WILLIAMSON PRODUCTIONS.
[By our Special Reporter.]
In theatrical attractions Adelaide is getting into line with its neighbouring capitals. There is an avalanche of J.C. Williamson attractions approaching. If Mr. George Tallis (managing director of Williamson, Limited) had not made a casual trip to Adelaide last December this city would not, for two or three years, perhaps, have become possessed of the smartest little theatre in Australia.
It was a long while since “the head” had paid a visit to the Adelaide Royal. When he saw its condition, and gauged its possibilities, things began to get busy. Mr. Tallis sped to Sydney and hustled his architect and contractor, Messrs. Pitt and McDonald respectively. To-night, when theatregoers gaze in admiration upon the Hindley street transformation they will witness the fruition of a really tremendous enterprise. The rebuilding of the Theatre Royal has been the most sensational performance staged anywhere by the great entrepreneurs.
The story of the three-shift two-month task is one of splendid management of men allied to superb response on the part of every unit. Even on Friday morning, when a reporter chatted with Mr. Tallis, in the remodelled stalls, there was such chaos of incompletion that the lay mind failed to visualize a public entertainment within 36 hours. Yet every minute was telling its tale and paying its tribute to the brains behind the whole scheme.
“Yes,” said Mr. Tallis, “I think we have the finest theatre of its kind in Australia. No place in Melbourne or Sydney can equal it for at least three things. Those are comfort, ventilation, and sighting. We have gone the limit in providing comfort; we have gone one better in securing ventilation; and as for the sighting, from any seat or corner of the building it is simply magnificent. Compared with the acoustics of the old Theatre Royal this new construction will provide immense improvement. See that massive proscenium arch! Notice how it issues from the stage like a gigantic funnel. That is precisely what it is. It throws out the sound for all the world like the funnel on a phonograph. We are going to make the ventilation here a pattern for all our theatres. We are going to reproduce it exactly in our new little theatre in Melbourne, which should be completed in 12 or 18 months. [A reference to the proposed Williamson Theatre, which ultimately would not be constructed due to the on-set of WWI.]
—Red Letter Day.—
“When I speak of comfort here, I want you to see how we have provided not only handsome and luxurious chairs, but there is more space per seat than patrons have ever had in the Royal before. It is all a tribute to our architect and contractor. Than Mr. McDonald I do not think any man living can handle an army of workmen better; he is a wizard. I must give thanks to our representative here, Mr. Herbert Myers, who has ably watched over the whole business, night and day. Saturday will be a red-letter day for J.C. Williamson, Limited, for we shall open two new theatres—this in Adelaide and an Opera House in Wellington, which cost £65,000. In a week or two we hope to start work on still another new Williamson theatre in Sydney—corner of George and Bathurst streets. That place will be almost as large as Her Majesty's in Melbourne, and will accommodate 2,250 people. [Another proposed theatre which did not come to fruition due to the war.]
—A Gigantic Concern.—
“Our total of theatres? Well, we shall hold four in the New South Wales capital, three in Melbourne, and one each in Adelaide, Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington (those three in New Zealand we have on lease). Then there are a theatre in London, and our South African interests …
“What are we going to do with the Adelaide Theatre Royal? Why, we are going to keep it pretty well always stocked. Your public will, of course, have a big say in that matter; but I will tell you our immediate prospects. You will be having the ‘Forty Thieves’ pantomime before long, and the ‘Revue’ show as well. That latter, by-the-way, is the biggest and most expensive attraction we have ever tackled. We not only propose to give Adelaide folk much more frequent treats, but we hope to run longer seasons. We shall linkup Adelaide much more closely with Melbourne, by alternating our attractions more frequently between the two capitals than has been possible in the past. You see, as this bigger and better theatre now stands, we shall have the chance to send you our bigger and more costly productions …
“The firm of Williamson hereby promises Adelaide not only a better theatre, but a higher standard and wider choice of attractions. Naturally, in return, we look for an equivalent extension of public encouragement.’
The Register (Adelaide), Saturday, 11 April 1914, p.5 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58505574
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The Bulletin’s dramatic critic in Adelaide writes: The last generation seems to have had a sporting idea of fire-risks in theatres. The rebuilding of the Royal (last reconstructed in 1878) has brought to light all kinds of stuff that was fair flame-food. The old idea seems to have been to put up a framework of timber, line it with match-board, and pad that with hessian. Out of the dome have come down hundreds of cartloads of inflammable material, just under which was hung the great chandelier that—all the years before electricity came in-—gave out so intense a heat. Dress-circle Adelaide knew that it got to and from its seats by a wooden staircase, passing above a liquor-bar, but it did not know what a bonfire it was going to have a front seat in if anything went wrong. However, nothing did. Herbert Myers—local manager for the Williamson Co.—points with pride to the vast quantities of marble stairs, and steel beams, and fibrous-plaster ornamentation that are to minimise risk in the new building. The old Academy of Music, dating from about the same time as the Royal, was burnt down twice in the ’80s; and then they got tired of rebuilding it.
The Bulletin (Sydney), Vol. 35, No. 1781—2 April 1914, p.9—Poverty Point
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Given the smaller population of Adelaide in comparison to the Eastern state capitals of Sydney and Melbourne and consequently the city’s proportionally smaller number of regular theatregoers, the J.C. Williamson productions staged in the South Australian capital were given limited run seasons and, to make such seasons financially viable in terms of the production costs involved (which included the transportation of scenery, costumes, properties and the company members themselves, which sometimes included principal orchestral players, with local musicians “picked up” in the host city) there would be two or more productions staged in repertory by each company sent on the “road.” Thus, in addition to High Jinks, the New English Musical Comedy Company also toured its earlier success The Girl in the Taxi, which would also be making its South Australian debut. The Adelaide press had already primed it readers with news of the success that the company had enjoyed during its respective theatrical seasons in Sydney and Melbourne since August 1914 and it now reported the imminent arrival of the company in the Southern state, whose residents could at last see for themselves those musicals which had so entertained the Easterners (taking care also to emphasise the success that The Girl … had enjoyed in London and New York; and also drawing a comparison between High Jinks and The Belle of New York, which, prior to the success of the former, had been the most successful American musical to be staged in Australia up to that date—Australian tastes at the time tending to prefer British musical comedies and Anglicised European operettas and comic operas. Indeed a revival of The Belle … had also been initially advertised for Adelaide, but it wasn’t until the company reached Perth that it was eventually staged.)
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J.C. WILLIAMSON SEASON.
“THE GIRL IN THE TAXI” AND “HIGH JINKS.”
“The Girl in the Taxi,” the next J. C Williamson musical offering for the Theatre Royal, will be presented next Saturday evening for six nights and a matinee. The occasion is one of special interest, since the principals will all make on this occasion their first appearance in Adelaide. Mr. C.H. Workman’s reputation as a comedian has already proceed him, while the company also includes Mr. W.H. Rawlins, Miss Millie Engler, Miss Gwen Hughes, Messrs. Fred Maguire, Hugh Huntley, Chris Wren, Paul Plunket, Miss Nellie Hobson, Miss Marie Eaton, Miss Daisy Yates, Miss Florence Vie, and Miss Dorothy Brunton. The score is by Jean Gilbert, whose catchy music largely contributed to the success of this famous musical comedy in London and New York, also in Melbourne and Sydney a few months back. The second and final production of the season will be devoted to what is described as the high kick of musical comedy, “High Jinks” with which the above company are now terminating a highly successful season in Melbourne. There are three acts in this play, which is of “The Belle of New York” type, and each of them is characterised by the same lighthearted irresponsibility, gaiety, and snap as “The Girl in the Taxi,” and it also furnishes scenes of musical frivolity and good humour, and provides a host of genuinely mirthful situations. “High Jinks” will be staged for six nights and matinee, commencing Saturday, May 29. The box plans for the season of 12 nights and two matinees will open at Marshalls’ next Tuesday morning at 9 o'clock ...
W. H. Rawlins, who plays Baron Dauvray in “The Girl in the Taxi,” and Jeffreys, the lumber king, in “High Jinks,” relates that he was once appearing in drama, when the company had to put on a new play with but scant preparation. On the day of the opening the manager, who was also the producer as well as a member of the cast, pointed out that no one seemed to know their part at all well, and the only thing to do was to be prepared for emergencies. “ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “If I find things are too bad, I’ll come on with a pistol and kill everybody off.” “And this is what happened,” said Mr. Rawiins. “Half-way through the last act, after everybody had been floundering terribly, the ‘villain’ came on with a pistol, and pointing it at each of the principals, exclaimed. ‘Your time has come; now die!’ shooting them off, one after the other, and the curtain fell amidst loud applause.”
Field Fisher, who plays Dr. Robert Thorne in “High Jinks,” is another musical comedy artist who has graduated from drama. Years ago he strutted a brief time in a varied assortment of dramatic plays, including a production of “Charles I” by Sir Henry Irving, in which Mr. Fisher played a young prince. His varied roles also included a nihilist, a burglar, an old woman, an escaped convict, and others of a type which, as Mr. Fisher says, made his stage life a series of ups and downs. “They are mostly bad people I played in those dramas of my early stage career,” says Mr. Fisher. “My list of stage convictions was so long that i would have required to be a Methuselah to have served the sentences.”
“I am very glad to be playing a part in which I am allowed to laugh,” said Field Fisher, who is playing a mercurial doctor in “High Jinks.” “In ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ as the waiter Alexis, I had to keep a stiff face the whole of the evening and to resist the temptation to laugh. It was a perpetual strain. In ‘High Jinks’ I can give my face as much exercise as I like. It nearly knocked me silly sometimes when one or two of the artists would try to make me laugh. They only caught me once!”
Playgoers who have seen Dorothy Brunton in musical comedy—and they are innumerable—have oftentimes marvelled at the deft little dramatic touches she puts into her work. Notably this was a characteristic of her acting in “Autumn Manoeuvres,” particularly in the scene with her father, in the course of which she made one of her biggest successes with her song “Daddy Dear.” Miss Brunton gained her knowledge of dramatic values from her early experiences in drama. Her early training was with Mr. and Mrs. Bland Holt, playing child parts. She was “Little Dorothy Brunton” then. Her first prominent part in drama was Stephanus in “The Sign of the Cross” with the Julius Knight Company.
