Theatre in Melbourne 1892

"Amongst the attractions provided for the Christmas holidays is a series of open-air entertainments which will commence at the Melbourne Cricket-ground on Boxing Night. The programme includes a display of fireworks on an exceeding elaborate scale, a concert by the Spanish Estudiantina (comprising 80 performers) and the performance of a large military band."
('Theatres and Entertainments' Argus Saturday December 17th 1892)

Bourke St 1890s

Bourke St, Melbourne, 1890s


The attendance at the Promenade Concert given at the Exhibition building on Saturday evening was unprecedentedly large. All the available space within the concert hall was occupied, the audience taking possession of even the organ gallery. The attraction was the appearance of the Italian artists who have recently been performing at the Princes's Theatre. While appearing at the Princess's the company were indifferently successful from a financial point of view, and the fact that several thousands of people assembled to hear them when they could do so at small expense may be taken as a sign of the times. The mass of the people are apparently disinclined or unable at the present period to pay the regular theatre rates for their amusement. The programme on the whole was of a most acceptable character, and recalls were the rule throughout the evening. The principal feature was Signora Cuttica's admirable performance of the favourite polacca from the opera 'Mignon'. It was artistic in the highest degree, and just what was to have been expected from one who has given the utmost satisfaction in many operatic rôles.At the conclusion of the polacca Signora Cuttica was applauded with such enthusiasm that an encore had to be complied with. Signora Cuttica, with her husband, also gave the principal duet from 'Carmen', and took the part in quartets from 'Rigoletto' and 'Martha', each of these numbers creating a very favourable impression.

From a review in the Argus on July 14th, 1892


1892 was quite a terrible year for theatre in Melbourne. Companies folded almost overnight and it was with great difficulty that managers were able to even hire out the theatres let alone yet alone fill them with audiences. It was a very lean year indeed and at one point it looked like there might not even be a single theatre open in the city. However it was certainly a year of theatrical firsts. Melbourne played host to first Australian performances of several popular London productions including 'Dead Beat' (George Conquest), 'The Grey Mare' (George Sims), 'Walker, London' (J.M. Barrie), 'The Hobey Horse' (Pinero) and 'Gloriana' (adapt Mortimer). 1892 was also the year of the 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay' craze.

January February
March April
May June
July August
September October
November December


Theatre Royal

'Whittington and his Cat' continued a very successful run playing to full houses throughout the whole of January.

"Miss Billie Barlow is decidedly one of the brightest and cleverest of burlesque actresses of the many who have appeared in Melbourne. Her voice is strong and clear, and her acting has that dash and verve which is far more valuable for burlesque than accurate singing." (Table Talk)


'Jack the Giant Killer' finished on the 23rd. On the 25th 'Evangeline', by Edward E. Rice (1849-1924), was produced. The large cast included Fannie Liddiard, Florence Esdaile, John Forde, George Fortesque, J.A. South and Charles Seagrave. Rice, himself, conducted the orchestra. [Editor's note: 'Evangeline' was first produced in New York in 1874 and was loosely based on the Longfellow poem]

New Princess

'The Merry Monarch' continued its successful run.

"With a coherent story, intelligible dialogue, and scenic accessories of unusual merit, the production has rarely been equalled in Melbourne." (Argus)

This finally finished on Friday the 22nd of January. The following night 'The Old Guard' was revived running until February the 5th. This featured newcomer Marietta Nash in the role of Follow-the-Drum.

"Miss Nash is brisk and bright, has a pleasing soprano voice, and is a graceful dancer." (Argus)

[Editor's note: Marietta was the wife of actor George Lauri]

Opera House

The Opera House remained closed throughout January.

New Bijou

The Brough-Boucicault season of 'Much Ado About Nothing' continued at this theatre throughout January finally finishing on February 12th.


Theatre Royal

The successful 'Whittington and his Cat' finally concluded its run on February 19th. The following evening Billie Barlow lead the company in 'Little Jack Sheppard'.

"Miss Billie Barlow throws herself into the part of Little Jack Sheppard with a zest and an abandon which never flag. She has no dull moments. Her vivacity and 'go' are unintermittent...she establishes an entente cordiale with the spectators, and especially with the young gentlemen in the gallery." (Argus)

The production continued into March.

Billie Barlow Minnie Barlow (1862-1937) was born in London and made her debut at the Opera Comique in "H.M.S. Pinafore". It was W.S. Gilbert who suggested that she change her name to Billie. She appeared as Isabel in the premiere of 'The Pirates of Penzance' and was in the London production of "Patience" in 1881. After four years touring America in operetta [this included playing Fleta in the original New York production of 'Iolanthe'] she returned to England where she began to appear in music-hall and variety. It was these roles that she is best remembered.


Edward E. Rice's 'Corsair' opened on February the 6th for a week.

The work was presented "with even more attention to detail than on its first presentation at the Opera House." (Argus)

This was followed by the fairy burlesque 'Cinderella' for six nights only. On the 20th 'Valjean', based on Victor Hugo's novel, opened to good reviews.

"The version is from Mr. Dampier's pen, and it is interesting to note that the author is in possession of an autograph letter from the great master of fiction complimenting him upon it" (Argus)

A week later, on the 27th, 'The Green Lanes of England', by Henry Pettitt and George Conquest, played.

