A Gaiety Girl
name = A Gaiety Girl
caption = Lithograph
productions = 1893 West End
"A Gaiety Girl" is an English musical comedy in two acts by a team of musical comedy neophytes:
Owen Hall(book, on an outline by James T. Tanner), Harry Greenbank(lyrics) and Sidney Jones(music). It opened at Prince of Wales Theatrein London, produced by George Edwardes, on 14 October 1893 (later transferring to Daly's Theatre) and ran for 413 performances. The show starred C. Hayden Coffin, Louie Pounds, Decima Moore, and later Rutland Barrington, George Grossmith, Jr., Scott Russell and Letty Lind. It also had a successful three-month Broadway run in 1894, followed by an American tour and a world tour.
Importance in the development of the modern musical
"A Gaiety Girl" followed Tanner's and Edwardes's success with "In Town" (1892), and would lead to a series of musicals produced by Edwardes that would pack the Gaiety Theatre for decades. Although the earliest of these shows have the same sound one expects from
Gilbert and Sullivan's operas, Edwardes called them "musical comedies", leading some writers to incorrectly credit him with inventing a form that Harrigan & Hart had established on Broadway a decade earlier. Although Edwardes was not the true inventor of musical comedy, he was the first to elevate these works to international popularity. According to critic Andrew Lamb, "The British Empire and America began to fall for the appeal of the British musical comedy from the time when "A Gaiety Girl" was taken on a world tour in 1894." [Lamb, Andrew. [http://www.jstor.org/stable/3052183 "From Pinafore to Porter: United States-United Kingdom Interactions in Musical Theater, 1879–1929",] "American Music, Vol. 4, No. 1", British-American Musical Interactions (Spring, 1986), pp. 34-49, University of Illinois Press, retrieved September 18, 2008]
The plot of "A Gaiety Girl" was a simple intrigue about a stolen comb and included a few tangled romances. Hall's satirical book included lines which jabbed here and there in the style of an upmarket gossip columnist. The smart society back-chat irritated several people in high places in London who wrote to Edwardes asking for alterations. The public, on the other hand, loved it, even when the Reverend Brierly, a character depicted as a man of doubtful moral rectitude, was demoted, after pressure from Lambeth Palace, to being just plain Dr. Brierly.
"A Gaiety Girl's" success confirmed Edwardes on the path he was taking. He immediately set Hall, Jones and Greenbank to work on their next show, "
An Artist's Model". "A Gaiety Girl" led to some fourteen copies (including " The Shop Girl", " The Circus Girl", and " A Runaway Girl"), which were very successful in England for the next two decades, and were widely imitated by other producers and playwriting teams.
The Gaiety Girls
The show's popularity depended, in part, on the beautiful "
Gaiety Girls" dancing chorus appearing onstage in bathing attire and in the latest fashions. According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Sunday, 23 December 1894, p.9a), "The piece is a mixture of pretty girls, English humor, singing, dancing and bathing machines and dresses of the English fashion. The dancing is a special feature of the performance, English burlesques giving much more attention to that feature of their attractiveness than the American entertainments of the same grade do." The 1890s Gaiety Girls were polite, well-behaved young women, respectable and elegant, unlike the corseted actresses from the earlier burlesques. They became a popular attraction and a symbol of ideal womanhood. Many of the best-known London couturiers designed costumes for stage productions by the 1890s, particularly for the Gaiety Girls. 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. [ [http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/collections/object.php?object_id=1739&back=%2Fguided_tours%2Fmusicals_tour%2Ffirst_musicals%2Fgaiety_girls.php%3F Information about the famous costume designes of the musicals] ]
