Theatre in Melbourne 1881
"The amusements and sports held yesterday in celebration of Her Majesty's sixty-third birthday were seriously interfered with by the unpropitious weather. The morning waa rendered unpleasant by the wind and dust, and heavy rain fell during the greater portion of the afternoon, causing great discomfort to those engaged in out of door sports. In the morning His Excellency held hia customary levée at Government house, at which there was not so large an attendance as is usually the case. At noon a royal aalute waa fired from the men of war at present in the bay, the customary salute waa fired from the Princes Bridge Battery by a detachment of the Emerald hill Artillery, and feu-de-joie by the volunteers assembled at Fisherman's Bend. Tho volunteer muster was small, numbering a little over 1,000 men. In the afternoon, a sham fight waa engaged in, but the heavy rain interfered with the movements. At Flemiugton, the Melbourne Hunt Club held a race meeting, which waa well attended considering the weather. A 25 mile bicycle race in the Warehousemen's Cricket ground, on the St Kilda road, waa closely contested, and resulted in the victory of Mr F. Lister In the evening the various places of amusement were all crowded"
(Argus Wednesday May 25th, 1881)
The interior Prince of Wales Opera House, Melbourne, late 1870s
"AUSTRALIA'S greatest convict novel, "For the Term of His Natural Life," was written by a boy only 25 years of age. Marcus Andrew Hislop Claire was born, son of a London' barrister, on April 24, 1846. Twenty-five years later he wrote his massive novel. He died in 1881, aged only 36, the shadow of the man he might have been. Clarke died from erysipelas following congestion of the liver on August 2, 1881. There is no possible doubt that Marcus Clarke was a genius who should have warranted a greater rating in the world of letters than he was. It was his misfortune that his temperament was erratic and his writing patchy."
The Sydney Morning Herald.
A VERY LONG RUN
1881 started with a bang. Offenbach's 'La Fille du Tambour Major' acheived a record breaking run of over one hundred performances at the Opera House. At a time when three weeks was considered a good run this production packed them in for three months. This was a record that was not broken for many years. 1881 saw the first admission of women to the University of Melbourne and State schools started to replace church schools. The Dorcas Street school opened in 1881. The population of greater Melbourne was now 282,947. For more on what was happening in Melbourne during 1881 click on a month below.
On Monday 27th December, 1880, the Opera Comique season commenced with the first production in Australia of Offenbach's 'La Fille du Tambour Major'. Guns, swords and other arms were especially manufactured by Mr, G. Woods, amourer, of Russel street, Drury Lane, London. Wigs were made to order from Bow street, London. Over 300 costumes were made especially in London. The cast featured Maggie Liddle, John Wallace and H.R Harwood. Pattie Laverne, Nellie Hope, Albert Brennir, J.H. Halliwell and George Dean were all making their first appearances in Australia.
"Mr. Musgrove, the impresario of the new opera company, has been singularly fortunate both in the selection of the artistes and in the work with which to introduce them to a Melbourne audience, and at the outset he must be at once credited for having produced this new opera with a completeness of detail which altogether surpasses anything previously witnessed in this part of the globe." (Age)
"On the other side of the footlights a great advance is shown in drill, in discipline, in dress and in many minor points which all add to the completeness of stage illusion, and are evidence of an unexampled liberality on the part of the management." (Argus)
"Miss Pattie Laverne is the principal lady of the new company, and she plays the part of Stella. (She) is a very pleasant little lady indeed, with genial manners, an íntelligent and expressive face, and a voice which ia peculiarly sweet in effect when not forced." (Argus)
The production ran all January.
A company of players which featured popular performers Mr C.H. Taylor, Fred Thorne and Annie Mayor was in residence at this theatre throughout December, 1880. On Monday December 27th the company produced the drama 'Jack Sheppard' which featured Jenny Watt-Tanner in the title role.
Of Jenny the Age said "it was a character which was unsuited for her, her endeavors to give it a just interpretastion were fairly successful, and were unhesitating;ly applauded."
This ran just a few performances.
On Saturday January 1st, 1881, the company produced 'Young Girl's Career, or Temptations of City Life' adapted to the stage by Charles H. Saunders from the novel 'Rosina Meadows'.
"Miss Jenny Watt Tanner appeared to advantage in the character of the heroine, Rosina Meadows, and with the assistance of Mr J J Wallace, the representative of her unhappy father, rescued the piece from failure." (Argus)
There was a single performance of 'East Lynne, or, the Elopement' on Friday January 7th. The next night there was a production of the Irish drama 'Man From America'. J. J. Wallace was in the title role. The season terminated on Friday January 14th with a single performance of 'After Dark' by Boucicault.
Various artists that made up what was called the 'Mammoth Variety Combination and Marvellous Illusions' took over the theatre on Saturday 15th and played for the next two weeks.
On Saturday January 29th a new company called the New Zealand Dramatic Company opened for a short season. First was the four act novelty 'Run to Earth', an adaptation of the novel of the same name. Marian Willis lead the company which also consisted of Stuart O'Brien, Mr J. T. Keogh and Mr J.P. O'Neil. Also on the programme was the Irish farce 'The Limmerick Boy'.
On Monday December 27th, 1880, the Royal Comedy Company presented their Christmas Pantomime 'Sinbad the Sailor, or the Pet of the Peri; the Old Man of the Sea; and the Dwarf of the Diamond Valley' adapted by Garnet Walch. This starred Nellie Stewart as Sinbad, Maggie Stewart as Princess Sutchaswetckreechar and Docie Stewart as Zebeide.
"Sinbad the Sailor, was represented by Miss Nellie Stewart, and a most charming sailor she makes. As an actress she has much improved since she last appeared in Melbourne. he has agraceful figure and a good voice." (Age)
Of the ballet the Age said "The dresses and personal attractions of the ballet corps were fairy-like and graceful, and as they 'tripped on the light fantastic toe' the poetry of motion was realised by the audience, whose applause was loud."
The pantomime ran all January.
Throughout December, 1880, Mrs G.B.W. Lewis and company were in residence at this theatre, On Christmas eve Dec 24th they presented E.L. Blanchard's Christmas pantomime 'Goody Two Shoes, or Harlequin Who Killed Cock Robin' This featured G.B.W. Lewis and Fred Thorne and a cast which included 104 children.
"Mr Thorne, as the naughty Tommy Green, was extremely amusing, and Mr Daniels was equally effective as the good Johnny Stout, and he looked his name. Mrs Lewis, as Goody Two Shoos, gave great satisfaction, and Miss Flora Graupner. as her diminutive lover, Little Boy Blue, has already become a great favourite with the audience" (Argus)
"The children, who evinced the benefits of a careful training, acquitted themselves with remarkable steadiness, and their chorus singing was heartily applauded." (Age)
The company performed the pantomime all January.
The last few days of the Christmas pantomime 'Little Goody Two Shoes'. The last performance was on Wednesday February 9th.