The Mail (Adelaide), Saturday. 15 May 1915, p.6 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59297192
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As mentioned in the article, the various cast changes for the Adelaide season included English actress, Daisy Yates taking over the role of “Mdlle. Chi-Chi” from Gertrude Glyn in High Jinks, with Chi-Chi’s Act 3 song “The Bubble” now reassigned to Dorothy Brunton, who, as “Sylvia Dale”, had hitherto only been an ‘onlooker’ to the farcical complications that ensued in the concluding Act, without making any further significant contribution to the plot (as the Sydney and Melbourne reviews of the show had previously noted.) As a compensation for the loss of the song, however, Daisy performed a dance duet “The Grand Vitesse” with her “brother”, Sydney Yates in the third Act’s cabaret scene in the place of Vlasta Novotna and Victor Lauschmann, whose dancing had been a feature of the Sydney and Melbourne seasons. The Yates also danced the tango in the second Act of The Girl in the Taxi previously assigned to Novotna and Laushmann. (Although Sydney had performed in Australia in previous years, Daisy was making her Antipodean debut and both were engaged by JCW in South Africa to join the company for the musical comedy season in Adelaide, where they had arrived by ship in early May. The pair were, in fact, unrelated but performed together as a ‘brother and sister’ dance duo—their actual names being Ellen Maingay Daniels and Sydney Culverhouse.)
And with the retirement of English leading lady, Maggie Jarvis from the stage in December 1914 to settle down to married life as Mrs. Thomas Reynolds in Melbourne, Dorothy Brunton was promoted to the female lead role in The Girl in the Taxi, having previously played the daughter of the Dauvray household, “Jacqueline”, in Sydney and Melbourne (a role now played by local actress, Cecil Bradley.) Additionally Alfred Frith was now cast as “Professor Charcot” in place of D.J. Williams, who had enacted the role in the original Sydney and Melbourne seasons of The Girl … Andrew McCunn also came over from Sydney to conduct the orchestra and supervise the musical side of both productions.
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Critical reaction to Charles Workman’s performance in High Jinks in both Sydney and Melbourne had tended to be mixed. Although his acting ability and the undoubted quality of his singing were never in question, such reservations that were expressed were mainly in relation to the casting of the middle-aged comedian in the relatively straight role of what was essentially the musical’s juvenile romantic lead. Consciously aware of this, Workman (who had celebrated his 43rd birthday in Melbourne on 5 May) preceded his Adelaide debut by directly addressing the matter in the press.
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At The Play
“One or two of the papers seemed to accept my part as a ‘straight’ one, and referred to me as playing the lover,” said C.H. Workman, discussing his role of Dick Wayne in ‘High Jinks,’ at Her Majesty's, Melbourne. “It wouldn't be the first time I have played other than a character part,” added Mr. Workman, “yet because I made my first appearance as Pomarel, in ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ which is to open at the Theatre Royal next Saturday week, everyone expects me to stick to that type of part. For example, the other day I was introduced to a man who, after referring eulogistically to ‘High Jinks,’ remarked, ‘But why, Mr. Workman, have they given you Romeo to play, balcony scene and all?’ Dick Wayne is certainly something of a stage lover, but the part has a certain amount of sentiment, and I enjoy playing it. The only fly in the ointment, as it appears to me, is that in this country if they see you in one type of part, they expect you to stick to it all the way through.”
The Critic (Adelaide), Wednesday, 12 May 1915, p.10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212160489
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Although Workman had only briefly visited Adelaide before, during the RMS Orontes’ stopover there on Saturday, 25 July 1914, en route to Melbourne and Sydney on its voyage out from England, his presence in Australia had been a regular item of interest noted in the theatrical columns of the South Australian press, which had published the following anecdote the previous January.
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Mr. C.H. Workman, the well-known comedian, tells an amusing story of his young days.
A fancy-dress bicycle gymkhana was organised in aid of some local charity, and Mr. Workman attended dressed as a young lady, to the great scandal of some of his friends. He had a very busy day collecting for the fund, and among other places he entered was a small country inn. Here an animated discussion arose as to whether the fair collector was a boy or a girl.
An old chap presently came up to him. “Will ’ee ’ave a drink, miss?” he asked.
“I don't mind if I do!” was the cordial reply of the “miss.”
A tankard of ale was brought, and, forgetting everything except the thirst that consumed him, he drained it at a draught.
“Well,” said the old man respectfully, “I dunno if thee be a lass or a lad, but, by gum, thee can soop ale!”
Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA), Saturday, 30 January 1915, p.5
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Press agents continued to furnish the local press with anecdotes related by the company members prior to their arrival in Adelaide.
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MUSIC AND THE DRAMA
FROM STAGE AND PLATFORM
SOME PASSING NOTES.
Field Fisher, the English comedian with “The Girl in the Taxi,” made one of his early appearances in drama with the late Lawrence Irving. In one of his plays he was cast as a Nihilist. “I don't want you to wear a wig,” said Mr. Irving, “I want the real thing. Let your hair grow long.” When the hair grew down over his ears the actor found it a bit of a nuisance, especially when he attracted the attention of small boys, who publicly advised him to “get his hair cut.” The result was that Mr. Fisher approached Mr. Irving and told him that he was going to throw up the part and pay a visit to the barber. An extra £2 per week, however, made the actor change his mind and keep his hair on. “But it was worth it—and more,” says Mr. Fisher.
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“I seem to be paying the penalty of success, as Bumerli in ‘The Chocolate Soldier,’ ” said Mr. C.H. Workman, who created the role in London, and is to feature in the cast of “The Girl in the Taxi” at the Theatre Royal. “Every mail brings me heaps of letters, the gist of which is the query, ‘Will you play Bumerli in “The Chocolate Soldier” in Australia?’ I had no sooner set foot in Australia than an interviewer asked me that question. I replied that I was here to play my original part of Pomarel in ‘The Girl in the Taxi.’ ‘Yes,’ said the interviewer, but couldn't that play be put off to enable you to appear first in “The Chocolate Soldier”?’ And so it goes on,” added Mr. Workman. “I just want to forget that I once was Bumerli, because I like my part of Pomarel very much, and I want the public to like me as Pomarel.”
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Saturday, 8 May 1915, p.8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134407873
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The Girl in the Taxi was the first ‘cab off the rank’ opening at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide on 22 May 1915, and the audience reaction and critical opinion of the musical comedy mirrored that of its prior Sydney and Melbourne seasons.
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“THE GIRL IN THE TAXI”
WILLIAMSON COMPANY'S COMEDY TRIUMPH
BRILLIANT OPENING PERFORMANCE
Very useful are comparisons even if there are occasions on which they happen to be odious. During the last few years theatregoers have had ample opportunities of comparing the various classes of comic opera as presented by Viennese, Parisian, and American composers. They could, therefore, with some degree of correctness size up the relative merits of the best of those which have been staged in Adelaide, and the very latest of the species, “The Girl in the Taxi,” which was presented at the Theatre Royal for the first time on Saturday night. Had one averaged public opinion he would doubtless have found a general belief that "The Girl in the Taxi" was the best example of musical comedy seen here since the famous “Merry Widow.” It certainly sparkled where most of the others have merely glimmered in patches, and in humor, music, and plot was as far above them as was that other well-known work which made Franz Lehar's reputation. Handled by a remarkably clever, well-balanced, and versatile company, and assisted by a very competent orchestra, it was a most agreeable and lighthearted entertainment, and was given a wonderfully cordial reception from an audience which filled the theatre to overflowing.
“The Girl in the Taxi” is French—decidedly so. One does not find in it a moral lesson or sentimental plot, but an abundance of espierglerie, vivacity, and musical frivolity which pleases the fancy, captivates the eyesight, and sets one at good terms with oneself. There is a spice of naughtiness to add that piquancy which most playgoers appreciate, and a multitude of farcical situations which supply unending action and keep the machinery of the plot moving with that swiftness so necessary to the success of musical comedy. Above all, it is light. Call it an iridescent bubble on the surface of events and you have a fairly accurate description of what the production really is.