New Princess

On February 6th 'Iolanthe' was produced on a double bill with the popular 'Charity Begins at Home'. The cast included the favourites Howard Vernon, Sydney Deane, Henry Bracy, Charles Ryley and Flora Graupner.

The Argus said "The performance was an entire success and in addition to frequent individual encores the finale of the first act was re-demanded."

On the 13th 'La Cigale', by E. Audran with English book by F.C. Burnand, was given its Australian premiere. A lot of work went into the staging in which the costumes were exact duplications of the original London production. The operetta featured American actress and singer Marie Halton making her first appearance in Australia.

"Miss Marie Halton, the new prima donna, is an undoubted success..the spectacular part of the representation is exceedingly brilliant, the music and the words are considerably above the average of compositions of this class". (The Australasian)

Also in the large cast were Howard Vernon, Charles Ryley and William Elton.

Marie Halton. Picture courtesy of John Culme. Marie Halton (1873-19??) was born Mary Prendergast in New York. Her American debut was in 1887 in 'Dorothy' by Alfred Cellier. She toured extensively including London, Paris, Vienna and Australia. After appearing at the Carltheater, in Vienna, in 1903, she seemed to disappear from the theatrical stage. She was described by an Australian reviewer as "young and vivacious, with a good figure, merry dark eyes, a charming manner, and is evidently much in love with the profession for which she was intended by nature and carefully trained by art."

New Bijou

The Brough-Boucicault company mounted 'The Hobey Horse, by A.W. Pinero, for the first time in Australia. On February 20th 'The Parvenu, by Godfrey, was produced, followed on the 27th by 'Caste' by Robertson. These were the last performances for long standing cast member G.W. (George William) Anson (1847-1920) whose final night with the company was on March the 11th.

Opera House

The redecorated and refurnished Opera House opened again to the public on Monday the 15th with a season featuring the Empire Company from the Empire Palace, London. This featured a large collection of Burlesque, pantomime, dancers and a variety of different artists.

MARCH 1892

New Bijou

'Captain Swift' by C. Haddon Chamber, was produced on March 12th. and a return of 'Sophia', by Robert Buchanan, on the 26th.

"The characterisation is carefully preserved, and the incidents and dialogue subjected only to such purgative process as the requirement of modern ideas absolutely demands" (Argus)

Theatre Royal

The last night of 'Little Jack Sheppard' was on Friday March the 11th.

"Mr. Titheradge's representation of Captain Swift is only another example of his sterling ability as an actor, and in his hands the mental habit of the bushranger was artistically subdued by the instincts of the gentleman." (Argus)

The first presentation in Australia of 'Randolph the Reckless' opened on Saturday the 12th. Joining the cast was Harry Barnes who had played in the work when the play was staged in England. However it was Billie Barlow, again, who stole the show.

"In a burlesque of this kind Miss Billie Barlow is seen and heard at her best, and her best can scarcely be excelled...she throws herself into every part with a heartiness which enhances the enjoyment of the audience, and never allows the business of the scene in which she is engaged to flag or drag." (Argus)

The Billie Barlow season concluded on April the 1st. [Editor's note: Billie Barlow was planning to tour New Zealand but that did not eventuate and she sailed back to England in July]

Princess Theatre

'La Cigale' continued to glowing reviews.

On Monday the 29th of February the Argus said "The representation on Saturday evening resembled a first night in the enthusiasm with which the crowded audience took the different points and applauded the principal numbers.

On March the 26th 'Dorothy' was again produced with Marie Halton taking the title role for the first time in Australia.

"she has a thorough conception of the part, acting with vivacity as well as grace, and without any approach to exaggeration." (Argus)

The cast also included Florence Young, Violet Varley, Elsie Cameron, Henry Bracy and Howard Vernon.


On March the 5th 'All For Gold' opened at this theatre. This was an adaptation of Eugene Sue's 'Wandering Jew'.

"The drama is full of strong situations and powerful incidents, and the engaging character of Dagobert Baudin was played by Mr. Dampier with the finish and ease which mark his representation of all those characters that appeal to the better sentiments of the audience." (Argus)

A week later 'The Count of Monte Cristo', based on Duma's novel, opened. The adaptation was by Alfred Dampier and Garnet Walch.

"The drama's chief interest on the present occasion may be said to centre in the powerful representation given by Mr. Alfred Dampier of the betrayed but ultimately triumphant Edmond Dantes." (Argus)

The following Thursday (the 17th) 'Shamus O'Brien' played one performance in honour of St. Patrick's Day. The following evening there was the first of the Shakespearian Fridays for the year. This was 'As You Like It'. On Saturday the 19th there was the first production in Australia of 'Wilful Murder'.

"The play was witnessed by a large audience, and the more dramatic points, representing the temporary and ultimately absolute discomfiture of the criminal, were loudly applauded." (Argus)

The play proved most successful and it continued to run well into April.

Opera House

The Empire Company continued at this theatre. "The exhibition is the most marvellous ever to be presented." (Age) The season concluded on the 18th.

On Saturday the 19th there was the first appearance in Australia of the famed English actress Mrs Bernard Beere (1856-1915) along with her company. The production was 'As In a Looking Glass'.

The critics were kind to Mrs Beere "She was called and recalled before the curtain by an audience that had been moved to an unusual pitch. In every way her debut must be regarded as a triumph." (Argus)

[Editor's note: Fanny Mary Bernard-Beere was in the first London production [1882] of 'Far From the Madding Crowd', by J. Comyns Carr and Thomas Hardy, and in 1893 appeared in the first performance of 'A Woman of No Importance' by Oscar Wilde. A New York critic described Mrs Beere as a "tall, gaunt woman, without beauty."]