On Saturday February 12th the comedy 'Society', by Thomas William Robertson (1829-1871), opened. The cast included G.R. Ireland, J. G. Joyce, Fed Thorpe and Alice Deorwyn.
"A character like Maud Hetherington requires for its efficient interpretation an actress capable of expressing powerful emotion, and if this lies within the capacity of Miss Alice Deorwyn she certainly failed to exhibit it on Saturday evening." (Argus)
On Saturday the 19th Wybert Reeve resummed the stage management of the Bijou with Paul Merritt's three act comedy 'Stolen Kisses' [This work had a brief run the preceeding October, 1880]
"Like the conscientious artist he is, Mr Wybert Reeve has elaborated and refined upon his portrait of Tom Spirit, the ex-pantomimist. Exaggeration ia carefully avoided in the expression of strong emotion, and where pathos and tenderness have to be exhibited they are both commendably free from ataginess and artificiality." (Argus)
'Stolen Kisses' ran one week.
On Saturday 26th there was a production of 'Our Boys'.
"The cast was an even one, and the performance exceedingly smooth and pleasant. Mr. Wybert Reeve, aa Sir Geoffrey Champneys, brought the pride and pomposity of 'old poker-back' into due prominence, and materially strengthened the cast by undertaking the part." (Argus)
[Editor's note: with the exception of four adults all the cast consisted of children.]
The Marian Willis season continued with changes of programme every few days. Works included 'Leah the Forsaken', 'Black-Eyed Susan' and 'The Two Orphans'. The last evening at this theatre the company performed 'The Green Bushes'. This was on Friday February 11th. The company then moved to the newly refurbished Princess Theatre.
The theatre reopened on Saturday February 12th after extensive renovations. The Marian Willis company opened in 'Susan Hopley' followed on Monday the 14th with 'Behind the Curtain' and 'Onzalo's Wonders'. This managed five performances. On the Saturday the company produced 'The Seven Sins' by George Conquest and Paul Merritt. On Tuesday (22nd) and Wednesday (23rd) the Irish drama 'Peep O'Day'. On the Thursday 'Our Boys' by Byron. On Friday 25th there was what was called a new and original adaptation of the popular 'East Lynne'. On Saturday the 26th there was the first appearance of the English Tragedian W. C. Dillon in the drama 'Striking of the Hour, or, Firewatch, the Trooper'.
"Mr Dillon represents the dual parts of Sir Francis Whitton and the chivalrous Firematch, but his histrionic abilities are too slender to permit his doing anything like justice to the characters. The only redeeming feature in the entire performance was the acting of Miss Marian Willis as Marceline." (Age)
This played for just a few performances.
'La Fille du Tambour Major' continued its amazing run.
"The scene of the entry of the French troops into Milan was encored with fervour, as it always has been since the piece was first produced here." (The Argus)
"The sparkling music, pointed dialogue, and complete scenic accessories, combined with the individual excellence of the actors and actresses, are now so thoroughly appreciated that there does not seem to be the slightest probability of Offenbach's charming production being taken off the stage for some weeks to come." (The Age)
The annual pantomime 'Sinbad the Sailor' continued to good houses.
"Miss Docy Stewart has quickly regained her old position as a great favourite with the Melbourne public. In her skilful bands Zobeide becomes one of the most attractive characters in the piece." (Argus)
The final performance was on Friday March 4th.
The Marian Willis season continued. On Thursday and Friday the 3rd and 4th of March 'Belphegor the Mountebank', by Charles Webb, was performed. This was followed on Saturday 5th by 'Ambition, or the Cottage, the Tomb, the Throne and the Scaffold'. [Editor's note: this was possibly arranged from the works of Alexandre Dumas]
Sat 12th March saw a production of 'Formosa, or the Railroad to Ruin' by Dion Bouciacault. There was a special engagement of the celebrated Shakespearian Scholar and actor William Hoskins. Marian Willis and company were in support. On Saturday March 26th there was a revival of Byron's domestic drama 'Lancashire Lass'.
"Miss Willis gives a very acceptable portraiture of the Lancashire Lass. She shared with Mr. Hoskins the applause of the large audience." (Argus)
This theatre was reopened on Saturday the 19th of March as an opera-house. [Editor's note: The Novelty Theatre was opened in Bourke St East on October 30th 1880 with a French comedy company. The theatre held about 1000 people. The theatre had a staggered history opening for the occasional amateur company and lecturer. The theatre was renamed Hudson's Theatre on 15th October, 1881] The opening work was the first production in Australia of 'Fatinitza' by Suppe. The translation had been made for American audiences. This saw the first appearance in Melbourne of Eva Davenport. Also in the cast were C.H. Templeton and an early stage appearance of Howard Vernon.
"The small orchestra under Signor Zelman's control was not fully prepared to give effect to the band parts. The men's chorus was utterly inefficient, and the promptor was in too constant request. The principals were not at ease in the parts allotted to them except in a few instances." (Argus)
"The choral work will bear much improvement, and the prompter at the wings was an unseen but too prominent a character in Saturday's evening's performance." (Age)
The production dragged on for two weeks final being taken off on Saturday 2nd April.
On Saturday March 5th there was the first appearance of the American tragic actor William H. Leake in 'My Partner', by Bartley Campbell. Also in the production were F. Appleton, Myra Kemble and Bland Holt.
"Mr Leake is a natural actor of more than average ability, commendably free from anything like exaggeration or extravagence, and fully sensible of the value of light and shade in depicting dramatic character Easy and undemonstrative in the conversational passages of the drama, he shows, when the time arrives for the display of strong passion or deep pathos, that he can display the former without rant, and the latter without whining. He has not yet acquired the pitch of the house in the management of his voice, so that he was occasionally inaudible to the occupants of tho back seats of the dress circle, and the noisy chatter kept up by some of the persons standing up behind did not improve matters." (Argus)
[Editor's note: Shortly after his arrival W.H. Leake became involved with fellow American actor Edwin Kelly. The two became strong friends. When Kelly died in Adelaide in 1899 J.C. Williamson arranged for the two of them to be buried together.]
'My Partner' finished on Friday March 18th.
On Saturday March 19th Leake appeared as 'Richard III'.
"He is a clever, intelligent, capable actor, and his impersonation on Saturday betrayed an amount of painstaking care that is highly credible to him…but Mr. Leake entirely fails to depict the diabolical character of Richard. Miss Myra Kemble, as Lady Ann, never appeared to better advantage, and if this rising young actress takes care a prosperous future lies before her." (Age)
"Mr. Leake's performance of the character is uneven, with flashes of melodramatic power...Mr. Leake did not succeed in sustaining with uniform vigour the demoniac intensity of the character." (Argus)
A drama founded on Dumas's 'The Three Musketeers' entitled 'The Three Guardsmen' opened on Saturday March 26th. The playbills described it as a great historical play.