The name of the piece is quite misleading. There is no girl in a taxi to be seen, and only once is her existence hinted at. But, after all, that doesn't matter a little bit. If some other title—"A Night in a Joy Club,” for instance—were chosen it would be all the same. The aim of the librettists was to create a family mix-up in which a father, son, daughter, and nephew meet unexpectedly at the same night-club and in circumstances of peculiar embarrassment. Without any straining of possibilities the play works itself out to this end, twisting amid scenes of riotous gaiety and ludicrous perplexity, and finally unravelling itself in a whirl of action chockfull of the brightest humor. It is quite a simple story, but its embellishment is gorgeous, and scintillating wit and lilting melodies make the whole production a thing to remember with pleasure. To follow the plot one must first know the Baron Dauvray, his wife, his son Hubert, and daughter Jacqueline, and Rene, who is a nephew of the baron and an officer in the army of France. Others with whom one must form an acquaintance are Monsieur Pomeral, a wealthy provincial scent manufacturer, his wife Suzanne, who is surpassingly pretty and has been awarded a prize for virtue, and Rose Charcot, wife of a professor who at times pervades the company. Dauvray is in public life a companion of Pecksniff and Sir Joseph Porter. In private life—that is to say, when the nightclubs are open and his wife is safely asleep in bed—he is a gay dog—in fact, a “knut”. He has a pet theory, heredity, and in his Porteresque moments inflicts on all and sundry such sentiments as “If a cat has kittens in the oven, must her progeny be called ‘bis-kitts’?” or “Train up the pea in the way it should grow,” &c, Hubert wants to be a “knut,” but can't do it on his allowance of 5/- per week. Jacqueline also wants to sample the high life, but her mother won't let her. Rene, in love with Jacqueline, is a most pronounced “knut,” who when he announces his ardor is informed by the baron with true Pecksniffian egotism. “My children are my garden, and I want no weeds in it.” “No,” replies Rene, “but perhaps you require a rake.” The first act gives opportunities for introducing the characters and it closes with the Baron, Hubert, Rene, and Jacqueline stealing off separately to spend the rest of the night amid the giddy gaieties of the "Jeunesse Doree." Act two shows us the interior of the “Jeunesse Doree.” Hubert arrives and meets Suzanne, whose husband has gone off to take part in military manoeuvres. She arranges for supper, teaches him the gentle art of flirtation, and generally helps him to a good time. Next comes the Baron with Rose Charcot. It appears they met quite accidentally. He was getting in at one door of a taxi, she at the other. “My taxi, I believe,” said the Baron. “Mine, I think,” replied Rose, and in his most polished Don Juanesque manner Dauvray added, “Ours, I hope”; and “ours” it was. Follow Rene and Jacqueline, who, like the others, are shown to their private rooms. There is music and dancing, and abundance of mirth and merriment, and pretty but scantily dressed girls. The principals appear in humorous sequence, and finally there is the denouement when all come face to face. Among them even Charcot and Pomarel, who had also made the “Jeunesse Doree” their rendezvous. The only thing is that the two last mentioned, though finding their wives at the restaurant, do not know who took them there. Then comes act three, and the venue is transferred back to Dauvray’s dining room, where the parties assemble for breakfast. It is in this scene that the great bulk of the humor is packed, and without exaggeration it may be said that the audience on Saturday night fairly shrieked with laughter from end to end of it. The dialogue sparkles with the funniest passages, the appearance of the head waiter of the “Jeunesse Doree”—who has been engaged as butler by the baroness—frightens the delinquents into the most screamingly ridiculous situations, and the aggrieved husbands pay early visits to the establishment and have their doubts explained away in a fashion that can only be described as the most delightful farce. In this fashion everything Is straightened out and there is the usual happy ending.
The J. C. Williamson company which presents “The Girl in the Taxi” is the main factor in a triumphantly successful production. Few of the principals have been seen in Adelaide before, but they came here with bright reputations, which one and all sustained. There is however, one artist whom we have known favorably for some time now. She is Miss Dorothy Brunton, who takes the part of Suzanne, the leading feminine role. Right here it can said that the J.C. Williamson management provides in the person of Miss Brunton an argument against the constant importation of oversea stars for “leads.” This charming little lady proved herself to be the cleverest and sweetest exponent of musical comedy that has delighted a South Australian audience for many a long day. Miss Brunton has everything to commend her to the liking of the theatregoer. Voice, looks, figure, and deportment combine to make her a “star of stars,” and it is safe to predict for her the brightest of futures. What a bewitching little Suzanne she made! With her husband (only stage, by the way) one could say that her marriage day was the fortunate male person's awfully lucky day. Mr. W.H. Rawlins was happily cast as Baron Dauvray, And his comedy characterisation was without a doubt one of the gems of the evening. His great fund of natural humor enabled him to do the fullest justice to the many mirthful situations with which he was connected, and he had no difficulty whatever in earning his full share of most hearty applause. As Hubert Mr. Fred. Maguire had to plenty to do, and he did it well. The picture he presented of the youth anxious to break parental bounds, and finally doing so after having pawned a family painting to provide himself with funds, was clever indeed, and his subsequent scenes with Suzanne proved him to be an artist in this particular line of comedy. Very fine and dashing was Mr. Paul Plunket as Rene, and really picturesque in his French uniform—which, it might be mentioned, was recognised and cheered. Into the character of the debonair man of the world Mr. Plunket imparted the proper amount of sprightliness and devilment, and generally carried himself off his part with a pleasing and convincing naturalness and grace. Mr. C.H. Workman made the most of the many opportunities for low comedy provided by the librettists in Pomarel, who adores and trusts Suzanne implicitly, even though she only allows him to kiss her shoulder, and reserves her more ardent amorousness for her supper partners at the “Jennesse Doree.” As the stolid head waiter of the giddy restaurant Mr. Field Fisher was particularly funny. Good work was done by Messrs. Alfred Frith (Professor Charcot), Chris Wren as the diminutive and acrobatic second waiter, and Hugh Huntley the third waiter. As for the ladies, they are somewhat overshadowed by Suzanne, but they were all attractive and accomplished. Miss Cecil Bradley made a charming Jacqueline, who was at her best in her rebellious breakaway from her fiance Rene when the latter thought she had seen enough of the “Jeuneese Doree.” In her portrayal of the Baroness Delphine Dauvray Miss Millie Engler gave a clever study of the stately dame and blindly devoted mother, and Miss Gwen Hughes was sufficiently piquant as Rose Charcot to justify the baron's decision to take her with him on a clandestine joyride. Miss Helen Hobson looked very pretty in the small part of Marietta, a housemaid.
Throughout the production there was a plenitude of beautiful music, wherein the art of Jean Gilbert in contriving melodies was seen at its best. Two numbers which doubtless appealed to the audience more than any others were the waltz song “Lilt That is Mazy”—really a delightful strain—and Miss Brunton’s closing item “Suzanne,” the latter a fine swinging refrain that should not be easily forgotten. Other contributions to the musical side were the opening ensemble, “Dearest Baronne,” “The Ingenue” (Miss Cecil Bradley), “As Good as I Can Be” (Mr. W. H. Rawlins), “Sauce for the Gander” (Miss Bradley and Mr. Plunket), “The Happy Marriage” (Miss Brunton and Mr. Workman), “Paris” (Miss Brunton and Messrs. Plunket and Maguire), “Not Too Fast and Not Too Slow” (Miss Brunton and Mr. Maguire) ensemble, “Why, Jacqueline, How Came You Here” (Misses Brunton and Bradley, and Messrs. Rawlins. Plunket, and Maguire), “The Old Dog and the Young Dog” (Messrs. Rawlins and Maguire), and “Let the Toast go Round” (Miss Brunton). The chorus was strong and well balanced. An incidental item was a tango danced by Mr. and Miss Yates, which was responsible for one of the most persistent encores of the evening.
It would not be fair to pass over the gorgeous dressing or brilliant scenic effects without a word of commendation. Both these features were outstanding, and, indeed, quite eclipsed previous J.C. Williamson efforts, splendid though many of them have been. Some of the costumes worn by the ladies might be termed the “dernier cri” of Parisian fashion, especially that worn in the last act by Miss Given Hughes—divided petticoats, similar to the long-legged pantaloons of our great-grandmothers, being a conspicuous portion of the creation.
“The Girl in the Taxi” is to be staged throughout the week, including a matinee next Wednesday at 2 o’clock, and on Saturday next “High Jinks” will be presented for the remaining six nights and matinee. The season is limited to a fortnight only.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Monday, 24 May 1915, p.2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134410573
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Born into the theatrical life in Melbourne, as the daughter of John Brunton (a chief scenic artist for actor-manager, Bland Holt and J.C. Williamson), Dorothy Brunton revealed some of the disadvantages of life on-the-road for the touring actress (which probably explained her absence from the company’s subsequent season in Perth.)
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FIVE MINUTES WITH MISS DOROTHY BRUNTON.
“Miss Brunton will see you this afternoon,” said Mr. Herbert Myers when he had arranged the interview by ’phone, so 2.30 found us waiting upon the lady at the South Australian Hotel. But pretty, vivacious little Dorothy Brunton was in bed waiting the arrival of the doctor. Still she had a little chat, in which her mother, Mrs. Brunton, largely assisted. Dorothy’s mother deserves a par all to herself, she is simply charming, so young and pretty you cannot credit she is Miss Brunton’s mother.
“How fortunate your mother is with you now?”
“Yes,” replied Miss Brunton, “I don't know what I should do without her. Since my father died five years ago she has always travelled with me.”
“The last time we were in Perth,” said Mrs. Brunton, “we had a cheerful experience to begin with. We are not good sailors, and I arrived there so ill I had to go straight to a hospital. Dorothy visited me the first three days, and she looked such a perfectly awful color I thought she was going to be ill. The next thing that happened was she had quinsy, and I had to leave the hospital to go and nurse her.”
“This is rather a doleful conversation,” remarked Miss Dorothy.
“How did you get this chill?”
“Coming over in the train,” explained Mrs. Brunton. “Unfortunately there were Parliamentary men on the train, and they had taken all the best carriages, consequently the sleepers we were in had no doors, and it was a bitterly cold draught blowing upon us the whole time, and Dorothy being run down it has evidently affected her. She was in such pain last night she could hardly stand.”
“And yet managed to look so full of fun and laughter. You had a very busy time before coming here?”
“Yes, I was going hard for some months rehearsing for our last new production, ‘The Girl in the Film.’ That and being fitted for frocks, shoes, hats, everything imaginable, does not leave a moment unoccupied. I have been going like that for three years now straight off, and Dr. Strong warned me in Melbourne that I would have to get in a rest somehow. But I love the work and feel I want to keep at it.”
“When did you first play in Adelaide?”
“In the ‘Count of Luxembourg’ and ‘The Chocolate Soldier’ and ‘Autumn Manoeuvres.’ I had such a nice compliment paid me in Melbourne before I left, one I appreciated very much. Mdlle. Dolores was staying at the same hotel and went to the theatre one night. The next morning she wrote me a charming note saying how much she had enjoyed my performance, and complimented me upon my singing—she is such a sweet woman —I would like you to see the letter.”
At this moment the arrival of the doctor brought our chat to an abrupt close, and we left with best wishes for a speedy recovery for the sake of the public as well as herself.
The Critic (Adelaide), 26 May 1915, p.20, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page23529336
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Further insights into Charles Workman’s various interests and accomplishments were provided by the following interview conducted by the pseudonymous “Jacques” of the Adelaide Daily Herald.