Mrs Bernard Beere. Courtesy of Fanny Mary Bernard-Beere (née Whitehead) (1856-1915), was born in Norwich. She made her stage debut at the Opera Comique in 1877. She was in the first London production [1882] of 'Far From the Madding Crowd', by J. Comyns Carr and Thomas Hardy, and in 1893 appeared in the first performance of 'A Woman of No Importance', by Oscar Wilde. She was three times married, but for stage purposes retained the name of her second husband.

APRIL 1892


'Sunlight and Shadow', by R.C. Carton, was mounted on the 2nd. This was the first Melbourne performance.

"The literary quality of the piece is not the least of its merits, and it contains two characters which are refreshingly natural and life-like." (Argus)

This was followed, on the 9th, by 'Bachelors' by Robert Buchanan.

"It is probably as much the fault of the playwright as the actor that Mr. Marrable resembles a retired butter merchant of the Middlewick order, more than a retired Queen's Counsel as he is described in the programme." (Argus)

On Saturday the 16th the comedy, 'The Solicitor', by J.H. Darnley, opened.

"The farce itself can scarely be said to possess a plot, but it is full of incident, extravagant and preposterous, it is true, but laughable in the extreme." (Argus)

Princess Theatre

'Dorothy' finished on the 8th. There followed a short season of 'The Gondoliers' and 'The Old Guard' in celebration of the last few days in Australia of William Elton before he left for England for a star engagement at Drury Lane. There was a special farewell evening entitled 'Elton's Night' on Thursday April 14th.

William Elton William (Billy) Elton (1849-1903) was a leading comedian for John Hollingshead at the London Gaiety Theatre during the 70s and 80s. He had been in Australia since 1886 and joined the Royal Comic Opera Company the following year for leading roles in the Australian premieres of Princess Ida and The Yeomen of the Guard. He soon became a firm favourite in Australia and, a little while later, New Zealand. He returned to England in 1892 and joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1897. His last role was in a show called Little Miss Nobody in 1899.

On the 16th 'Carmen' was produced with Marie Halton in the title role. The opera also featured Flora Graupner, as Michaela, and William Walshe, as Don Jose, making his first appearance at the Princess.

"It was a daring experiment which the management made on Saturday evening, and yet the experiment proved from many points of view a complete and striking success." (Age)

On Saturday the 30th there was a revival of 'The Mikado' for one week. This featured Allan Morris taking the title role for the first time in Melbourne.

"For the first time a Melbourne audience learnt what could be made of teh character, and it is no exaggeration to say that the success of the revival was due to Mr. Morris's brilliant performance." (Table Talk)

Opera House

Mrs Bernard Beere and company continued with the comedy 'Masks and Faces', by Tom Taylor and Charles Reade, on the 2nd.

"It was witnessed by a very large audience, who showed their warm appreciation of the excellence of the production by a liberal measure of applause, and by recalling all the principals at the close of each act." (Argus)

This was followed on the 9th by 'School for Scandal'. Mrs Bernard Beere played Lady Teazle

"(Mrs Bernard Beere) has all the elegant manners, refined characteristics, as well as the affectations of the society into which she has been lifted by marrying a man old enough to be her father." (Argus)

On the 16th Victorian Sardou's 'Fedora' was produced.

"The performance was a magnificent one, and proved Mrs Bernard Beere to be one of the finest emotional actresses on the English stage." (Argus).

On Saturday April 30th the popular 'London Assurance' opened.

Theatre Royal

John F. Sheridan and his comedy company opened on Saturday April the 2nd in 'Bridget O'Brien, Esquire'. This once again featured the ever popular Widow O'Brien role that always was the drawcard with this company. Of interest, incorporated into this production was the latest London craze 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay'. On Saturday the 23rd John Sheridan played the more serious role of Conn in 'The Shaughraun' by Boucicault.

"The production as a whole was a most meritorious one, and fully equal to any previous version of the same play in Melbourne." (Argus)


'Wilful Murder' continued to be very popular. With the exception of a single performance of 'Hamlet' on Friday the 22nd it ran until April the 29th. On April the 30th the Dampier Company mounted 'Faust', the play, not the opera. Alfred Dampier played Mephistopheles and Lily played Margaret.

"Mr. Dampier's impersonation of the character was thoroughly finished and artistic, and he was ably supported by his company." (Argus)

MAY 1892

Opera House

Mrs Bernard Beere and company drew to a close with revivals from May the 5th until May the 13th.

On Saturday May 14th George Edward's London Gaiety Burlesque Company opened for a season. First up was 'Faust Up to Date' By George Sims and Henry Pettitt. [Editor's note: This was based on the work by Wilhelm Meyer Lutz] The cast included E.J. Nonnen, Robert Courtneidge, Addie Comyers and Rosie Nott (Mrs Courtneidge). Marion Hood would have taken the part of Marguerite but owing to an injured ankle she was off the stage for a week. A high point of the production was J. Nonner burlesquing the ever popular 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay'

Theatre Royal

'The Shaughraun' continued. "The incidental sons and dances are greatly appreciated, and they are never allowed to interfere with the action of the comedy-drama." (Table Talk) The play concluded on May the 6th. On Saturday the 7th John Sheridan donned a dress again for the ever popular 'Fun on the Bristol'.

