The Geisha

Infobox Musical
name = The Geisha
subtitle = a story of a tea house

caption = Vocal Score
music = Sidney Jones
Lionel Monckton
lyrics = Harry Greenbank
James Philip
book = Owen Hall
basis =
productions = 1896 West End
awards =

"The Geisha, a story of a tea house" is a musical comedy in two acts. The score was composed by Sidney Jones to a libretto by Owen Hall, with lyrics by Harry Greenbank. Additional songs were written Lionel Monckton and James Philip.

"The Geisha" was first performed on 25 April 1896 at Daly's Theatre in London, produced by George Edwardes. The original production ran for 760 performances. This run, the second longest of any musical up to that time, would be beaten three years later by Edwardes' "San Toy", which was written by Jones, Greenbank and Monckton. The cast of "The Geisha" included Marie Tempest in the role of O Mimosa San and Letty Lind as the dancing soubrette Molly Seamore. C. Hayden Coffin played Lieutenant Reginald Fairfax, Huntley Wright played Wun-Hi, and later Rutland Barrington and Scott Russell joined the cast.

"The Geisha" was an immediate success abroad and has been "ranked as the first internationally successful British musical," helping to introduce the previously obscure term "Geisha" into many languages as a symbol of Japanese culture. ["Histories of Tourism: Representation, Identity and Conflict" (ed. John K. Walton), p. 105 (2005, Multilingual Matters Limited). ISBN 1845410319] In 1897, Robert Baden-Powell appeared in the role of Wun-hi in Simla, India. Two years later, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was present at its premiere in the Russian resort town of Yalta and mentions the show as a backdrop to the climatic scene in one of his best-known stories, "The Lady with the Dog" (1899). [ [ "The Lady with the Dog] ] " at Gutenberg] , retrieved March 12, 2008]


" in 1895 had set the pattern for the Hall, Greenbank and Jones musicals. Edwards immediately put his team to work on a new musical. "The Geisha" became the biggest international hit the British musical theatre had known, playing in America, for thousands of performances on the European continent (one source counts some 8,000 in Germany alone), and then touring for decades in Britain.

With "The Geisha", Edwardes intended to take advantage of the continuing fascination of the public with the orient that had brought such success to Gilbert and Sullivan in "The Mikado". [] However, this was a lighter entertainment. Jones and his collaborators aimed for brightness and brevity. Jones kept each of his musical numbers under three minutes, except that the finales ran to about five. In addition to oriental shadings, Jones's music borrowed from continental European dance rhythms.

Hall had taken some of the sauciness out of his style, since "An Artist's Model" and evolved a combination of sprightly, up-to-date comedy and old-fashioned romance, into which he would insert parodies when the opportunity arose. Indeed, the Daly's Theatre shows were more romantic in character than the sillier Gaiety Theatre shows. Still, these musicals hewed to most of the features that made the Gaiety Theatre shows popular, especially the pretty Gaiety Girls, dressed in the latest fashions. Many of the best-known London couturiers designed costumes for stage productions. The illustrated periodicals were eager to publish photographs of the actresses in the latest stage hits, and so the theatre became an excellent way for clothiers to publicise their latest fashions. The Gaiety Girls were, as "The Sketch" noted in its 1896 review of "The Geisha", "clothed in accordance with the very latest and most extreme modes of the moment, and the result is a piquantly striking contrast, as you may imagine." [ [ Information about the famous costume designes of the musicals] ]

The next musical for the Hall, Greenbank and Jones team moved from Japan to Ancient Rome, with perhaps their finest work, "A Greek Slave".

Roles and original cast

*O Mimosa San - Marie Tempest
*Molly Seamore - Letty Lind
*Reginald Fairfax, of the Royal Navy - Hayden Coffin
*Wun-Hi - Huntley Wright
*Marquis Imari - Harry Monkhouse
*Lady Constance Wynne - Maud Hobson
*Juliette - Juliette Nesville


;Act IStationed in Japan, far from his financee Molly, Lt. Reggie Fairfax of the Royal Navy is lonely. He begins to spend much of his free time at the Tea House of Ten Thousand Joys which is run by chinaman Wun-Hi. There he meets the lovely geisha O Mimosa San, with whom he builds a friendship, but she is in love with Katana, a soldier, so she discourages him with her tale of 'The Amorous Goldfish'. However, Reggie gives Mimosa a lesson in kissing.

The relationship does not go unnoticed by Lady Constance Wynne, a touring English aristocrat, who catches Reggie engaged in his tête-a-tête with Mimosa and reminds him that he is engaged to Molly. Lady Constance contacts Molly, telling her she had better come to the Orient as quickly as possible. The local overlord Marquis Imari, who also fancies Mimosa, is annoyed that his intended bride is consorting with the newly arrived British sailors, and he orders that the teahouse be closed and the girls be sold off. The Marquis himself is pursued by the French interpreter Juliette.

Molly arrives unexpectedly. Left alone, Molly is joined by Mimosa and Lady Constance who tell her how fond Reggie has become of one geisha in particular. Mimosa then suggests that Molly should dress up as a geisha herself to try and win him back. It is now time for the sale of the geishas' indentures. The Marquis tries to buy Mimosa for himself, but Lady Constance manages to outbid him to keep her out of his clutches. Unfortunately, she can't stop him from purchasing lot number 2, a new geisha called Roli Poli whom nobody has seen before. Only after the Marquis has made his purchase is it revealed that this geisha is actually Molly in disguise.

;Act IIIn the chrysanthemum gardens of the Imari palace, Molly, still disguised as Roli Poli, awaits her impending marriage to the Marquis, who has become much attracted to her. Mimosa proposes a plan to save Molly from her fate: Mimosa will sneak into the bridal suite and exchange the veiled Molly for another veiled bride - Juliette, the French interpreter.

The wedding ceremony starts, and the plan is put into effect: Juliette is exchanged with Molly, and the Marquis unwittingly marries the wrong bride. On discovering the ruse, he accepts his fate philosophically, concluding that "every man is disappointed in his wife at some time or other". Mimosa is now free to marry her lover Katana, and Molly is re-united with Reggie, declaring that she would never marry a foreign nobleman when she could have a British sailor.

Musical numbers

*A Geisha's Life
*The Amorous Goldfish
*Love, Love
*The Jewel of Asia
*Star of my Soul
*Jack's the Boy
*The Interfering Parrot
*The Toy Monkey



* [ Information and Synopsis]
* [ Profile of Hall, describing his shows]
* [ Information about "The Geisha"]
* [ Synopsis and cast information]

External links

* [ Libretto]
* [ List of longest running plays in London and New York]
* [ Article comparing "The Nautch Girl" and "Utopia Limited" with other exotic-locale works, such as "The Geisha", and analyzing the implications of the exotic settings as a reflection of British imperialism]

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