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COMEDY AND CRIME
C. H. WORKMAN CLOSELY STUDIES BOTH
INTERESTING CHAT ON GILBERTIAN OPERA
Interviewing a theatrical celebrity is not always pleasure unalloyed. One meets some with whom it is a pleasure to converse. Occasionally one meets the other sort, and the period of the interview is one of torture. I have experienced both kinds, and in the category first mentioned I want to place Mr. C.H. Workman the celebrated English comedian whose Pomarel in “The Girl in the Taxi” is something to remember with the greatest delight.
For an hour yesterday I chatted with him on divers subjects. Mr. Workman did most of the talking, and I was quite content to listen with the utmost interest for his lengthy experience in the mimic world has given him a store of theories, anecdotes, and reminiscences which would be a veritable treasure to him were he ever to embark on the sea of authorship. The conversation started with comparisons of the work of those master-minds, Gilbert and Sullivan, and present-day farce compositions, and gradually drifted along the most pleasant lines until I found myself engrossed in his stories of adventure in the underworld of London and Liverpool. This latter subject may seem strange when coming from one whose theatrical duties have never earned for him, as the “villain of the play,” the hisses of the hero-loving gallery. Mr. Workman has never departed from the genialities of musical comedy, but for all that be is a keen student of criminology, and has accompanied some of England’s most famous detectives on not a few daring adventures.
“I started my stage career in Gilbert and Sullivan opera,” said the artist in reply to a leading question. “It was in 1894 that I made my first appearance, curiously enough at the Shakespeare Theatre at Straford-on-Avon. The piece was ‘Utopia Limited.’ I think that I now hold a record which is unique, for I have played the leading comedy roles in every one of the operas written by the famous pair, with the one exception of ‘Ruddigore.’ ”
And your favorite part is?
“ ‘Jack Point,’ in ‘The Yeomen of the Guard.’ I always loved that part, and I think I must have done very well in it, for I had the honor of being paid a very high compliment by the late W.S. Gilbert. The occasion was at a dinner given by the Playgoers’ Club, London, after the last revival at the Savoy Theatre of ‘The Yeomen of the Guard.’ Gilbert was present, and among others were Grossmith, the original Jack Point, and Walter Passmore, who played the part in the first revival. I was Jack Point in the second revival. When the time came for speechmaking Gilbert had something to say about the performance. This was his actual remark: ‘I am sure that neither Workman’s protagonist, Grossmith, nor his immediate predecessor, Passmore, will grudge him the triumph he has achieved, as he played the part with exquisite charm and finish.’ I regard it as the highest compliment that I could have had paid me. Only the other day I came across that speech in a book which Bridgeman has written, entitled ‘Gilbert, Sullivan, D’Oyly Carte, and a History of the Savoy Theatre’.”
I gather that you are still true to your old love, and that you prefer the operas of your earlier associations?
“Yes, I love the old operas, and can truthfully say that I would like to have a go at them again. Much as I like the parts I am at present playing, I would dearly like to appear out here in such a role as Jack Point, the Lord Chancellor in ‘Iolanthe’ or even the King in ‘Princess Ida.’ ”
Then you must have found it difficult to break from the richer and more satirical humor of Gilbertian works into the extreme frivolity of the French farce?
“It might have been hard had I not had a good run in ‘The Chocolate Soldier,’ which, as you know, had a great run in London. From that to the character of Pomarel in ‘The Girl in the Taxi’, which piece ran for 13 months, was a sort of stepping stone. Still, Jack Point is a role in which there was never meant to be any low comedy, and the man who clowns all the way through it does wrong. The unfortunate jester, as Gilbert meant him to be, combines comedy, pathos, and tragedy, and in the latter reaches the sublime. There are always tears not far from his laughter. I must say that I have never portrayed a character who touched me to the same extent as does Jack Point. In that magnificent finale I have never had any need for vaseline tears, for I have finished with real tears streaming down my face. I remember one performance in Manchester at the close of which I took a call in this state, and there were plenty among my audience who were sobbing also.”
That indeed is real entry into the spirit of the part.
“Yes, and therein lies for me the charm of the stage. You go into a theatre and at once become a different person. Instead of thinking what you would do in the situations that are created you think what the character as outlined by the author would have done. I make it my business to get as close to life in my acting as I possibly can. In ‘The Grand Duke,’ one of Gilbert's productions, and his last [with Sullivan], as a matter of fact, I had to play the part of an old Jew clothier. Well, for weeks before the opera was staged I used every Sunday to dress in my oldest clothes and take a walk into the Jewish quarter down in Petticoat Lane. Soon I came across the very type of man I had to represent, and by studying closely every detail of his facial expression, his movements, and his garb I was able when the time came to present to my audience a character which was as true to life as it could possibly be.”
Do you think such works as were produced by Gilbert and Sullivan will ever become as popular again as they were years ago?
“Not unless there arises a new Gilbert and a new Sullivan. Never were two men more fitted to collaborate, and never was there a greater misfortune than when they parted company. That break was a tragedy over a trifle if ever there was such a thing. You know, Gilbert, Sullivan, and Carte were running the Savoy on shares, each man taking an equal part. Gilbert was away on holiday, and during his absence the other partners decided to purchase a new carpet for the theatre. That in itself was only a trifling matter, but Gilbert thought he should have been consulted, and the argument that ensued led to the separation, it was most unfortunate for all. Gilbert wrote several operas after the split, but none of them was successful.”
You have undertaken management yourself, have you not?
“Yes, and whenever I feel inclined to grumble at my lot as an actor I force upon myself the reflection that I might be worse off as a manager. I went into management at the London Savoy and produced three musical plays—'Fallen Fairies,’ ‘The Mountaineers,’ and ‘Two Merry Monarchs.’ They left the Treasury £14,000 on the wrong side, for, although there was no doubt as to their excellence as plays, getting a success is a costly business in London.”
The reception accorded you by Australian audiences must have made you wish you could transport them to England for the benefit of managers?
“I agree with you. We certainly have had some magnificent audiences. Without a doubt Australians have a great liking for such plays as ‘The Girl in the Taxi’ and ‘High Jinks,’ and I am sure the people of Adelaide will enjoy the latter just as much as they did the other. It really is a splendid performance, and I can assure you that we all enjoy acting in it. The music is catchy, the dialogue snappy, and the situations even more funny than those in ‘The Girl in the Taxi.’ By the way, in ‘The Girl’ Miss Brunton is my wife, but in ‘High Jinks’ she is my sweetheart. Rather a staggerer such a change in relationship all in the short space of two nights, isn't it?”
Yes, it surely is. Theatregoers will envy you your good fortune.
“Who could blame them,” said Mr. Workman, laughingly. “By the way, Miss Brunton has in ‘High Jinks’ a most charming waltz refrain, which I know will please everybody.”
Than Adelaide theatregoers, there are no people in Australia more pleased with Miss Brunton’s great success, I added. And taking up the part of questioner again I sought some information as to how Mr. Workman occupied his time when not acting or rehearsing.
It was then that we drifted into the subject of criminology, and I learned of visits to the darkest of Liverpool’s criminal haunts with detectives who were seeking an absconding cashier; of the raiding of an illicit dancing hall in the underworld of London; and of talks in waterside haunts with men who mostly were “wanted” in some other part of the world. “We never went without being armed,” said Mr. Workman, “but not once were we attacked. Criminals of the lowest type, though many of the men with whom we came in contact might have been, they were content to let us alone so long as they knew that they were not wanted by the detectives who were on the job. What interesting studies those men provided. You have nothing like them out here but I must say you are very well off without them.”
In answer to a final question. Mr. Workman expressed his great admiration of the Australian chorus and ballet. These, he said, could not be bettered anywhere. And he has learned to love the Australian audiences even though, as he admitted, it is rather difficult for a stranger to become used to the different moods that prevail in the capitals of the eastern States.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Friday, 28 May 1915, p.2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134411412
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The Girl in the Taxi was succeeded by High Jinks on Saturday, 29 May and the critical plaudits which had greeted the show in both Sydney and Melbourne were repeated in the Adelaide press, attesting to the musical’s popularity with both critics and audiences alike.
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A SPLENDID PRODUCTION.
ANOTHER “ROYAL” SUCCESS
“MAIL’S” SPECIAL REPORT.
Only a few moments elapsed after the curtain was raised on “High Jinks” at the Theatre Royal this evening before Dick Wayne, an explorer. produced the marvellous perfume. Its effect was instantaneous not only on the artists on the stage, but on the great audience which entirely filled the building. This wonderful discovery had the power of transforming the most severe into happy, dull-free beings, and of infusing into the cold blooded the most amorous of feelings; in a word, the blues were danced clean away. Even when Dr. Robert Thorne, an American specialist in Paris, was faced with death or the option of Mons. Jacques Rabelais kissing his wife, and when he ought to have felt sad, under the spell of the great scent he was blithe and gay. So was the public, and the musical jollity in three acts can be heartily recommended as an exceedingly mirth-creating production. Everybody present was wound up, and happiness and laughter reigned unchallenged.
Many attractions combined to make “High Jinks” an undoubted success— the extraordinarily complicated situations, the high-class performers, the elaborate settings, the pretty dresses, the attractive choruses, and last, but not least, the sparkling music ...
Mr. Field Fisher took the character of Dr. Thorne, and he was one of the first to come under the spell of “High Jinks” perfume. Instead of curt, impolite, and unaffectionate replies to Mrs. Thorne he lavishes kisses on her and other people's wives. The result is he has to make a hurried departure to Beauville, a bathing resort on the French coast, in an attempt to avoid a duel. His enemy, the Frenchman, his wife, and everyone else eventually meet there, and the jinks become higher than ever. Miss Florence Vie as Adelaide Fontaine, a runaway wife, had a heavy part, but she did not appear at any time to be downhearted on account of her loss. She was delightfully ingenue throughout, and especially at Beauville, where Dr. Thorne was paying all the bills. The duet with W.H. Rawlins. “Come Hither,” proved particularly attractive. Paul Plunket. as the Frenchman, was a great success, and his association with Dorothy Brunton in a duet, “Not Now, but Later” was most heartily encored. W.H. Rawlins as Mr. J.J. Jeffeys. an American lumber king, caused many laughs. His repudiation of the idea that he was the champion boxer raised a scream every time. Mr. Alfred Frith as Colonel Slaughter acted right up to his first-class comedy reputation. Dorothy Brunton as Sylvia Dale was not afforded many opportunities, but her songs, “Is This Love at Last?'' and “By the Sea” were among the best selections. Miss Daisy Yates as Mlle. Chi Chi, sang as beautifully as she danced. In the last scene she and her brother gave the Grand Vitesse, a wonderful whirlwind dance, which was encored three times. The other artists fully sustained their roles, and greatly contributed to the enjoyment of the performance.