"Its revival attracted a large audience, and it proved as mirth-provoking and entertaining as ever. The part of the Widow O'Brien is one in which Mr. J. F. Sheridan fairly revels, and his inimitable impersonation on Saturday secured the warm approval of the audience." (Argus)

[Editor's note: 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay' even managed to slip into this production as well] The final performance of the Sheridan season was on Friday the 20th. This very successful artist, after eight years touring around Australia, was finally preparing to leave for the States and England.

On Saturday the 21st the Bland Holt Dramatic Company took over the theatre for another season. First up was a new and original Naval and Military drama entitled 'A Sailor's Knot' An addition to the company was Charles Glenney from London's Drury Lane.

"He has good presence, a voice well under control, a taking style, and a capacity for expressing the generous feelings and breezy enthusiasm of the typical navel officer as well as the repressed emotion of the self-sacrificing lover." (Argus)


The ever popular 'Faust' continued at this theatre. [Editor's note: The 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay' craze continued even in 'Faust' where it got incorporated into the ballet section.] The Shakespeare Fridays continued with 'Romeo and Juliet' on the 13th (and again on the 20th and 27th). On Saturday the 14th was the first performance in Australia of 'Dead Beat or the World Against Him', a new work from the hands of George Conquest and George Comer.

"Mr. Dampier gave an amusing redering of the Frenchman who speaks London slang with a Paris accent, and Mr. Rolfe was suitably virtuous and manly and brave as Passmore." (Argus)

This ran for two weeks and was followed by 'Devil's Luck' on Saturday the 28th.

"A large share of the work naturally fell to the lot of Miss Lily Dampier...(who) has proved her capacity for exhibiting pathos and tenderness in many similiar parts already." (Argus)


The comedy 'Uncles and Aunts', by William Lestocq and Walter Everard, was mounted for the first time in Melbourne on May 7th.

"Most of the characters are preposterous, the incidents and situations equally so, the dialogue, like the action, is distinctly farcical, and rarely or ever rises to the level of comedy, and a certain amount of of grimace and buffonery is called for on the part of the principal performer, in order to express to the fullest extent the author's meaning." (Argus)

[Editor's note: William Lestocq was the author of two popular plays, 'The Foundling' and 'Jane'] The play ran for two weeks and then, for the first time in Australia, the comedy 'Gloriana' opened on Saturday the 21st. This was adapted from the French by James Mortimer.

The work "met with plenty of laughter and applause; there was a call for the company at the end of each act."

The work was not the success expected and only ran a week. On May 28th 'A Pair of Spectacles', by Sydney Grundy, was mounted. The evening also featured Jerome K. Jerome's play 'Barbara' as a curtain raiser.

Of the main work of the evening the Argus said "It is entirely lacking in boisterous, roistering mirthfulness, but it touches the deepest springs of that humour which are so nearly allied to pathos that the hearers find themselves for the space of an hour or so dwelling on the borderland between smiles and terror."

[Editor's note: The first English performance of 'Spectacles' was in 1890]

Commenting on Mrs Brough's performance in 'Barbara' Table Talk said she "acts the part with that charm which can only be imparted by sincerity and feeling."

Princess Theatre

The popular 'La Cigale', by Audran, returned on May the 7th and played for one week. Owing to the departure of William Elton, J.C. Williamson had to take over his role with little opportunity for rehearsal.

"It is the more creditable to his versatility as an actor that in spite of all difficulties he should have achieved a performance of considerable merit." (Argus)

The comic opera season then concluded on the 13th.

On Saturday May 14th the Grand Italian Opera Company opened for a season. The first production was 'Lucia di Lammermoor' which also played on the 16th, 17th and 19th. The critics were kind.

"It is a long time since Melbourne theatre-goers have had the opportunity afforded them of witnessing Italian opera placed upon the stage with such a completeness in every detail, especially the important adjuncts of scenery and stage mounting." (Argus)

'La Traviata' played on the 21st and 24th. The mounting of this production were appraised by the critics.

"Recognition should be made of the admirable stage management and costumes which had been furnished by the lavish hand of one who evidently believes in the old saying 'nothing ventured nothing won'." (Argus)

Other productions playing single performances during the month were 'The Barber of Seville' and 'Faust'.

"The result left little room for disappointment, and had it not been for the hoarseness from which Signor Cuttica was suffering the representation would have been one of the best which has been given in Melbourne."

In between all this Jennie Lee appeared in 'Jo' for five performances only with her final performance being on the 27th. After this Jennie said farewell to Australia.

JUNE 1892

Opera House

'Faust Up to Date' finished on the 17th of June. On the 18th there was the first production in Australia of 'Joan of Arc, or the Merry Maid of Orleans'.

"Miss Marion Hood makes an attractive Joan of Arc, sings the airs allotted to her so as to win plenty of applause, and only fails where the delivery of certain declamatory speeches overtaxes the strength of her voice." (Argus)

The company terminated its season early on Thursday July 7th leaving for Adelaide.

Marion Hood Marion Hood (1854-1912) was born Sarah Ann Isaac in Liverpool. She played the part of Mabel in the original D'Oyly Carte production of 'The Pirates of Penzance'. She joined the London Gaiety Company in 1885 and created the title role in Cellier's 'Dorothy'. She travel to America and Australia with the Gaiety Company. Her last appearance on stage was most likely in the chorus at a benefit performance of 'Trial By Jury' in 1898.