"If the claim to such a designation rested upon the fate that a number of historical personages were included, then, indeed, the Three Guardsmen was certainly historical, but if, on the other hand, historical incidents are to be looked for in historical plays, the production presented on Saturday night would scarely fall within that category." (Age)
"Mr Leake is to be congratulated upon having relinquished Shakespearian parts, in which he does not shine, for a line of characters in which he is more at home. Mr. Leake's presentation of the character was a thoroughly genial and jovial one, swift of speech and rapid in action." (Argus)
W.H. Leake finished his season on April 1st with a benefit.
The Wybert Reeve Grand Comedy Season continued. 'Our Boys' finished on Friday March 4th. Saturday March 5th saw the first appearance this season of Miss Eugenie le Grand. The production was 'Family Ties' by F.C. Burnand.
"It is a society play of slight construction and very little plot, but naturally written, and with a dialogue which is often well pointed...The comedy was altogether very favourably received and the leading performers were called for on the fall of the curtain." (Argus)
On Saturday March 12th the production was 'George Geith, or Romance of a City Life' by Wybert Reeve himself.
"Of Mr Reeve himself it is only necessary to say that George Geith is one of bis best parts, and that he played it on Saturday evening under much moro advantageous circumstances, and with much better surroundings, than when ho last produced it, and the result was an ease, a smoothness and completeness in the more highly wrought portions of the drama which left nothing to be desired." (Argus)
On Saturday March 19th there was another Australian first. This was an adaptation from the French of Sardou's play 'Mother and Son'. [Editor's note: this was adapted from 'Les Bourgeois de Pont d'Arcy'.]
"The plot is too thin to allow of the story attaining a higher level than mediocrity. Great pains have been taken with the accessories of the play, and the management is to be complimented upon the effort to make the entire representation a faithful reflex of French life and character." (Age)
"The burden of the performance rests on the shoulders of Mr Reeve, who ia called upon to exhibit a conflict of emotions and power of self suppression which lie almost outside the legitimate range of comedy, and produce feelings akin to pain in the minds of tho spectators. He throws himself into tho part with a discerning sense of its subtleties and beauties, and with an evident determination to infuse into it the power which its author intended it should possess over the sympathies of the audience, and to give it the prominence which it really deserves." (Argus)
The comedy ran for two weeks terminating on Friday April 1st.
There was no stopping the success of 'La Fille du Tambour Major'.
"To say that 'La Fllle du Tambour Major' was well attended last night would be a work of supererogation. As a matter of fact the house was crowded to the doors, and to all appearances the rush is likely to continue for the next 20 years" (Herald)
The William Hoskins and Marian Willis season continued. On Saturday April 2nd there was a double bill 'Woman's Love' and 'Serious Family'. During the following week there were different productions each evening. The season finished on Saturday April 9th.
Monday April 11th saw the first appearance on a Melbourne stage of actress Clara Stephenson. The production was the drama 'Under Two Flags'.
"At the outset, we may say that Miss Stephenson created a very favourable impression. She has an excellent stage presence, is evidently an adept in the art of 'makeup', is vivacious in spirit, taking in manner, and, while immediately placing herself in rapport with her audience, does so without indulging in any degree of familiarity." (Daily Telegraph)
On Saturday April 16th Clara Stephenson played five different characters in 'The Little Detective'.
The Argus said Clara was "a lady who bids fair to become a great favourite with the Melbourne public. She haa great vivacity, and readily lends heraelf to the character she assumes for the time."
The production proved successful and played through until Thursday April 28th. On the Friday there was a single performance of 'East Lynne'.
On April 2nd a new dramatic season was inaugurated at the theatre. Mainly the same theatre company with the addition of some new faces. The first work was 'Liz' which was based on 'The Lass of Lowrie' dramatised by Messes Hallon and Mattheson from the story by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
"Mrs. Lewis had evidently given her mind to the work, and the picture she presented of the ruggedly picturesque heroine, whose true womanly qualities shine through a somewhat masculine and coarse exterior, was a very capable piece of acting." (Argus)
The last night night was Thursday April 14th.
On Easter Saturday there was the comedy-drama 'A Sister's Penance, or, The Mutiny in India', by Tom Taylor and A W Duborg, featuring Mr and Mrs G B W Lewis. This was the last appearance in Australia of Fred Thorne prior to his departure for England.
"The piece is smartly written, has some good situations, and affords considerable scope for emotional acting." (Argus)
The last night was on Saturday April 23rd.
On Monday April 25th the celebrated English comedian Frederick Marshall took over the theatre. The first production was an Australian first. This was the comedy 'Jeames' by F. C. Burnard.
"So completely, indeed, does Mr Frederick Marshall merge his own identity in that of the superb footman in a canary coloured livery and a powdered wig that when he first appeared upon the scene last night, he was for a few seconds unrecognised by the audience, but as soon as they found ont that it was their old favourite, they gave him one of those rousing receptions which serve to nerve a good actor for great efforts in a new part, and to assure him that he is playing before a sympathetic auditorium." (Argus)
[Editor's note: This play was originally produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, in September, 1879. This Melbourne production also featured the comedian's brother, Edmund William Marshall. Edmund died tragically in July 1884, aged 33, when he was knocked down by a vehicle in a Melbourne street.]
On April 2nd a new Irish drama took the stage for the first time in Australia. This was 'Kerry Gow', by Ralph and George Christy.
The reviewer at the Age called it "an Irish stew of stolen morsels from such dramas as the Colleen Bawn, the Peep o'Day, and the Shaughraun. The dialogue is tame, commonplace and dull."
Actor H.E. Walton had been specially engaged.
"Mr H. E. Walton is the hero of the piece, Dan O Hara, a part which he plays with a fair amount of hard dry humour, which wants the oiliness and geniality of the true stage Irishman to make it in any degree acceptable." (Argus)
On Saturday 9th "Shaun Slieveen" with H.E. Walton in the title role.
"Misa Myra Kemble ia the heroine of the drama, Ellen Garvie, and as such goes through a great amount of tribulation and muscular exercise, for both tho pre-eminently wicked men of the piece are in love with her, and with one she ia so often called upon to struggle that the wonder is her arms are not wrenched from their sockets." (Argus)
The short season finished with benefit on Wednesday April 13th and a double bill on Thursday 14th.
On Easter Saturday the 16th there was a reappearance of Shakespearean actress Louise Pomeroy with her company that included Bland Holt, F C Appleton and Docy Stewart. The first production was 'As You Like It'.
"Miss Pomeroy, as a matter of course, appeared as Rosalind. Her performance was even and artistic, and did not vary from that given on a former occasion. As Jaques, Mr. W. H. Leake acquitted himself with credit, though he failed to bring out that inner thought that forms the ever present feature of the character." (Age)
"Miss Pomeroy has many physical advantages in her favour as an actress, and it ia a pity that these should not be seconded by and combined with a deeper insight into the characters she undertakes, and with a determination to rely more upon nature and less upon a bad school of dramatic art for her presentation of Shakespeare's heroines." (Argus)
The rest of the week saw productions of 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Cymbeline'. On Saturday the 23rd it was 'The Winter's Tale'.