“High Jinks” will be presented every evening until Friday, and on Wednesday afternoon there will be a matinee.
The Mail (Adelaide), Saturday, 29 May 1915, p.7 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59299040
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The audience which assembled in the Adelaide Theatre Royal on Saturday night to welcome that musical jollity. “High Jinks,” was from a managerial stand-point an absolute record. Every inch of standing room allowed by the law with all the seating accommodation was fully occupied, and what was equally as important so far as the company was concerned, the greeting accorded to each item of the performance was both appreciative and enthusiastic. “The Girl in the Taxi” was a very great success, but the Williamson New English Musical Comedy Company excelled both it and themselves in “High Jinks,” and it is certain that the remaining nights of their all-too-short season will be abundantly successful, This is the more gratifying because the Australian element in the case has been greatly strengthened, for, in addition to the dainty charm of Miss Dorothy Brunton, we have in this second attraction that accomplished Adelaide singer, Miss Marie Eaton, whose beautiful voice was heard to great advantage in the chief musical numbers, and our old friend, Miss Florence Vie, whose skill as a comedienne has won her a high reputation throughout the Commonwealth. “High Jinks” has a subtle charm which captivated the theatregoers of London when it was originally presented at the Lyric Theatre there last year [sic—it did not receive its London premiere until 1916 at the Adelphi Theatre], and which since it was first produced in Australia has won it immense success in all the cities where it has been seen. The people of Adelaide have placed the seal of their approval on the verdict of Melbourne and Sydney, and probably most of those lucky persons who saw the spirited performance on Saturday night will take other opportunities of refreshing their pleasant memories concerning the musical comedy before the season ends on Friday night.
There are three acts, each of which is more hilarious than that which preceded it. The first is a pretty setting representing the sanatorium of Dr. Thorne, near Paris, with a handsome residence on one side, a surgery on the other, court yard with a stone wall and iron gate in the centre, and distant view of Paris in the background, in which the outline of the Eiffel Tower is a conspicuous feature. The second and third acts are at Beauville, a fashionable bathing-place, with the Hotel du Pavilion exterior, and a vast expanse of esplanade terrace, and azure sea to begin with, and afterwards the warmth and luxury of electric lights and a throng of banqueters and night birds. The principals move about in the various scenes amid a kaleidoscopic chorus composed, as the theme of song or action suggests, of nurses, housemaids, seaside strollers, French shop girls, cabaret dancers, fashionable promenaders, gaily-apparelled guests, bathing parties, waiters, and other bright beings, all of whom are attired in picturesque costumes harmonising most artistically with the general color scheme. The plot of the story is a mere secondary consideration ...
The fun begins very early, and it remains until after the final curtain fall, for three times the delighted audience insisted upon the curtain being raised again, so that they might see the company marching past in review order, to the lilting music of "High Jinks,” and the last time, the curtain being only knee-high, the vision was of many twinkling feet, with such upward continuations as served to identify sex and character. Miss Dorothy Brunton was even more alluring and gladsome than in the previous comedy. Her dresses were dreams of prettiness, and her singing, dancing, acting, and speeches were all so many additional embellishments to her natural charm. There was a sentimental seriousness about her first ballad, “Is This Love to Last?” but there was a sprightlier note in “By the Sea” and a rollicking lightness in “Not Now, but Later,” while in “The Bubble,” illustrated by toy balloons which sailed right up to the dome of the theatre, the serious note returned. Miss Marie Eaton’s rich and beautiful voice was always enjoyable, whether in “Dancing the Blues Away,” in the opening act, or in the richer melodies of “Sammy Sang the Marseillaise,” with the martial splendor of the French national air ringing through the chorus. It was in her ragtime-operatic number, however, with Messrs. Workman and Maguire as the Mephistopheles and Faust, that Miss Eaton soared to her most magnificent heights, and the tumultuous applause which followed brought about a double repetition of the scena. Seldom in musical comedy is so effective a rendering given of such full and lustrous harmonies. Miss Florence Vie had several catchy songs to give, in which she did herself full justice, but her chief mission was of “the liberty, love, and laughter” brand. She had the principal comedy part, and she rose to the requirements of the situation with consummate skill. She received a cordial greeting on her initial entrance, and she kept the merriment on the boil wherever she went. Her acting and her speech were equally mirth-provoking, and she was always a welcome figure, a leader and an expert exponent in any of the revelries. Miss Daisy Yates was not only well placed in her part as Mlle. Chi Chi, but, with Mr. Sydney Yates, she danced the “Grand Vitesse” in such an exhilarating fashion that it had to be given three times before the performance was allowed to proceed. Misses Gwen Hughes, Nellie Hobson, and Cecil Bradley were good in less important roles. Mr. Workman, as Dick Wayne, the purveyor of the wondrous perfume, was a gay and giddy personage, but principal comedian on Saturday evening was Mr. Rawlins, as the humorous American lumber king, who was brimming over with clever sayings and who always had the risible faculties of the audience in operation. All he did and said was so much rich cream, and his speech at the banquet of reunion with wife and child was a masterpiece of heterogeneous cleverness. “Laughter holding both his sides” followed his drolleries and whimsicalities throughout. Mr. Field Fisher (the American specialist), Mr. Alfred Frith (Colonel Slaughter), Mr. Paul Plunket, as the irascible Frenchman, and Mr. Fred. Maguire all sang and acted well, and Mr. Chris. Wren was a typical garcon. The chorus, in their dancing, singing, and complicated evolutions, were invariably equal to the demands made upon them, while the scenery and lighting effects were all that could be desired.
“High Jinks” will be repeated each evening of the week and at a matinee on Wednesday, and on Saturday evening next the favorite actress Miss Nellie Stewart will appear in Beiasco's romantic historical play, “Du Barry.”
Express and Telegraph (Adelaide), Monday, 31 May 1915, p.3 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209988281
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TREMENDOUS “HIT” AT THEATRE ROYAL
ANOTHER SUCCESS FOR WILLIAMSON COMPANY.
How unfortunate it is that some things can only happen in plays. Were it otherwise we could all have a sniff of the “High Jinks” perfume, and then—hey presto! Gone would be care and troubles, debts, and duns, aches and pains, and the whole mass of the worries to which man is heir. A few drops of the wonderful essence sprinkled on the Kaiser might even be the means of ending the war, for he could not be filled with a desire to laugh, dance, and be merry and still retain a demeanor compatible with that of “The All-Highest War Lord.” However, Dick Wayne is only a creature of a playwright's fertile brain, and the wonderful “High Jinks” perfume which he dispenses is but another of those elixirs for which the world has sought, and will-ever seek in vain. The only thing, then, to be done is to do as did the crowd which packed every available space in the Theatre Royal on Saturday evening, and get the benefit of three hours of the infectious frivolity which the “High Jinks” company radiates over the footlights ...
The characters of the piece dance joyously through three acts of sparkling comedy, from the more or less sedate exterior of a nerve specialist's surgery to the promenade of the “Hotel du Pavillion,” Beauville, where, in very truth, it may be said that the jinks are of the highest. And this time the audience is immersed in a mass of harmony—a harmony made out of a number of scintillating and irresponsible details, but nevertheless a harmony that caught hold and gripped, and that will make “High Jinks” remembered as the most excellent example of the French musical farce ever seen in Adelaide …
The third act is the most handsomely staged and decorative of any. It is lit with lamps, adorned with shimmering evening dresses, interspersed with music of the liveliest description, and there is some remarkably clever dancing, in which Mr. and Miss Yates and Mr. Jack Hooper share the honors …
Of course the curtain falls with the whole tangled skein unravelled to the satisfaction of all, and a hilarious “High Jinks” finale sends the audience away laughing heartily and abundantly satisfied.
Of course, if “High Jinks” were not properly handled it might degenerate into a stupid kind of a show, but the Williamson Company which has it in hand swings it along with just the briskness of action and abandon which it demands. The individual members appear to splendid advantage, but those who stand out most prominently are Mr. W.H. Rawlins as Jeffreys the Manila lumber king, Florence Vie as Adelaide Fontaine, and Mr. Field-Fisher as Dr. Thorne. They each have magnificent opportunities for low comedy work and certainly make the most of them. Mr. Rawlins was just as clever as ever. His part was rich in that humor which he is such an adept at portraying, and nothing could have been funnier than his speech at the banquet in which he mixed up his thoughts as a happy husband and the stock remarks of a company director, or his annoyance with people who would confound him with “our former pugilistic champion.” Really it was a great performance. Miss Vie came through with flying colors. She was large, cheerful, and breezy, and her songs were given in the brightest possible fashion. The stage was lively all the time she had it, and especially so during her singing of “the Dixiana Rise” with full chorus, and the duet with Mr. Rawlins, “Come Hither.” Mr. Fisher did exceptionally well as Dr. Thorne. It was the first time Adelaide audiences had seen him in his proper sphere, and the applause which followed was proof of the predilection which they at once conceived for him. As Sylvia Dale, Miss Dorothy Brunton did not have the opportunities which were hers in '”The Girl in the Taxi,” but for all that she was just as charming and sweet as in that piece. One of her numbers, the waltz-song of the play, “Is this Love at Last?” was quite the hit of the evening, and her clear soprano was admirably suited to the vivacious “By The Sea.” Other items for which she received ovations were the duet with Mr. Plunket, “Not Now, But Later,” and a pretty ballad “The Bubble” in which the effect was heightened by the loosing of large, ruby-colored balloons which floated ceiling wards. Miss Marie Eaton did justice to herself as Mrs. Thorne. She also had a fine singing part, and her songs were well suited to her splendid voice. Especially good was her rendition of the ragtime numbers “Dancing the Blues Away” and “Sammy Sang the Marseillaise,” and in the burlesque of the prison scene from “Faust” with Mr. C.H. Workman and Fred. Maguire, she helped to successfully travesty grand opera in a manner that was very clever, for while the parody was conducted on the most humorous lines, the musical “theme” was retained throughout. Though Mr. C.H. Workman was quietly cast as Dick Wayne he nevertheless scored very heavily in the “High Jinks” number, and gave a proper conception of the lover at times in the seventh heaven of delight, and at others plunged into an abyss of despair. Mr. Paul Plunket, as the would-be duellist husband, Mons. Rabelais; Mr. Alfred Frith, as Colonel Slaughter; Miss Yates, as Chi-Chi; Miss Cecil Bradley, as a page boy; and Miss Gwen. Hughes, as the pretty nurse at Dr. Thorne’s studio, were artists who capably assisted towards the general success of the performance.