Theatre Royal

'Master and Man', by Henry Pettitt and George Sims, was revived on Saturday June 4th.

"The piece was produced with all the realism and scenic accessories which in past productions have aided to make it so popular." (Argus)

The play ran for a week. On the 11th the Bland Holt Company produced 'London Day by Day' by Robert Sims and Henry Pettitt.

"Mr. Bland Holt has in Harry Ascalon one of those parts in which he revels, and the scoundrelism of the fellow id tinctured with so much humour that the gallery boys scream at and vociferously applaud him." (Argus)

On the 16th there was a revival of Pettitt and Grundy's drama 'Bells of Haslemere'.

Table Talk said "Mr. Glenny took the part of the young squire of Haslemere, and played it with the simple straight forward manliness which distinguishes his acting from that of the old style of emotional actor."


Owing to the termination of the lease at the Alexander the Dampier Company's last production is 'Help One Another' by Dampier and Garnet Walch. This opened on June 4th. The last performance was on Saturday the 11th. The Company then started a provincial tour opening in Ballarat on June the 20th. The theatre then went dark for several months.


'A Pair of Spectacles' finished on the 3rd of June. On the 4th the farcical comedy 'New Lamps for Old' opened.

"the smart dialogue, the ludicrous situations and the clever character acting of all engaged in the piece combine to make the entertainment one of the best presented during the season." (Table Talk)

On the 18th 'On an Island', by J.W. Jones, was produced. This was on a double bill with another Sydney Grundy work 'The Arabian Nights'.

"Mr. Brough, in the principal part, was especially diverting." (Argus)

On the 25th there was a week of the William Wycherley comedy 'The Country Girl' proceeded by 'In Honour Bound', also by Sydney Grundy. [Editor's note: 'The Country Girl' was a bowdlerized adaptation of 'The Country Wife']

Of the main work on the programme Table Talk said "The mounting of the comedy is admirable. Mr Boucicault, who is the stage manager, has chosen the costumes of Garrick's period, dresses which somehow seem more adapted to comedy than the laces and furbelows of the seventeenth century."

Princess Theatre

The Grand Italian Opera Company continued its season with productions of 'Rigoletto', 'Maritana', 'Lucia di Lammermoor' and 'La Sonnambula'. There was a benefit on Saturday afternoon the 11th for Jennie Lee before her departure from Australia.

JULY 1892

Theatre Royal

The first production in Melbourne of the new George Sims and Robert Buchanan Military Drama 'The Trumpet Call' opened on Saturday the 2nd of July.

"The honours of the performance fell fairly to Miss Edith Blande, who sustained the character of Bertha...(she) threw herself into the part with a vigour and power that were irresistible"

The last night was on Friday the 15th [Editor's note: 'The Trumpet Call' was first produced in London in August 1891]. On the 16th the sporting drama 'A Run of Luck', by Henry Pettitt and Augustus Barrie, returned to the theatre after a three year absence.

"Not withstanding wet and cheerless weather, the theatre was crowded in every part save the dress circle, and the audience by their applause heartily displayed their appreciation of the manner in which the drama was performed" (Argus).

'Alone in London' made a reappearance on Wednesday the 27th and the season finished on Monday August the 1st. The theatre then went dark.

Princess Theatre

On Saturday July 2nd George Rignold and Company opened a season. First was 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

"The staging is the most perfect of anything that has been attempted here before." (Standard)

This finished on the 22nd. On the 23rd 'Faust' was staged with George and Bessie Rignolds as Mephistopheles and Marguerite.

"Great improvements have been effected, especially in the mechanical arrangements of the scenery" (Table Talk)

On the 30th 'In the Ranks' with Mrs George Rignold making her first appearance that season.

"The piece was placed on the stage with all the completeness usually given to a first performance, perfection of mounting being, indeed, one of the great merits of the present dramatic season at the Princess's." (Argus)


There was a brief revival of the farcical comedy 'Turned Up' (Proceeded by 'In Honour Bound') on the 9th.

Table Talk said that this would have been more successful if "Mr. Cannam had given a more acceptable rendering of the character of Baltic"

On the 16th there was the first production in Australia of 'The Times' by Pinero. [Editor's note: the first production of this work was in London in 1891]

"It is a long time since a new piece has achieved so pronounced a success, or since that success was so thoroughly well deserved as it was on Saturday evening." (Argus)

This finished on Friday the 5th of August.

Arthur Wing Pinero Arthur Wing Pinero (1855-1934) was born in London. He studied law and worked in his father's law office until he was nineteen. He took to the theatre and played both the Globe and Lyceum Theatres. His first play was produced at the Globe in 1877 and with initial success he continued writing. Besides 'Sweet Lavender' he is known for 'The Squire', 'The Schoolmistress' and 'The Second Mrs. Tanqueray' which was acclaimed as one of the finest English plays of its time.

Opera House

Mrs Bernard Beere and Company returned for a short twelve performance season before their departure to London. The works played were 'Adrienne Lecouvreur', 'Masks and Faces', 'Fedora' and 'London Assurance'. [Editor's note: the company played six nights in Adelaide before their departure for England]

John Sheridan returned in 'Bridget O'Brien, Esq' for three performances only on the 27th, 28th and 29th. These were his last appearances on an Australian stage before his departure to Europe and America.