"Neither pains nor expense has been spared in the mounting of the 'Winter'a Tale' while, as regards costumes, they are stated to have been selected from the work of one of the best authorities on the subject, so as to insure correctness as regards both material and design; and the general result is an instructive picture of Sicily and Bithynia at an epoch when both were the seats of a high civilisation. Miss Pomeroy undertakes the two characters of Hermione and Perdita, and succeeds better with the former than with the latter." (Argus)
'The Winter's Tale' proved popular enough to run until mid May.
'La Fille du Tambour Major' finally came to an end on Saturday April 23rd after one hundred and one consecutive performances.
"The actors and singers in the present instance were well adapted to the work allotted to them; a wise liberality was shown by the management in every detail of stage appointment, rich costumes, and scenic effect; the orchestra considering its number was perfect; and from the highest to the lowest engaged in the performance the influence of thorough drill and discipline was most agreeably manifest." (Argus)
The company then headed to Adelaide.
On Monday the 25th there was a benefit for Fred Thorne who was about to leave for England. The theatre then closed for renovations.
The Opera House reopened on May 23rd after extensive renovations with the first production in Melbourne of 'The Pirates of Penzance' by the Williamson Opera Company. In addition to Maggie Moore and J.C. Williamson the cast included Elsa May, Josephine Deakin (her first appearance in Melbourne), Armes Beaumont and Signor Verdi.
"Mr Verdi seems to have been specially designed to play Pirate Kings, so well does his appearance tally with what we have learned of those dignitaries; and he even sings flat at times, juat aa a pirate king might sing who did not keep up his practice in consequence of press of piratical business. Mr Willianison's performance is a conspicuous feature in the success of the play. Without crediting him with any great capacity as a vocalist, we must record the fact that "The Song of the Sergeant," with chorus of constables, was an intensely comical affair, and that it was encored." (Argus)
The Clara Stephenson season continued with the emotional drama 'The Poor Strollers, or, Camilla's Husband' on Saturday April 30th.
"The donkey introduced in the first act also played his part with a naturalness which met with hearty recognition. Some of the new scenery was applauded. There is a representation of a yacht race and a boat race, however, in which the mechanical effects are susceptible of improvement." (Argus)
On Thursday the 5th there was a single performance of 'East Lynne' followed the next day by 'Sea of Ice'. On Wednesday the programme changed to 'Jocrisse the Juggler'. On Saturday the 12th there was a double bill. 'Ashore and Afloat' and 'The Two Buzzards'.
The company continued throughout the month with changes of programme every few days.
'A Winter's Tale' continued its success at the Theatre Royal.
"The performance of 'Winter's Tale' at the Theatre Royal is now given with the utmost smoothness and finish, and the various scenes in which Miss Louise Pomeroy appears as the stately Hermione are watched with the closest interest." (Telegraph)
The last night was on May 20th. On Saturday 21st it was 'Macbeth'.
The title role was taken by William Leake who the Argus said "would be capable of better things if he had been trained in a good school."
The rest of the week saw productions of 'Twelfth Night'.
Burnand's 'Jeames' continued to do good business.
"Miss Jessie Grey's Mary Ann continues to improve on acquaintance. Her natural intelligence aud attentive study will qualify her to make good the position which her present part proves that she is capable of occupying." (Argus)
The comedy payed the rest of the month finally finishing on Friday the 27th.
On the Saturday two comedies by Mr H J Byron were produced. 'Uncle' and 'The Oil Story '.
Reviewing 'Uncle' the Argus said "For two hours the merriment excited by the performance never flagged and at the close of the piece there was a general call for all who had taken part in it."
Frederick Marshall and company continued their successful engagement. On Saturday June 4th they produced the domestic comedy drama double bill 'Chimney Corner' by H.F. Craven and 'All that Glitters is Not Gold' by Thomas and John Maddison Morton.
The Argus said of the first work "In the character of the honest chandler s shopkeeper, Mr Marshall has an excellent opportunity of exhibiting that intermixture of humour and pathos, of simplicity and kindliness, of resentment, indignation, and profound despondency, in which he excels."
On Saturday June 11th 'Quilp' opened. This work had been especially written for Marshall which he had played several hundred times in England. It was loosely based on 'The Old Curiosity Shop'. The advertising hype mentioned that the play would be produced "with magnificent scenic effects and novel mechanical arrangements new to the Australian colonies, and in the production of which the management are sparing mo expense."
The reviews did prove positive "Throughout the drama, Mr Marshall caused you to lose sight of the actor, and to see only the creation of the novelist - a Quasimodo in person, and a domestic and social Torquemada in his conduct towards his fellow creatures. Miaa Bryer is pleasantly girlish and natural as Little Nell, and Miss Wooldridge is appropriately abject and submissive as Mrs. Quilp." (Argus)
The production proved successful and ran into July.
T he Lousise Pomeroy season continued with 'Anthony and Cleopatra' which opened on Monday May 30th.
The sets were especially praised by the Argus.
"A play which affords so mnch scope for Scenic embellishment as 'Antony and Cleopatra' does is one which so good an artist as Mr Hennings ia must experience especial pleasure in illustrating. And he hss done so with an ability, industry, and reaearch which are deserving of encomiastic acknowledgment."
Of Miss Pommeroy the Argus said "Throughout the tragedy her acting is marked by a kind of beguiling langour characteristic of one of the daughters of a land 'where it is always afternoon,' with now and then a flash of tropical passion."
The play proved very successful running nearly three weeks finishing on Friday 17th June.
On Saturday June 18th 'Led Astray' by Boucicault was produced.
The play "which is not new to a Melbourne audience, achieved a decided success on Saturday evening, and it must bo added, in partial explanation of the favour with which it was received, that the company is much more at home in pieces of this kind than in the Shakespearian drama." (Argus)
"Miss Pomeroy left little to be desired. Her acting throughout was extremely effective and its merits were warmly recognised by the audience, who called her before the curtain after nearly every act, of which there are six!" (Argus)
"Mr. Douglass looked as though he had just emerged from the hands of his hairdresser. His hair was well brushed, and his face looked remarkably shiny. He played his part in his usual dolorous manner. As the count, Mr. Douglas assumes the part of a dashing man of fashion and pleasure, but it must be confessed that he took his pleasure very sadly." (Age)
The rest of the month was devoted to ' East Lynne' and 'Lady of Lyons' with a benefit on Friday July 1st with a performance of 'Cymbeline'.
'The Pirates of Penzance' continued its successful season.