The play was produced by Mr. Harry B. Burcher, to whom much credit is due for the triumph scored, and a word of praise is due to Miss Minnie Hooper for the many pretty dances she arranged. The scenery from the brush of Messrs. Board and Little was strikingly fine, and a capable orchestra under the baton of Mr. Andrew McCunn was a pleasure to the audience, and an assistance to the performers.
“High Jinks” will run until Friday next when way will then be made for Miss Nellie Stewart’s company. There will be a matinee on Wednesday.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Monday, 31 May 1915, p.2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134411810
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There will be a matinee of “High Jinks” at the Theatre Royal at 2 p.m. to-day. The popularity of “High Jinks” exceeds that of “The Girl in the Taxi,” which fact amply testifies to the merit of this latest production by the J.C. Williamson, Ltd., new English musical comedy company. Overflowing audiences have been in attendance nightly, yet despite its record-breaking propensities this magnificent production must be withdrawn on Friday night to make way for the Nellie Stewart attraction which had been pre-arranged for. Mr. Charles Workman, who reappeared last night, has now thoroughly recovered from the indisposition which necessitated his being absent on Monday night, and his clever work in the part of Dr. Wayne, together with that of W.H. Rawlins as Jeffreys, out rivals their respective parts in the previous production. Miss Dorothy Brunton looks prettier than ever, and her charming manner, delightful personality, clever singing, and dancing are items alone which would make for success in less worthy musical plays. Field Fisher and Alfred Frith also have greater scope than formerly, and in addition the cast has been added to by the inclusion of Florence Vie and Marie Eaton. Those who have not already witnessed “High Jinks” are advised to book at Marshalls', as three of the biggest houses yet known to the theatre are confidently expected. The company will sail for Perth on Saturday, and may possibly play a return season with other new pieces when passing through to Melbourne.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Wednesday, 2 June 1915, p.2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134412195
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A week of “High Jinks” at Adelaide Royal leaves a usually unenthusiastic critic bubbling with enthusiasm. The waltz and the scent motive, coming in again and again, are highly effective; the dancing of the joyous young Australian chorus has a careless swing that captivates; and the acting is simply brilliant, without the buffoonery generally “starred” in musical comedy. Workman has been ill, but a young [Harry] Wotton took his place neatly. Rawlins is an artist. Field Fisher one would like to see in a [George] Grossmith part. And then Plunket and Frith and Maguire brisk up the show whenever they come in. Dorothy Brunton has now fully “arrived.” Florence Vie and Marie Eaton came in for this play, leaving a lot of clever girls to small parts. Business has been big, and is likely to remain so for Nellie Stewart, strongly supported, in “Du Barry.”
The Bulletin (Sydney), 10 June 1915, p.9
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Meanwhile “Jacques” of The Daily Herald turned the spotlight on the work of the musical’s producer, Harry Burcher and stage manager, Redge Carey (who, as the son of actor-manager George P. Carey, had commenced his stage career playing juvenile roles in JCW productions in the early 1900s, before taking up a position behind-the-scenes.)
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“HIGH JINKS” WATCHED FROM NEW ANGLE
HOW A PIECE IS PRODUCED
Let me take you to stageland. It will have to be a kind of a spirit voyage, with my description supplying the necessary picture of all that may be seen from that mysterious spot, the prompter’s corner. There is, of course, the possibility that while I say there were moments when I stood a solitary male in the midst of a gay, chattering, laughing cluster of the pretty girls who form the famous Williamson choruses you will scarcely derive the same satisfaction from the telling as you would from the real thing. Ah, well, we can’t all be lucky. Console yourself with my assurance that it was all most delightful. Much as I enjoyed “High Jinks” from the front on Saturday night, I enjoyed it none the less from the “back” one evening this week. One’s position does not matter so long as an uninterrupted view of the happy situation created by the “High Jinks” perfume is obtainable.
In Charge of Experts.
My guides were Mr. Harry Burcher and Mr. Redge Carey, producer and stage manager respectively of the musical farce which has set Adelaide’s feet a dancing with the lilting strains of the “High Jinks” song. I could not have been in better hands, for in the company of these two leaders I could watch the wonderful evolution from a chaotic mass of scenery of a beautiful seaside scene and the handsome exterior of the gay Hotel du Pavillion, and at the same time learn something of the unfailing attention to the minutest details that is absolutely essential to he successful production of a piece. For the benefit of those who are accompanying me on this tour of stageland let me compare Mr. Burcher to the generalissimo of an army, and Mr. Carey to his chief of staff. The one draws up the plan on which the play must be presented to the public; the other sees that the rank and file do their part towards making the thing a success, that the stage dressing makes up a picture which will be in keeping with the spirit of the performance, and that the myriad mortals whom we never see, the stage attendants, carry out their work swiftly, methodically, and accurately. Nothing must be left to chance. If a performer has to hand another a bill, or a roll of banknotes, or a phial of perfume it is the stage manager who must see that these “properties” are at hand when they are wanted. He is here, there, everywhere. Now in the prompter's corner keeping his eye on the “book,” now issuing instructions to the limelight operators, now hustling the chorus and generally keeping things moving. He is about the only man on the stage who has to work hard the whole evening, and I was by no means surprised when Mr. Carey observed to me, “This job is worth a thousand a year.” After watching him for a couple of acts I could quite believe it.
The man in the street firmly believes that from the “wings” a performance loses all the attractions it presents to the front of the house, and that it fails to overcome in those whose duties are “behind the scenes” an apathy born of familiarity. Perhaps these premises are right in certain cases, but I must say that it was not so the other night. It may have been because the J.C. Williamson firm tolerates nothing tawdry or shoddy in its productions, but at any rate there was just the same freshness and attractiveness about the performers, and the same brightness and completeness of detail about the stage setting, from my viewpoint as there was on Saturday night. And no one could have been more enthusiastic than either Mr. Burcher or Mr. Carey over the excellent manner in which the performance was swinging along. The artists themselves were anything but blase. One might well have believed that they had imbibed the spirit of the “High Jinks” perfume. In the “wings” they laughed and joked among themselves, radiated gaiety, and watched their colleagues “in action” with a keenness that betokened more than ordinary interest in all that was going on. Mr. Burcher treated them like a proud father, and looked the pride he felt.
“They're great,” he said, “That's as good a chorus as I've ever seen in England or America. In fact, I have no hesitation in saying that it is one of the best in the world. The girls are all pretty, and they can dance, sing, and act. In England the girls are fine looking, but they are showgirls and nothing more. They are on the stage because of their looks, and when it comes to singing and dancing, well—” and the sentence finished with an expressive shrug of the shoulders. “And where,” asked Mr. Carey as he pointed to the 12 ladies who are garbed as nurses in the first act of “High Jinks,” “could you find a better-looking lot of girls than those? Aren't they a fine advertisement for Australia?”
“Yes, they are,” replied Mr. Burcher. And I was an enthusiastic supporter.
No Time for Slackers.
Now, while we were talking of the chorus, I remembered that before the curtain rose on the first act I had heard Messrs. Burcher and Carey discussing certain changes, and what would happen to So-and-so if more “ginger” was not put into that person's work. It seemed strange to me that there were any who could be accused of slackness in such a play as “High Jinks,” and I remarked it. “Well,” said Mr. Burcher, “such cases are certainly few and far between. The greater number of our chorus people go into their work because they like it. There are some who are like greyhounds—every night is a first night, with them. But there are others who like a rest. We have no time for the latter, and when we catch them at their games out they go. It's the only way to keep the chorus strung up.” By the way, I observed a remarkable instance of the versatility of the Australian chorister. Mr. C.H. Workman had injured his foot and could not appear in his usual role of Dick Wayne, the explorer, who discovers the “High Jinks” perfume. His understudy (Mr. Wotton) who—I mention this with a great deal of pleasure—is an Adelaide boy, had to go on at short notice and take on the part. Believe me it was no easy task to play up to the fine standard which Mr. Workman has set, but Mr. Wotton did really well, and was congratulated in the heartiest manner by the producer, stage manager, and the principals.
The Presiding Genius.
The presence of Mr. Burcher with the company in Adelaide is an earnest [token] of the fact that the J.C. Williamson management is determined its productions shall be as perfect as possible. Seven years as stage manager at the London Gaiety, the most famous comic opera theatre in the world, have given Mr. Burcher a wonderful knowledge of the requirements of the theatrical public, and an experience in handling and arranging performances, especially those in which comedy reigns supreme, that must be invaluable to any firm which engages him. During his association with Mr. George Edwardes (the proprietor of the Gaiety) Mr. Burcher made 51 trips to America with various companies, and he now looks upon the voyage across the Atlantic as being nothing out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, however, he is no friend of King Neptune's, and he informed me that he was not looking forward with any degree of pleasure to the voyage to Western Australia which he will be taking within the next few days.