Opera House

The London Gaiety Company returned briefly to this theatre on Saturday July 30th with 'Carmen Up to Data', by Sims and Pettitt. The cast includes Marion Hood, as Carmen, Addie Conyers, as Escamillo, and E.J. Lonnen as Jose. Lonnen had taken oven from Fred Leslie who had retired from the stage owing to ill health.

"Mr. Lonnen is the prime favourite, and stands scarely second to Mr. leslie in the popular estimation. He is so resourceful, various, and versatile." (Argus)

'Carmen' played for a couple of weeks. The company then took off to the provinces and the theatre went dark. [Editor's note: The ever popular hairy bear here contacted typhoid fever and passed away in December 1892]


The first performance in Australia of the farcical comedy 'The Grey Mare', by George Sims and Cecil Raleigh, opened on August 6th. This had only just recently been produced in London in January.

"An excellent cast secures an excellent performance." (Argus)

On the 13th for one week only the famous W.S. Gilbert play, 'Engaged', opened. This had not been seen on the Melbourne stage for thirteen years.

"One special merit of the performance was that the whole of the company, with one exception, took their parts seriously and seemed to be quite unconscious of the ludicrous nature of the language they had to deliver, of the ridiculous situations in which they were placed, or of the exquisite absurdity of the actions imposed upon them." (Argus)

On the 20th 'Confusion' by Joseph Derrick returned to the Bijou. This was last seen in 1884.

"The audience were as much in the dark as the characters themselves as to how it had all come about and how it was going to end." (Argus)

This finished on September 2nd.

The Bijou Theatre:
The Bijou was always praised as being comfortable and intimate even though it could seat up to 1,500 persons. It began life as the Academy of Music in 1876 and was renamed, Bijou, in 1880. The Brough-Boucicault Comedy Company used it as their Melbourne home for five years until it was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1889. It was rebuilt and reopened in April 1890 with seating for yet another 400 people. Fullers took over the theatre in the early 20th century. It was demolished in 1934.

Princess Theatre

The last night of the George Rignold season was on Friday the 12th.
J.C. Williamson then took over the direction of the theatre. 'The Silver King', by Henry Jones and Henry Herman, was revived on the 13th, with George Melville, Henrietta Watson and Walter Bentley.

"Strength and variety are the attributes of Mr. Walter Bentley's picture of the protagonist of the drama. His grasp of the character is broad and firm, and he passes from one forcibly contrasted aspect of it to another by skilful transitions, which serve to maintain its coherency and consistency." (Argus)

'The Silver King' played throughout the month.

Throughout the month of August both the Alexander and the Theatre Royal were closed except, occasionally, they would open their doors for the odd benefit.


The Opera House and the Theatre Royal remained closed except for the odd benefit and wrestling match.


This theatre reopened on Saturday the 17th under the management of Mrs Maribel Greenwood making her first appearance in Melbourne. The production was 'My Sweetheart' which featured W.G. Carey, Walter Brownlow and Maribel, Bob and Agatha Greenwood.

"Miss Agatha Greenwood has two great points - youth and a pleasing appearance - in her favour, and she worked in a thoroughly conscientious manner to please her audience". (Argus)


'The Pickpocket', by George P. Hawtrey, opened on Saturday the 3rd. This featured H.R. Harwood, as Gregory Grumbledon, making his reappearance back on the Melbourne stage after an absence of three years.

"The reappearance of the veteran comedian was heartily welcomed by the audience." (Argus)

On the 10th there was the first performance of the Sydney Grundy play 'A Village Priest'.

"Mr. Titheradge has a good character to work out in the Abbé, and the pains he has bestowed upon the elaboration of the part have been fully recompensed by the result." (Argus)
"The delight of the audience is best illustrated by the applause which greeted the close of each act, the curtain having to be raised several times." (Standard)

Princess Theatre

'The Silver King' continued to successful box office. The last night, on September 16th, saw the last performance in Australia of E.W. Royce. On the 17th and 19th for two performances Walter Bently took the title role in 'Hamlet'.

Of Mr. Bentley's performance the Argus said "It is no longer in some portions of the tragedy at least - the melancholy, meditative, introspective Hamlet of which he gave us so interesting a presentation upon former occasions, but a boisterous, declamatory, demonstrative Hamlet."

'The Silver King' returned to play out the week. On Saturday the 24th 'The Lost Paradise', adapted from the German by Ludwig Fulela, hit the stage for the first time in Australia. The cast included George Carey, J. Gosgrove, Emma Gwynne and Henrietta Watson.

"Miss Watson succeeds in infusing a great deal of human nature into,and in investing with real interest, a character which is somewhat conventional." (Argus)


Princess Theatre

'The Lost Paradise' continued until Friday October 7th. On the 8th the drama 'The Pointsman', by R.C. Carton and Cecil Raleigh, was revived. This featured Maud Williamson, Albert Lucas and Edward Sass.

"Mr. Sass has evidently made a careful study of the character of Richard Dagdale, and the result has been a fine piece of dramatic portraiture." (Argus)

On the 15th 120 performers of Pollard's Liliputian Opera Company took over the theatre. The operetta was 'The Gondoliers' and featured Master Alfred Stevens, as the Duke, Miss Nellie Wilson, as Luiz, Miss Marion Mitchell, as Marco and Miss Maud Beatly as Guiseppe.