"Fair business has been done and should continue for a long time to come, as in point of performance it would be hardly possible to improve upon the general representation." (Argus)
On Wednesday June 1st W.G. Carey and company presented 'Rob Roy'. The following Saturday 'Black Eyed Susan' was added to the evening's entertainment. On Monday June 6th the comedian W. M. Hoskins joined the company. The first production was 'The Octoroon'. This played the rest of the week. On Saturday 11th there was a double bill 'High Life Below Stairs: or, the Servant's Hall in an Uproar', by David Garrick, following by the popular 'Black-Eyed Susan'. On Monday the 13th Dion Boucicault's drama 'After Dark' was produced. This ran for the week. On Saturday the 18th saw 'The Pilot' by Edward Fitzball. The last performances by the comedian W.M. Hoskins were on the following Thursday and Friday. The production was 'The Lancashire Lass'. On Saturday June 25th W.G Carey and Kate Douglas appeared in the drama 'The Will and the Way'. Owing to extremely poor houses the season was terminated after Monday's performance. The theatre then went dark.
Lousie Pommeroy managed to hang around Melbourne a bit longer with a dramatisation of 'Oliver Twist' on Saturday the 2nd and Monday the 4th. Miss Pomeroy took the part of Nancy.
"It ia not to be supposed that Miss Pomeroy has over had any acquaintance with the lowest criminal classes of London, from which some of the leading characters of the story are drawn, and her want of familiarity with auch personages must be her excuse for presenting a portrait oí Nancy entirely different from that so graphically drawn by the novelist." (Argus)
Gratton Riggs and company opened a short season on Wednesday 6th. The first production was 'Shin Fane'.
On Saturday July 9th 'The Irish Detective' returned to the Melbourne stage with Grattan Riggs reprising his original roles.
"Mr, Riggs represents these various personages with a great deal of versatile talent, and is especially successful with the Irishman and the aged negro." (Argus)
"Miss Docy Stewart also appeared to advantage in a congenial part, well suited to her peculiar powers, namely that of Sally Scraggs. The laughter and applause of the audience were almost continuous, the play, as a whole, being well presented." (Age)
The season finished on Thursday 14th July.
On Saturday 16th there was the first appearance in Australia of the English tragedian J. Dewhurst, with a company of Royal regulars. The first production was 'Othello'.
"Mr. Dewhurst possesses a good stage face and figure, and a fine presence. His costumes ore picturesque and appropriate, and his voice ia clear and resonant. His delivery however, is too measured, deliberate, and didactic, and it occasionally resembles that of a fashionable preacher rather than that of a well-graced actor" (Argus)
On Wednesday July 20th 'Richlieu' was produced.
"Mr Dewhurst succeeded in producing a much more favourable impression on the audience than he did in the part of Othello In fact tne applause throughout may be described as enthusiastic." (Argus)
The final week of the month consisted of performances of 'The Merchant of Venice', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and Tom Taylor's 'Still Waters Run Deep'.
'Quilp' with the Frederick Marshall company proved extremely popular.
"So fine a performance may justly challenge the highest admiration and tho warmest praise." (Argus)
'Quilp' drew to a close on Friday the 15th July.
On Saturday July 16th Henry Bryon's comedy 'Blow For Blow' was produced. This ran for the week. [Editor's note: 'Blow For Blow' was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Holborn, in September, 1868.]
On Saturday July 30th Susanna Centlivre's lively comedy, 'The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret,' which had not been seen in Melbourne for some years, was revived.
"Mrs. Lewis, who undertook the leading part of Donna Violante, displayed all the requisite dash and aplomb, and her vivacious rendering of the character went far to make the performance a success." (Age)
The final performance of 'The Pirates of Penzance' was on Friday July 1st.
On Saturday July 2nd 'HMS Pinafore' returned to Melbourne with the final appearances of J.C. Williamson and Maggie Moore. It also featured the début of local actress Alice Rees.
"The appearance of this young lady on the lyric stage is an event which has been looked forward to for a long time with considerable interest by the Melbourne musical public, and we may say at once that the result ia quite satisfactory." (Argus)
With the departure of the Williamsons there was a change of cast on Saturday July 9th.
"The performance of 'Pinafore' at the Opera house on Saturday night exhibited a new am very interesting variety in the matter of cast and gave general satisfaction to an audience which thronged every part of the auditoriun from floor to ceiling." (Argus)
Signora Venoata, as Little Buttercup received good reviews.
"To the surprise and amused gratification of all who witnessed her performance, ahe acquitted herself with an air of self possession and aplomb, an evidence of humour and a sense of personal enjoyment in the part, which reassured those who feared for her success, and carried her with apparent ease to the achievement of a really arduous and difficult task." (Argus)
Howard Vernon played Sir Joseph.
"His make-up was good, his acting and by-play of the first order of character acting." (Age)
The final performance of 'HMS Pinafore' was on Friday July 29th [Editor's note: this was the 224th performance of the work in Melbourne]
On Saturday July 2nd there was a special engagement of the Irish comedians Charles Mc Carthy and E,D, Kennedy and their large company. The opening performance was a variety programme consisting of musical items and three short comedies 'The Limmerick Boy', 'Taking the Pledge' and 'Irish Justice'. The following Saturday the programme changed slightly to add the appearance of the Gymnasts from London Jean, Eugene and Alfreido. The season continued the rest of the week with slight changes to the programme.
On Monday July 18th the W. G. Carey company produced the great moral temperance drama 'Ten Nights in a Bar-room.', by Timothy Shay Arthur, based on the exploits of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. [Editor's note: No reviews were posted for this play which had previously played at the Princess for several weeks in 1879.]
On Saturday July 30th 'Hamlet' was staged by the company.
"His Hamlet is far superior to anything which Mr. Dewhurst has hitherto attempted here, and, compared with his previous Shakespearian performances, stands out prominently. The audience was entirely with him, and applauded frequently and heartily, as well as insisting upon a recall after each act." (Age)
"The fencing scene at the close of the tragedy was well managed, and brought the curtain down in the midst of general applause. Mr. Dewhurst, we should add, was called before it at the end of each of the acts in which he had appeared." (Argus)
'Hamlet' was staged again on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On the Thursday and Friday 'The Lady of Lyons' played.
On Saturday August 6th 'Richard the Third' was mounted.
"Mr. Dewhurst is a great favourite with the pit and gallery. His acting suits them admirably, and they reward him with an abundance of applause, and with a call before the curtain at the end of each act." (Argus)
A double bill consisting of 'Don Caesar de Bazan' and 'Still Waters Run Deep' was staged on the following Tuesday and Wednesday with a benefit performances of 'Richelieu' on the Thursday and Friday to conclude the season.
On Saturday Aug 13th the Theatre Royal was crowded in every part when 'The World', by Paul Merritt, Henry Pettitt and Augustus Harris, was produced for the first time in Australia. This starred George Titheradge and Mrs. George Gordon.
"The play is undoubtedly attractive to the generality of theatre goers, being of absorbing interest throughout, replete with highly sensational and dramatic situations, altogether possessing most of the essentials to ensure a long run." (Age)
"The realism of the whole affair, the highly sensational character of the leading incidents, the skill of the scenic artists and mechanists, the briskness with which the piece moves, and the excellent acting of Mr G S Titheradge as Sir Clement Huntmgford,supported by Mrs G Gordon as Mabel Huntingford, will combine, however, to render it popular, and the first performance must be pronounced to have been a marked success." (Argus)
On Saturday July 30th there was a return of the popular 'The Pirates of Penzance' with Alice Rees as Mabel, Howard Vernon as the Major General, Signora Venosta as Ruth and T.H. Rainford as the Pirate King.