Mr. Burcher carries tangible mementoes of his connection with the Gaiety in the shape of handsome presents from many celebrities who from time to time visited the famous playhouse. Among those gifts he particularly treasures one from the Grand Duke Michael (Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army), and another from the late Mr. Vanderbilt, the American millionaire who was drowned when the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine. A tall, slim, Englishman, Mr. Burcher looks younger than his years. He has been connected with the stage for about 16 years, and prior to his appointment as stage manager at the Gaiety was himself in musical comedy, and was understudy to Mr. George Grossmith [Jnr.] This is his first visit to Australia, but he is likely to be with us for some time, as the Williamson firm has him under a lengthy contract.
A Genial Worker.
The revue, “Come Over Here,” was the last company with which Mr. Carey visited Adelaide, so that he has been associated with two of the biggest successes this city has seen in recent years. He complains good-humoredly that he always gets the hardest shows to look after, but the explanation of this doubtless is that “the firm” knows to whom it can safely trust those of its enterprises which call for all the ingenuity, initiative, patience, energy, and skill of that, to most of us, unfamiliar genius, the stage manager.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), Thursday, 3 June 1915, p.3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134412448
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“'High Jinks” will be staged for the last time at the Theatre Royal this evening. The present season has proved the most successful financially and artistically on record since the rebuilding of the Theatre. To-night should prove one of the heartiest send-offs yet experienced in Adelaide for Mr. J.C. Williamson’s company is remarkably popular … The talented performers will bid farewell this evening … The Musical Comedy Company will leave for Perth on Saturday.
The Register (Adelaide), Friday, 4 June 1915, p.3 [extracts]
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As the completion of the trans-Australian railway line lay just over 2 years away (on 17 October 1917) JCW’s New English Musical Comedy Company departed from No. 2 Quay on Saturday, 5 June aboard the S.S. Katoomba arriving at the port of Fremantle four days later with its cargo of scenery, costumes, props., etc. in preparation for a season at His Majesty’s Theatre in the Western Australian capital of Perth.
[To be continued.]
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- Love’s Own Kisses (aka ‘Is This Love at Last?’)—Dorothy Brunton
- The Bubble—Dorothy Brunton
Columbia studio orchestra conducted by Charles Adams Prince (recorded in New York c.May 1918)—Cat. no.: Columbia 772 [matrix 49415]
(courtesy of Frank Van Straten)
- Come Hither (aka ‘She says it with her Eyes’)—W.H. Rawlins with Maisie Gay (of the 1916 London cast)
Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot—Cat. no.: (HMV C-721 or 04177)
(courtesy of Dominic Combe)
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A COMEDY KING
TALKS OF A THIRTY YEARS’ CAREER
HOW W. H. RAWLINS CLIMBED THE LADDER
Big, breezy, and sunny-natured. That is a description in brief of Mr. W.H. Rawlins, Baron Dauvray of “The Girl in the Taxi,” and J.J. Jeffreys of “High Jinks,” which piece we are all going to thoroughly enjoy at the Theatre Royal to-night. On the stage he has made himself the primest of favorites. It would the same were he to forsake the limelight for the comparative retirement of ordinary citizenship. The man who could be an enemy of such a genial personality would surely pick a quarrel with a friend who offered him a fiver for nothing.
In a cosy room at the South Australian Hotel I ran Mr. Rawlins to earth, and was soon ensconced in an easy chair in front of a cheery fire. Let me say right here that from the very outset everything was in complete harmony. Better conditions for an interview no one could imagine. A group of photographs caught my eye. In one of them—the photos, not my eye—a big man was standing in the midst of a cloud of dust, and his attitude was one of extreme travail. I bent closer to look at the scene, and Mr. Rawlins explained. “Yes,” he said, in answer to an unspoken query, “that individual is myself. No, that’s not an axe; it’s a golf club. And when that picture was taken I was endeavoring to get out of a very bad bunker. I don't appear to be making a very good job of it, do I?” Following this I was shown photos of Mr. Rawlins at golf in company with other English theatrical celebrities, and also a trophy, a handsome silver cigar case, nicely engraved, which Mr. Rawlins won in a match with our old friend of comic opera, Leslie Holland. Out talk of golf led to the relating of some funny stones, one of which is worth repeating here. On one occasion Mr. Rawlins landed at an out-of-the-way place in Wales with his clubs and a fishing rod; for he is also an ardent angler. There were two youngsters on the station, and his appearance led to the following conversation, “They be funny sticks to play ’ockey with.” “G’arn, they ain’t ’ockey sticks, stoopid.” “Well, if they ain't, wot are they?” “W’y, don'tcherknow? E’s going golfishing.” And those lads were not far wrong, for, as the actor informed me, he drove two balls in a small stream adjoining the links that day and had to fish them out again.
Dropping golf, we chatted of things theatrical, and the usual question elicited the reply that Mr. Rawlins commenced his stage career nearly 30 years ago. But even before this he had an adventure as a boy actor. His parents lived at Durham, and on one occasion during a holiday at Newcastle he gratified the ambition of his young life by securing permission to appear as a frog in a pantomime. Part of his duty was to hop across the stage from the prompt to the O.P. side, and, as the stage was in semi-darkness he distinguished his first appearance by missing his way and hopping right into the lap of an old lady who was sitting in a private box on a level with the stage. She gave a scream of fright, and he, childlike, pulled off his frog mask, jumped onto the stage again, and cleared for his life. Next day the papers said that his was the star turn of the evening. Mr. Rawlins still laughs heartily over the recollection of that adventure.
His schooling over, Mr. Rawlins went into a stock company at Manchester, and in those days was associated with the famous Barry Sullivan. “Those companies did a lot of good,” I said. “Yes,” was the answer; “but their methods would not be tolerated nowadays. Now a play is put into rehearsal for a good six weeks before the public gets a glimpse of it, and if a girl has found her way into a company because she has a pretty face and a pleasing voice she is taught to act before the playgoers get a glimpse of her. In the old days what now rank as rehearsals counted as performances—and the public had to pay for them. Of course, the old stock companies made very heavy demands on one, but they soon found out if you had any versatility or ability.”
“While a member of a stock company Mr. Rawlins had an amusing experience at a place called Blackburn. They were there with G.R. Sim’s first play, “Crutch and Toothpick.” which was on the light side, and a bit above the heads of the audience. The first week’s business was of the very worst, so the manager of the hall, who was also the local butcher, and was out for gold rather than glory, told the company they would have to cut out the comedy and put on heavy drama. The company agreed, but there was nobody who could be cast as the villain. At last Mr. Rawlins was rushed into the job, though he had never previously played a heavy part, and the fun began. The audience soon dropped to the fact that temperamentally Mr. Rawlins was no villain. Mr. Rawlins knew that fact far better than anyone else in the house, and it made him so nervous that he jumbled up some of his “lines.” Early in the play he was supposed to deal rather harshly with his wife, and then to call the maid and say, “Take away my wife—I am afraid she is not well.” Instead of that he said, “Take your wife away—I am afraid I am not well.” From that moment the audience was on the qui vive for slips. They found them, and some funny ones they were, too. “I was satisfied when I got through without any more damage than was done to me by verbal bricks,” said the comedian, “it was an uncomfortable experience, but not as bad as one I had on the occasion of my wedding morning. What was it? Why, I went to the pay office to draw some cash, and the answer I got was, ‘'Just how little can you do with?’ Nice sort of wedding present for a chap, wasn’t it?”
No lightweight is W.H. Rawlins. Although he is very keen on sporting, this great bulk of laughter and contentment would probably turn the scale at somewhere about 15 st. now, and to look at him nobody would think that he was once thin enough to play the part of Gobo, the shadow, in “Les Cloches de Corneville.” Yet this was so. However, three years of that role with success and the payroll growing all the time effected a big change, and at the end of the term he was playing the part of the Baillie, which is a “fat” part in more senses of the word than one. It surely was a case of dropping the shadow for the substance.
So many operas, musical comedies, and pantomimes has Mr. Rawlins, the subject of this interview, taken part in, that his memory is stored with all sorts of reminiscences and odds and ends of poetry and music. He has had a remarkably successful stage career, and for over 20 years has been one of the recognised comedy “leads” in London and the large provincial cities of Great Britain. During the greater part of this time he was associated with the late George Edwardes, under whose management he appeared in “Les Cloches de Corneville,” “Falka,” “Pepita,” “Nanon,” “Erminie,” “La Cigale,” “Madame Favart,” “The Shop Girl,” “The Gaiety Girl,” “The Circus Girl,” “The Geisha,” “San Toy,” “The Greek Slave,” “The Messenger Boy,” “The Merry Widow,” “The Dollar Princess,” “The Girl in the Train,” “The Sunshine Girl,” “The Girl in the Film,” and “The Girl in the Taxi.” He has also played in 33 pantomimes. Twice he visited America, once with “The Gaiety Girl” and once with “The Shop Girl,” and has the pleasantest recollections of each tour. His favorite part he believes to be Uncle Matt, in “La Cigale.” Perhaps the fact that he made his first big success in this role may have something to do with his liking for it. “I followed Lionel Brough as Uncle Matt,” he told me, "and after that never looked backwards.” Other roles for which he has a particular fancy are Nish in “The Merry Widow,” and Bolger, in “The Dollar Princess,” but he is very much attached to the parts he is now playing in “The Girl in the Taxi” and “High Jinks.” “They give one such splendid opportunities,” he says. I have told you that in his early days Mr. Rawlins played with Barry Sullivan, and I may add that one of his earliest recollections with the famous Barry was in the part of one of the princes in “Richard III,” He has also fond memories of another delightful public favorite, now, alas, gone to his long rest, and this time another great comedian—Johnnie Toole—with whom he was associated at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
“You should have seen me out this way some time before I actually arrived,” said Mr. Rawlins, when I asked him how it was he came to visit Australia. “I always wanted to visit the great Commonwealth, and had signed a contract to come and take a part in ‘Gipsy Love.’ However, other arrangements were made, and it was ultimately decided that I should come to Australia with ‘The Girl in the Taxi.’ Like the place? Yes, I do. I have been in Australia over 12 months now, and have just signed a new contract to stay another six months. It meant putting off a panto engagement in London, but I'm having such a fine time out here that I don't mind how long I stay.”