"On the whole the performance was a distinct success, and it is entitled to take a formost place in diminutive lyric representations."

From October the 22nd there were three performances of 'La Mascotte' by Audran, followed by three performances of 'The Mikado'.
On the 29th the London Gaiety Company returned with 'Faust Up to Date'.


'A Village Priest' continued.

"There is as yet no sign whatever of the least diminution in the interest the public take in 'A Village Priest' which seems to grow more popular with each repetition." (Herald)

On Saturday October 22nd J.M. Barrie's comedy 'Walker, London' opened. This was the first performance in Australia of a show which had a reasonably long run in London.

"The dialogue is not brilliant, but it is crisp, and every sentence serves to develop the story of the character." (Table Talk)


'My Sweetheart' finished on October 7th. This was followed by 'Blanche'.

"Miss Maribel Greenwood, who impersonates the heroine Blanche, worked hard to make her lines tell, but the throat affection was greatly against her."

Whether it was illness or disappointing attendance the company folded after a couple of performances. The theatre then went dark until it was reopened under the management of George Carey on Saturday the 29th. The work was the popular comedy 'Three Hats Slightly Mixed' featuring May Hill, May Masters, Charles Brown and A.E. Greenaway.

The production "was received with great favour, the incidents of the comedy are accentuate to the degree of the farcical, and compelled repeated outbursts of laughter from the audience." (Age)

Opera House

The Opera House reopened on Saturday the 15th of October with the Alabama Minstrels. One of the headliners was 'Billy' Emerson.

"His genial smile and self-possessed manner took the audience as soon as he made his appearance, and further acquaintance demonstrated the fact that he is a humourist of the much higher order than is usually found in minstrel companies." (Argus)

The company was certainly very popular with the Melbourne audiences.

"The house resembled more a tramcar returning from a big football match than the ordinary auditorium of a theatre. The numerous items on the programme were received in the most enthusiastic manner." (Age)

Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal reopened on October 29th with a season by the ever popular Maggie Moore. She appeared in the new and original drama 'Meg, the Castaway'.

"She throws herself into it with a heartiness and a zest which almost reconcile you to the absurdity of the incidents and situations." (Argus)

Maggie Moore Maggie Moore (1851-1926) was born in San Francisco. She married J. C. Williamson and came with him to Australia in 1874. They opened in Melbourne on 1 August in 'Struck Oil' and were immediately successful. Some weeks later they went to Sydney and, after touring Australia, to India. In 1876 Struck Oil was played for 100 nights at the Adelphi theatre, London. Maggie Moore was one of the best loved actresses to have appeared in Australia. She had a very loyal following and found success wherever she toured. In 1924 she celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of her first appearance in Australia, and in 1925 retired to California to live with her sister.


Walter Bentley Dramatic Company (Dunedin)
Jubilee Singers (Oamaru)
Holloway Dramatic Company (Christchurch)
Dampier Dramatic Company (Nelson)
Italian Concert Company (Timaru)
Williamson's Royal Comic Opera Company (Napier)
Densem and His Lantern (Otago district)
Wirth Bros. Circus) (Otago district)
Hayes' Circus (Otago district)
Signoe Foli (Auckland)
Mr. W.H. Jude (Auckland)
Professor and Mrs Steen, American Thought-readers (Auckland)
Montagu-Turner Company (Marlborough)
Wills' Surprise Party (Wellington)
Professor Archibald (phonograph) (Wellington)
The Midgets (Wellington)
Horace Chester (Southland)
Heller's Odds and Ends Company (West Coast)
Davy's Bright Lights Company (West Coast)
McLean's Young Australians (Wellington district)
Vaughan and Cowans' Amazon Company (Wellington district)
Dobson-Kennedy Company (Wellington district)
Snazelle's Comic Operetta Combination (Auckland district)


Princess Theatre

'Carmen Up to Date' opened on the 5th.

"It's magnificent dressing and scenery, its ballets and skirt dances, its solos, choruses, and various comic songs and humour of the piece generally, one has to admit that it is about the very best thing yet produced by the Gaiety Company." (Herald)

This was followed by 'Joan of Arc on the 12th and 'Miss Esmeralda' on Monday 21st.


'Three Hats' finished on the 11th and the theatre again fell onto new management. On the 12th, the comedy, 'The Stolen Goddess' opened. This was billed as a 'modernised antique mythological romance'. This played for just a few performances and then the theatre went dark.


The comedy 'Niobe', by Harry and Edward Paulton, opened on the 5th.

That the production "will live in the full enjoyment of both the popularity and appreciation of playgoers for some little time to come was unmistakenly assured on Saturday evening by the raptuous reception accorded to Messrs Edward and Harry Paulton's comedy." (Herald)

This continued with reasonable houses until Friday the 25th. On the 26th for the first time in Australia 'A White Line' by Sydney Grundy was staged.

"The one genuine bit of human nature in the comedy is the character of Kate Desmond, created by Mrs. Kendal in London, and admirably enacted by Mrs. Brough on Saturday evening. (Argus)

Opera House

The Alabama Minstrels continued to successful houses but they finally finished on Friday the 25th.

Theatre Royal

The Maggie Moore season continued with the comedy-drama 'Forty Nine' which opened on the 5th.