"The performance as a whole was a highly enjoyable one. Miss Alice Rees made her first appearance in Melbourne, on this occasion, as Mabel. Her success was of the most pronounced kind. She dressed the part charmingly, sang the music with purity and feeling, and acted with graceful vivacity which would not have discredited an experienced prima donna. Her performance of this character is of higher merit then her Josephine in 'Pinafore', and she may be complimented on having made a rapid advance in the lyric art." (Argus)
An English Opera season commenced on Saturday Aug 20th. This opened with 'La Sonnambula'. Australian prima donna Alice Rees turned from light opera to a more dramatic role.
"Her success on Saturday night, which, comparatively speaking, was much greater than in either of her recent comic opera roles, evidenced beyond doubt the aptitude possessed by Miss Rees for that especial branch of her art in which she has embarked." (Age)
The opera played the next few days with 'Mariatana' returning for two performances on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th. The theatre then closed for renovations.
Friday August 5th saw the last night of 'Ten Nights in a Bar-Room'.
On Saturday 6th August saw the first production in Australia of 'Ostracised, or Every Man's Hand Against Them'. This play, based on the exploits of the Kelly gang, was written by E.C. Martin with W. G. Carey in the title role. [Editor's note: The piece was written by a local newspaper man and was considered highly objectionable. No reviews were posted. This didn't stop audiences from flocking to the theatre. The part of Constable Lonigon was taken bv Mr K. Huntley. One night when the play was being performed the real Constable Lonigon who was in the stalls, rose up and protested against tho portrait of himself given by Mr. Huntley. The play ran all month.]
The Bijou comedy company continued their season. On Saturday August 6th 'Masks and Faces' was produced. This popular the joint production of Tom Taylor (1817-1880} and Charles Reade (1814-1884) which has often delighted Melbourne audiences, was revived at the Bijou Theatre on Saturday.
"Mrs. Lewis won a well-deserved reputation in the part of Peg Woffington many years ago, and the best qualities of the impersonation - its bright vivacity, and genuine cheeriness, relieved by touches of feeling - have not been dimmed by time." (Argus)
[Editor's note: This play was first produced in London in 1852.]
On Saturday the 13th 'The Hidden Hand' was produced. This was a three act drama, adapted by Tom Taylor from the French.
"Mrs Wooldridge contrived to invest the domesticated Borya with a not inappropriate witch like air, Miss Blanche Louis made an interesting invalid and Miss Wooldridge waa a pleasant representative of the other walking lady." (Argus)
On Saturday 20th 'The Marble Heart' was produced. This was a clever adaptation from the French by Charles Selby.
"Mrs. Lewis does not look the part of the fascinating Mdlle. Marco, and does not rise to the height of its requirements, while Mr. Ireland vainly strives to grapple with (his) character. (His) display of emotion was artificial and laboured." (Argus)
On Saturday 27th James Carden and Marston Leigh joined the Bijou comedy company in 'Fool's Revenge', newly revised by Tom Taylor. James Carden, had paid a professional visit to Melbourne some nine or ten years ago, now returned for the purpose of settling there. He was accompanied by his wife, known in the theatres as Miss Marston Leigh.
"Mr. Carden threw himself into the character of the court jeater with an earnestness and abandon which delighted the audience, who were liberal in their applause throughout, and recalled him at the end of each act. His style ia characterised by vigour and robustness, with an occasional tendency to exaggeration, which in all probability resulted, on Saturday evening, from an over-anxiety to produce a favourable impression, and to make every point tell." (Argus)
The James Carden and Marston Leigh season continued. On Saturday September 4th the drama 'The Wife's Secret' was mounted.
Of Mr Carden the Argus said "There is plenty of energy, but it is combined with a lack of refinement and of that subtle decrimination by the exercise of. which the true artist seizes upon the finer lights and shades of a character, and gives us its subtler traits, as well as its broader aspects and more salient features."
On Saturday 10th Edmund Falconer's three act comedy of 'Extremes: or Men of tho Day' was presented.
"Mr. Carden played Frank Hawthorne, the central figure of the comedy, no better than any other senior member of the company might have done, his defects being want of ease in general bearing and a too stilted style of speech." (Age)
On Saturday 17th 'The Streets of New York' was staged.
"It would be paying the members of the company but on equivocal compliment to say that the acting was very much better than the drama." (Argus)
The last night of the season was on Friday the 23rd with a benefit Marston Leigh. The farcical comedy 'The Romantic Family' was performed.
On Saturday September 24th a juvenile company, formed by Mrs Lewis, produced the ever popular 'La File du Tambour-Major'. Every part of this theatre was densely packed for the opening performance. The company had been in training for some months past.
"With every desire to do justice to the enterprise of the management and to the patience and skill displayed by Mrs. Lewis in the training of her young pupils, we cannot do otherwise than record our opinion that the whole production is a mistake." (Age)
"Mr. Ure, the musical director of the performance, was indefatigable in his efforts to keep the young people together, and to prevent them from singing wildly both as regards time and tune. The orchestra had been strengthened for the occasion, and was as effective as could be reasonably expected from its numbers." (Argus)
Bland Holt's 'The World' continued to reap profits throughout the month with the season coming to an end on Friday Sept 30th.
On Sat September 3rd W. G. Carey appeared in 'Gratitude, or, The Magic of Kindness', by W. Burmage.
"Mr W. G Carey, as the felon of moral instincts, appeared to considerable advantage. Mr Warner was entertaining in the part of an eccentric wooden legged hut-keeper, and Mr G A Coleman as the hero, did fairly well in that dismal character." (Argus)
The show was taken off after two performances and 'Ostracised' by E.C. Martin was substituted. This was based on the exploits of the Kelly gang. This played the rest of the week with a final performance on Saturday September 10th. The Princess was then closed for extensive renovations.
The theatre was closed all month for renovations.
Saturday October 1st saw the first appearance in Australia of Daniel H. Harkins who had recently arrived from England. [Editor's note: D. H. Harkins was, in fact, American.] The first production was 'Hamlet' in which Harkins took the title role.
"Without underrating some of his predecessors, we may say that the first appearance of this gentleman is quite sufficient to convince us that he is likely to be the best exponent of Shakespeare that has appeared in Melbourne for a long time." (Age)
This was followed on Saturday 8th 'Richard III' was mounted.