“At any rate,” I said, “you have made your audiences love you like a brother.”
“Have I? Well, I'm glad. And in return for that let me say that Australian audiences are simply great. As a matter of fact, they are really too good, for they make such a fuss over you that you are likely to overdo things a bit if you are not careful. Australian artists? Well, what more can I do than point to Miss Dorothy Brunton? She has everything—appearance, charm, a good voice, and any amount of ability. If she were in London she would be the success of the season. And if she ever does go to London they won't be in a hurry to let her leave.”
Mr. Rawlins was due at rehearsal at noon, so the interview came to an end here. I shook hands and said good-bye, having spent a most pleasant time with one who could be nothing else than the best of friends and the most interesting acquaintances.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Saturday, 29 May 1915, p.3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134411638
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MUSICAL COMEDY ARTISTS
ARRIVAL OF MR. AND MISS YATES
WAR INCIDENTS IN FRANCE.
Two musical comedy artists, Mr. Sidney Yates, and his sister, Miss Daisy Yates, were passengers by the Blue Funnel liner Aeneas, which arrived at the Outer Harbor on Friday. They have come to Australia under engagement to J.C. Williamson, arrangements having been made for Miss Yates to appear in “The Girl in the Taxi,” which will be staged for the first time in Adelaide at the Theatre Royal next Saturday night. Mr. Yates [has] played in Australia, … having appeared at the New Tivoli Theatre in Adelaide when it was opened about two years ago. Miss Yates was … with Mr. George Edwardes’ company, and played the part of Mary, the Yorkshire girl in “Our Miss Gibbs” with Mr. Chris. Wren, who acted as Timothy Gibbs. During the voyage of the Aeneas the two artist made themselves very popular with all the passengers. They gave entertainments which were so appreciated that the captain, on behalf of those on board, presented Mr. Yates with a sovereign purse and Miss Yates with a gold wristlet watch.
Although Miss Yates will appear in “The Girl in the Taxi,” her brother has not yet received instructions as to what he is to do or where he is to appear. Since he left Australia Mr. Yates has been appearing in London and France, and was in Paris at the time war was declared. “Had it not been for the war,” he said, “we would not have been here. We were producing a revised version of ‘The Quaker Girl’ in one of the principal theatres of Paris, and having had the final rehearsal everything was ready for the opening night when a uniformed official read out a declaration ordering all men to immediately join their regiments. All our musicians, stage hands, and artists simply had to throw down their tools and join the colors, leaving myself and the women there. Of course the theatre, like others in Paris, had to be closed down, and our agreements were broken.
“Ten days after war was declared we tried to get out of Paris back to England, but as martial law had been proclaimed we found the task exceedingly difficult. The trains were being used to take troops to the fighting line, and it took us three days to get our tickets. About 4000 people were trying to get across to England. The train journey from Paris to Dieppe usually occupies seven hours, but it took us over two days to get there, the delays having been occasioned through having to shunt on to sidings until troop trains went by. We got to Dieppe about half-past one in the morning, but as every hotel and house was packed we could not obtain accommodation, and had the extraordinary experience of sleeping out on the sands all night. We were doubtful about getting a boat next day, but fortunately one came along, and we were taken across the channel to Newhaven. There we experienced further trouble in trying to change French money.”
Mr. Yates witnessed many exciting incidents in Paris when war was declared. Big German shops and business houses were gutted and ransacked, and there were processions by people of the allies through the streets both by night and day. The newspaper offices were bringing out special editions almost every hour, and when their paper stock became depleted they published extraordinary editions on plain paper bags. There was intense excitement and jubilation in Paris when the news came through that Great Britain was entering the war on the side of France.
When Mr. and Miss Yates got back to England they were rehearsing musical comedy for the music halls. After Christmas they went to South Africa, where they appeared in the principal cities, their season there having been extended from six to 16 weeks. It was while in South Africa that they were engaged by J.C. Williamson, Limited, to come to Australia.
The Daily Herald (Adelaide), Monday, 17 May 1915, p.3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134409321
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Since Daisy and Sydney Yates (aka Ellen Maingay Daniels and Sydney Culverhouse) were unrelated*, the Lincolnshire vicarage mentioned in the following article presumably alluded to Ellen’s family background.
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VICARAGE TO STAGE.
CLEVER DANCERS’ CAREERS.
From a quiet Lincolnshire vicarage to the world's leading stages is a far cry, but that sums up the meteoric careers of Miss Daisy and Mr. Yates, whose dancing in “The Girl in the Taxi” at the Theatre Royal has practically held up the houses since [Saturday] last. They reached Adelaide … after a successful tour in Africa, and the large audiences who have seen them here have clamoured for more on every occasion.
“The war is the reason why we are together,” remarked Mr. Yates to a “Mail” reporter. “When the clarion was first sounded we were both in Paris, in opposition establishments. We worked up a turn and intended to do the provinces in England, but it was so attractive that we were at the Coliseum for six weeks, after which we were sent to Africa. In Paris I was a ballet master and producer in four of the leading theatres. I have also done a lot of work for Pathe Freres, but dancing has always attracted me. I brought out a troupe of dancers at the opening of the new Tivoli Theatre.
“Our turn in ‘High Jinks’ ” interposed Miss Yates, “is one of our own specialities. It is a whirlwind dance called the ‘grande vitesse,’ and will give a lot of pleasure. My part in that musical jollity is Mlle. Chi Chi, a dancer, who is one of the chief characters concerned in the humorous muddle so cleverly worked out by the author.
“My first appearance,” she continued, “was at one of the leading provincial theatres in England when I was in ‘Florodora’. I was the first principal boy to appear in a two house a night pantomime. Subsequently I made five tours as Mary in ‘Our Miss Gibbs.’ After having been in ‘The Arcadians’ and a Hippodrome revue I went to Paris, where I had a most enjoyable and successful time.
“This is my first visit to Australia. How glad I am in the circumstances to be away from London with its dark streets. The theatres have no lights at all outside, and it has a most depressing effect on stepping into the street to almost grope one's way through the gloom. This trip is the outcome of the third offer I have had to visit the great Commonwealth, and I am delighted to be here. The Adelaide public has treated us very nicely.”
Miss Yates mentioned that during the trip from America she and her brother entertained the people on the boat with songs and dances. Their appreciation was so great that Lady McMillan, on behalf of her fellow passengers, presented Miss Yates with a watch and her brother with a sovereign purse.
Every morning is spent by the pair practising, and the young danseuse has a busy time in the afternoons, as she is engaged in studying several parts which she will assume in Melbourne.
The Mail (Adelaide, SA), Saturday, 29 May 1915, p.4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59299021
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* Daisy’s true identity was revealed in 1916, when she was granted a divorce from her husband (actor and theatrical manager) Thomas Henry Daniels, whom she had married in March 1906, on the grounds of his desertion of both her and their child for another woman (ref.: The Herald (Melbourne), Wednesday, 20 September 1916, p.1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242377620 ). In 1920 a Supreme Court writ was issued on behalf of Ellen (Daisy), who claimed £2,000 in damages against Sydney Charles Culverhouse (her erstwhile putative ‘brother’ and stage dance partner) in a suit for alleged breach of promise, for which she was subsequently awarded £500 (ref.: The Herald (Melbourne), Friday, 1 May 1920, p.1, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/245598502 & Saturday, 2 May 1920, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/245605417 )
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WHEN SCREAMS COME.
AUSTRALIAN CHORUS GIRLS PRAISED.
“I hate humorous parts,” exclaimed Mr. Field Fisher, who as Alexis, the head waiter in ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ and Dr. Thorne in ‘High Jinks,’ made everybody in the Theatre Royal laugh with great gusto. “I would like to be the leading tenor, the hero,” he told a 'Mail' reporter. “After all, low comedy is my favourite line,” he continued. “There is so much licence allowed. Gags may be introduced, and that is much appreciated by some of the business firms. A well-known importer of whisky used to send me a box, but the trouble was everybody in the company would hear of it.
“Audiences certainly do vary very much. The Australian practice of giving an artist applause on his appearance on the stage each night is most encouraging, and shows the fine spirit of the people. Humour has to be good, and nothing that is too risque or broad is wanted in Australia. A local touch always goes down in the Commonwealth. A line that will bring a scream in Adelaide invariably does so in Sydney, or vice versa. It is therefore easier to play in this country than, for example, in England. A reference that appeals to the risible faculties of the people in Manchester might be absolutely flat in Liverpool. Where the scream will come can never be relied on over there, and that makes the work of a comedian harder…
“It is just 30 years ago since I started with Sir Henry Irving in ‘Charles I.’ In ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ I took the part of the Prince, and afterwards under Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree I was Prince Arthur in ‘King John.’ Everything was arranged that I should go to America with Lawrence Irving, who died in the wreck of the Empress of Ireland. On the Sunday prior to his departure I had dinner with him in order to talk matters over. Then this scheme to visit to Australia came, and I resolved to take advantage of it. The result is I was not in the ill-fated vessel. He could have been saved himself had he not gone back for his wife. It was just like him. His genius was only just being realised in England.
“My first pantomime was at Covent Garden in ‘Cinderella,’ where I assumed one of the leading parts, although l was only 18 years of age. Since then I have been either the baron or page—two important characters—in pantomime nearly every year except this one ...
“The Australian chorus girls are remarkably versatile. They dance, sing, and act. In England they either do one thing or the other. At home they wander from one company to another, but here they grow up with a firm. They know there is not another to go to, and that probably spurs them on. lt is truly wonderful what the Australian can accomplish, and several instances might be cited where local actresses have been able to take leading parts with success, although they are given only 24 hours’ notice.”
The Mail (Adelaide), Saturday, 29 May 1915, p.5 [extracts], http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59299108
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