"Miss Maggie Moore threw herself into the part with a zest and completeness which delighted her old admirers." (Argus)

Maggie Moore's time at the Royal drew to a close with her final performance on Saturday the 12th when she appeared in 'M'Liss', an adaptation of Bret Harte's romance.

"The play, however, spite of all absurdities, enable Miss Moore to appear at her best, and delighted an audience which never ceased to rain bouquets upon the stage." (Argus)

Except for benefits the theatre went dark.



The current season at the Princess's Theatre will terminate this week, and that at the Bijou Theatre next week, and after that there will be no theatre open in Melbourne until the Christmas holidays. This will be a position of affairs almost unprecedented in the history of the stage in Melbourne, certainly for a great many years past. It is easy to recall to memory instances in which there have at this time of the year been five theatres open, together with two or three music halls, a concert company at the Town-hall, fireworks displays, a circus, as well as numerous and diverse minor entertainments. Just at present New Zealand appears to be the favourite field for dramatic, musical, and 'variety' companies, there being no fewer than a dozen organisations 'on tour' in that colony, including Mr. J. C. Williamson's strong Comic Opera Company, Mr. Walter Bentley with a dramatic company, Mr. Alfred Dampier, the Montague-Turner Opera Company, Mr. G.H. Snazelle, Mr. Grattan Riggs, the Jubilee Singers and sundry minor combinations formed for public entertainment.
Argus Monday the 5th of December, 1892

Opera House

The Opera House reopened on Saturday the 17th of December. Under the management of Marian Willis and Alfred Boothman this company mounted the popular world-wide hit 'Current Cash'.

"Miss Marian Willis gives a clever and powerful rendering of the heroine."

'Current Cash' ran throughout December. On the 31st the comedy 'Snared, or woman versus man', by Edmund Faulconers, opened. This only ran a few performances and was replaced on the 7th of January by 'Fritz', a work by J. K. Emmet. After playing just a few nights the company, like many others of the time, folded and the theatre went dark.

Princess Theatre

The London Gaiety Company finished their season on Saturday the 10th. Marion Hood returned to England and other cast members prepared for the up-and-coming pantomimes. The theatre then went dark reopening with the reunited firm of J.C. Williamson and George Musgrove on Saturday December the 24th. Once again the usual comic pantomime was presented. This time it was 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' with a large cast including G.H. Snazelle, E.J. Lonnen, Alice Lethbridge and Alice Holbrooke.

"The two great vocal successes were Mr. Lonnen's duet with the 'Little Nipper', and a remarkably clever imitation of the latter (Master Harry Zetter) of the former's 'Down the Bay', or larrikin song. This created such a tumult of approbation among the occupants of the gallery that the small representative of the suburban rough was recalled so often and so persistently encored as to check the progress of the performance." (Argus)

The season finished on February 17th, 1893.

Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal, under the management of George Coppin, reopened on December the 26th with the pantomime 'The Babes in the Wood and Bold Robin Hood and His Foresters Good'. This was written by Wilton Jones. Robin Hood was played by Miss Ada Bemister making her first appearance in Australia. [Editor's note: Ada had been a member of the D'Oyly Carte Company in England]. Also in the cast were Bella Bashall, Harry Shine and John Gourlay.

"It was certainly a great drawback to the initial performance that Miss Ada Bemister should have been suffering from a severe cold, which sadly interfered with her singing. It would, therefore, be unfair to criticise her performance as Robin Hood, but it may be said that she presented an excellent appearance in the character, and seemed capable when in good form of giving a dashing performance. In the first act she gave an Australian patriotic song, written especially by Mr. Henry Temple, which was very favourably received by the audience" (Argus)

[Editor's note: Once again 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-der-ay' managed to find its way into the production] The season finished on February 10th, 1893.


The Brough-Boucicault season was drawing to a close. 'The Solicitor' opened on December 3rd.

"It was played with a briskness which left no ttime for reflection upon the ludicrous improbability of the diverting incidents which follow each other in such rapid succession, exciting and sustaining a continuous feeling of merriment on the part of the spectators." (Argus)

On the 10th 'A Village Priest' played for five performances.

"Numerous representations of the piece have given a mellowness ot tone to the portraitures of the Abbé, the escaped convict, the blind old lady, and the young advocate which were necessarily wanting in the earlier interpretations of them." (Argus)

On Friday the 16th the final performance of the company took place with a one off production of 'The Magistrate'. On the 17th there was a final benefit after which the Brough-Boucicault company was disbanded. The theatre then went dark.


The Alexander reopened on Monday 19th with the Arthur Vivian Dramatic Company who were last seen in Melbourne in 1888. The production was 'Marie, the woman of the people' which was an adaptation from the French.

"It abounds in dramatic, if rather morbid, situations of a type in which Miss Helen Vivian, who plays the title role is peculiarly at home, and the dramatist's work did not suffer at her hands. (Argus)

This ran until Christmas. The theatre then went dark.

By the end of April, 1893, there were only two theatres operating in Melbourne. These were the Theatre Royal and the Princess with the Alhambra being used for the odd variety performance.

The Bijou reopened on August 1st but shut it's doors again almost immediately. The theatre did host a short season with Frank Thornton and company at the end of the year which included the first performances of 'Charlie's Aunt' by Brandon Thomas. However this only played until Christmas. 'To let' signs were continually posted for this theatre.

Theatre in Melbourne 1891

Check out the history of Gilbert and Sullivan down under