"The text generally was delivered with close attention to its import and spirit. Several new points were brought out, and evidence was given of diligent and thoughtful study." (Age)
|Daniel H. Harkins (1835-1902) was born in America. He started as stage manager at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York in the late 1860s. He soon became manager and started a long career on the New York stage, sometimes appearing in two or three plays a year. He was known as a tragedian, though chiefly in supporting roles. In 1879 he left to tour England, Australia and New Zealand. He returned to the States in 1883 and toured around the country. During the 1890s he spent most of his time on the Broadway stage. One of his last productions was 'The Last Appeal' in April 1902 at Wallack's Theatre.|
On Thursday the 13th 'Othello' played for two nights.
"Mr. Harkins would be entitled to rank with the best representatives of it whom we have seen in Melbourne, were it not for the defects of intonation and of elocution." (Argus)
On Saturday Oct 15th 'Virginius' by Sheridan Knowles was performed.
"Mr. Harkins showed that he has the capacity to depict true passion and to stir the feelings of his audience in no common degree. Mr. Harkina presents us with a picturesque and vigorous Virginina, with an unbroken emotional continuity; and, in addition, he gets at the inner heart and melody of the character. The faults of the impersonation are those of defective accent and intonation, which show themselves in times of rapid utterance." (Argus)
"It is scarely sufficient to say that Mr. Harkins played the part of the Roman centurion well, for indeed his portrayal went beyond that, and approached a measure of success more fitly described as a masterly piece of acting." (Age)
Then on Thursday the 20th 'The Merchant of Venice' was performed with Harkins as Shylock.
"Mr. Harklns proved himself strongest in passion and weakest in pathos. Nor can it be considered one of his best parts." (Argus)
On Saturday Oct 22nd it was 'Macbeth'.
"The performance was in many particulars highly creditable. The supernatural element was carefully elaborated, and the singing of Locke's music formed a pleasing relief to the pervading tone of the entertainment." (Argus)
Of Harkins in the title role the Age said "though not the most finished of his performances, bears the impress of considerable study."
The final night of the season was on Friday 28th with a benefit performance of 'London Assurance'.
On Saturday October 1st the theatre reopened with the dress Circle redecorated with newly fitted upholstered chairs. The tragic actor Daniel Edward Bandmann (1840 - 1905) opened for a season with 'Narcisse'. [Editor's note: 'Narcisse' is a dramatic version of Diderot's 'Neveu de Rameau'.] The company featured the local favourite Eloise Juno.
"Herr Bandmann has made the character of Narcisse so completely his own that it is difficult to disassociate him from it" (Argus)
Also accompaning Bandmann was Louise Beaudet who "must bo credited with having achieved a marked success, and with having established herself as a decided favourite with the audience." (Argus)
"The costumes, scenery and furniture were all in harmony, but special attention should be directed to a beautifully-designed garden scene in the second act, the effect of which is increased by a Moorish ballet and a highly picturesque Watteau minuet, performed by a well trained ballet corps." (Age)
On Saturday Oct 15th the company performed 'Hamlet'.
The Age had this to say of Bandmann's performance "At times his elocution rises to the verge of perfection, and at others drops below mediocrity. His soliloquies are thoughtfully and argumentatively uttered and well up spontaneously, like the uttered cogitations of a man who thinks aloud."
"The great success of the evening was achieved by Miss Beaudet, who, although suffering from a severe indisposition, and playing contrary to medical advice, took the house by storm in Ophelia's mad scene. A more touching and admirable rendering of this trying situation has never been seen upon the Melbourne boards." (Argus)
The following Tuesday and Wednesday 'Romeo and Juliet' played.
On Thursday the 20th there was a single performance of 'East Lynne' followed on the Friday by a benefit.
On Saturday the 22nd there was a double bill 'The Duke's Motto' followed by 'The Corsican Brothers'.
Of the former the Age said "Mr. Bandmann's clever assumption of the triple characters of the drama elicited frequent applause, as also did the charming acting of Miss Beaudet, who together with Mr. Bandmann, had the honor of an enthusiastic recall at the close of the play."
The Argus said that the play showed "signs of incomplete rehearsal, but as the piece abounds in striking situations, and the action ia rapid and various, the shortcomings were not so obvious aa they might otherwise have been."
The following Tuesday and Wednesday 'Narcise' and 'Tom's Revenge' were staged with a dramatic version of 'Monte Cristo' on the Thursday. The last night of the Bandmann season was a benefit on Friday October 28th.
The Juvenile production of 'La Fille du Tambour Major' continued throughout the month finally finishing on Friday November 4th.
Wybert Reeve and the Bijou comedy Company opened 'The Crushed Tragedian', by H.J. Byron, on November 12th.
"The comedy drama was as a whole well and evenly acted. The Florence Bristowe of Miss Blanche Louis is the best thing she has yet done." (Argus)
On the 26th the comedy drama 'Stolen Kisses' was played for the last week of the season.
On Saturday 29th October the George Musgrove Opera Comique Company opened a season with 'Madame Favart' by Offenbach.
"The care with which this opera has been put on the stage, the spirited acting of Miss Pattie Laverne and her coadjutors, and the attractiveness of the music, promise a long continuance of the public favour." (Argus)
"Mr. Kelly, who on Saturday played Charles Favart, had but little voice to either speak or sing with. His conception of the part moreover does not appear to be a particularly good one. It lacks vigor and never brings the cjaracter into prominence that has evidently been the author's intention." (Age)
On Nov 19th the ever popular 'La Fille du Tambour Major', by Offenbach, was staged. 150 persons were engaged for this production including extra chorus and a military band on stage. The cast included Pattie Laverne, Edwin Kelly, Maggie Liddle, John Wallace, Albert Brenoir and. Nellie Stewart as Griolet the drummer. Nellie Stewart was new to the cast.
The Argus said "It is greatly to the advantage of the performance that in donning the dress of the drummer Miss Nellie Stewart has a very pretty and boyish appearance. Furthermore, she has learned to play the side-drum as an accomplishment necessary to the completeness of the performance of the part. She is vivacious, and she sings very prettily the whole of the music as it is set."
Bland Holt and Company were in season at this theatre. 'The World', by Paul Merritt, Henry Pettitt and Augustus Harris, opened on October 29th.
"If anything, the play was better placed on the stage than ever, the scenes being most realistic, especially the explosion on board the Lily of the Valley and the raft scene, both of which were received with the heartiest applause." (Daily Telegraph)
A week later 'New Babylon' with Ada Ward and J.L. Hall was mounted. The Bland Holt season finished on Friday 25th.
On Saturday 26th there was a very short season by George Coppin who, after 40 years on the stage, was about to retire. The season consisted on many of his more famous roles. Works performed included 'Pygmalion and Galatea', 'Young King Milky White', 'Paul Pry', 'The Contented Election' and 'The Rivals'.
The theatre opened again after refurbishment. The new lessee and manager was Frederick Marshall whose company commenced a comedy season on October 29th. They opened with the first performance in Melbourne of 'Betsy', in a translation from the French by F.C. Burnand.
"As Mister Dawson, Mr. Fred. Marshall's acting was simply perfect, and his amusing impersonation was immensely enjoyed by the audience." (Daily Telegraph)
"The exuberant merriment of the audience testified to the fact that the comedy and the method of its presentation were equally to their liking." (Argus)
'Betsy' proved popular enough to run until the 25th. On the 26th 'The Guv'nor', by F.G. Lankester, was performed for the first time in Australia [Editor's note: This work had originally played in London in June 1880]
The Argus had a few misgivings about the work. "It would be difficult to describe the plot so as ti make it intelligible within anything like reasonable limits. It has been cleverly constructed, with an especial view to a concatenation of complicated mystifications."
|Sir Francis Cowley Burnand [F.C. Burnand] (1836-1917) was born in London, England. He practiced as an attorney for a short time and later managed a theatre, but his greater interest lay in writing for the stage. He became a prolific dramatist, writing nearly 200 comedies and burlesques. He was a contributor to Punch for 45 years and its editor from 1880 until 1906. many of his successful plays included 'The Turn of the Tide', 'Betsy' and 'The Colonel'. He also collaborated with Arthur Sullivan on 'Cox and Box' and 'The Contrabandista' which was revised and expanded as 'The Chieftain'.|
On Saturday December 3rd there was a special engagement of the Scotch comedian J.E. M'Fadyen supported by Mrs G.B.W. Lewis (Rose) and the Bijou Comedy Company. 'The Galley Slave', by Bartley Campbell, was the first production.
"The piece itself is a miracle of stupidity. Vapid and occasionally vulgar in dialogue, ridiculous in plot, incoherent in construction, and improbable in situation and incident." (Argus)
There was a programme change on Wednesday the 7th. For the first time in Australia 'Hazel Kirke' was produced.
Dunston Kirke, the old miller, "was played by Mr. J.F. M'Fadyen, who acted with some force. He would have been more effective in some of the emotional scenes, however, if he had substituted quiet intensity for boisterousness." (Argus)
On the 17th there was a complimentary benefit to Mrs G.B.W. Lewis with a single performance of Boucicault's 'London Assurance'. The theatre closed until Christmas.
On Saturday the 24th the annual pantomime was mounted. This year it was 'Gulliver, or Harlequin King Liliput', by Garnet Walch. This featured Carry Nelson, Darcy Stanfield and Fred Dare.
"In the selection of a subject for his pantomime Mr. Garnet Walch was probably actuated more by a desire to fit in with arrangements of the management to make a feature of Mrs Lewis attractive little pupils than that he had discovered any special element of burlesque in Dean Swift's famous satire to adapt to stage utilisation...Miss Alice Woodridge made a very captivating Princess Exquisetta, and in conjunction with Miss Nelson was warmly applauded for her share in the duets and concerted music of the burlesque...the performance terminated with a shadow harlequinade by a troupe of juvenile pantomimists, and the curtain finally fell on the glories of the Fairies Prismatic Fountain." (Argus)
[Editor's note: the afore mentioned ballet featured dancers dressed as various gloriously plumaged birds of Australia.]
|Garnet Walch (1843–1913) was born in Tasmania but was educated in England. He returned to Australia and practised as a journalist in New South Wales. It was here that he began to write translations, adaptations, burlesques and pantomimes for the theatre. In 1872 he moved to Melbourne. His last work was 'Sinbad the Sailor' which opened in Melbourne's Theatre Royal on Boxing night 1893. He then retired from the theatre.|
'La Fille du Tambour Major' continued. December the 3rd marked the 200th performance of the operetta by the company. On the 5th and 6th 'Madame Favart' returned. On Wednesday 7th the popular 'Les Cloches de Cornville' opened.
"It was evident from the first that there had not been sufficient rehearsal, and for this reason the play did not end until nearly 20 minutes to 12, and many of the audience were put to great inconvenience thereby." (Argus) However a few performances later the same reviewer said "The exuberant comicalities have now been toned down si as to allow the serious parts of the play to impress their right influence on the audience."
The operetta played up till Christmas.
On Saturday the 24th 'Olivette', by Audran opened. The cast included Edwin Kelly, Albert Brennir, H.R. Harwood, Elsa May and Nellie Stewart who was now beginning to grow in popularity.
|Nellie Stewart (1858-1931) was born in Sydney. She made her debut as an actress at the age of five. After touring abroad with her family she was lead in Coppin's 'Sinbad the Sailor' in 1880 in Melbourne. She eventually took the lead in Offenbach's 'La Fille du Tambour Major' for producer George Musgrove, with whom she became closely associated for the rest of her career. Nellie spent a year studying in London (1887/88) returning to Australia to play Marguerite in 'Faust'. She returned to England in 1891 and made her London dé in 1892 taking the title role in the operetta 'Blue-Eyed Susan'. This had been especially written for her by George Sims, Henry Pettitt and Osmond Carr. She returned to Australia in 1893. In Melbourne in 1902 she first played Nell Gwyne in 'Sweet Nell of Old Drury', which was to become her most famous role.|
The final season of actor George Coppin. At the December 8th performance 1,000 autographed pictures if the actor were given away. On the final night (Dec 9th) there was a special benefit consisting of a double bill 'The Rivals' and 'The Turnpike Gate'.
On Saturday 10th there was the first production of James Holloway's English adaptation of Dickens' 'Bleak House'. This featured the first appearance of the English actress Georgie Smithson as 'Jo'.
"The warmth of the welcome accorded to her proved to be well-deserved; for she succeeded in making a decidedly favourable impression in the part by her natural acting." (Argus) On the 17th 'The Female Detective' was performed. "Its wearisome stupidly is only partially compensated for by the versatility of Miss Smithson, whose songs and dances seemed to be greatly appreciated by the audience."(Argus)
The short season terminated after a few performances.
On Saturday 24th the annual Theatre Royal Christmas Pantomime opened. This year it was [the original] 'Dick Whittington and his Cat' by John Strachan. The cast included J.R. Greville, Docy Stewart and Constance and Alice Deorwyn.
'The Guv'nor' continued. It drew to a close on December 9th. On the 10th 'Blow by Blow'. By Byron, was mounted.
"The house was filled, and the piece being extremely well played, was received with very hearty applause, the principals being several times called before the curtain." (Argus)
This finished on Wednesday 21st. The company then prepared for the annual pantomime.
On Saturday the 24th 'Dick Whittington and his Cat, or Harlequin Little Bo-Peepe and Ye Fairie Chimes of Bow Bells'. The pantomime was written by Garnet Walch and produced under the direction of comedian Frederick Marshall with a full cast, transformation scene and ballet.
"Mr. George Gordon, the scenic artist at this theatre, has played so important a part by the beauty of the illustrations which he has furnished for the pantomime, that we must give him precedence in our notice of Saturday night's performance. Although he had only five weeks to make his preparations, he has succeeded in setting before the public a series of pictures in which the sentiment of the true artist is not less visible than his facility of execution and his accurate knowledge of the best means of blending truth to nature with picturesqueness and brilliancy of effect." (Argus)
Annie Taylor played Dick with James Gratten as the Dame.