The young ladies appearing in George Edwardes's shows became so popular that wealthy gentlemen, termed "Stage Door Johnnies", would wait outside the stage door hoping to escort them to dinner. In some cases, a marriage into society and even the nobility resulted. Alan Hyman, an expert on burlesque theatre who penned the 1972 book "The Gaiety Years", wrote::"...the chorus was becoming a matrimonial agency for girls with ambitions to marry into the peerage and began in the nineties when Connie Gilchrist, a star of the Old Gaiety, married the 7th Earl of Orkney and then in 1901, the 4th Marquess of Headfort married Rosie Boote, who had charmed London the previous year when she sang Maisie in "
The Messenger Boy". After Connie Gilchrist and Rosie Boote had started the fashion a score of the Guv'nor's budding stars left him to marry peers or men of title while other Gaiety Girls settled for a banker or a stockbroker...." [ [http://www.happenstances.com/other.html Information about the stagedoor Johnnie marriages] ]
Roles and original London cast
*Charles Goldfield - C. Hayden Coffin
*Major Barclay - Fred Kaye
*Bobbie Rivers - W. Louis Bradfield
*Harry Fitzwarren - Leedham Bantock
*Romney Farquhar - Lawrance D'Orsey
*Sir Lewis Gray - Eric Lewis
*Lance - Gilbert Porteous
*Auguste - Fitz Rimma
*Dr. Montague Brierly - Harry Monkhouse
*Rose Brierly - Decima Moore
*Lady Edytha Aldwyn - Kate Cutler
*Miss Gladys Stourton -
*Hon. Daisy Ormsbury - Louie Pounds
*Lady Grey - E. Phelps
*Alma Somerset - Maud Hobson
*Cissy Verner - Blanche Massey
*Haidee Walton - Ethel Selwick
*Ethel Hawthorne - Violet Robinson
*Mina - Juliette Nesville
*Lady Virginia Forest - Lottie Venne
ACT I - The Cavalry Barracks at Winbridge.
*No. 1 - Opening Chorus - "When a masculine stranger goes by, array'd in a uniform smart..."
*No. 2 - Chorus & Song - Sir Lewis - "O sing a welcome fair to Mr. Justice Grey." & "I'm a judge..."
*No. 3 - Song - Goldfield - "Beneath the skies of summer sweet I linger where two pathways meet..."
*No. 4 - Chorus & Concerted Piece - "Here come the ladies who dazzle Society..."
*No. 5 - Song - Lady Virginia & Chorus - "I am favourably known as a high-class chaperone..."
*No. 6 - Concerted Piece, with Girls & Major - "To the barracks we have come..."
*No. 7 - Duett - Dr. Brierly & Rose - "Oh, my daughter, there's a creature known as man..."
*No. 8 - Trio - Lady Virginia, Sir Lewis & Dr. Brierly - "When once I get hold of a good-looking He..."
*No. 9 - Song - Dr. Brierly - "Little Jimmy was a scholar and his aptitude was such..." (five verses)
*No. 10 - Waltz
*No. 11 - Song - Goldfield - "Oh, we take him from the city or the plough..." (four verses)
*No. 12 - Finale Act I - "To my judicial mind there's not a doubt..." ACT II - On the Riviera.
*No. 13 - Introduction and Opening Chorus - "Here on sunlit sands daintily we figure..."
*No. 14 - Concerted piece - "That ladies cannot bathe, if so they please, without encount'ring creatures such as these..."
*No. 15 - Trio - Rivers, Fitzwarren & Goldfield - "Buck up, buck up, old chappie!..."
*No. 16 - Song - Mina - "When your pride has had a tumble, and you've set your cap too high..."
*No. 17 - Trio - Sir Lewis, Dr. Brierly & Lady Virginia - "When in town you're safely landed, and the doctor far away..."
*No. 18 - Duet - Rivers & Rose - "Unlucky the morn on which I was born the youngest of several brothers..."
*No. 19 - Trio - Lady Edytha, Gladys & another - "We're awfully anxious to join in the fun..."
*No. 20 - Carnival Chorus - "Let folly reign supreme today, for carnival is holding sway..."
*No. 21 - Song - Rivers & Chorus - "Mesdames, messieurs, je suis Pierrot. (I'm nothing of the sort, you know...) "
*No. 22 - Song - Goldfield - "Sunshine above, and sunshine in my heart! Laughter and love hold carnival today..."
*No. 23 - Finale Act II - "I find it's really better far to keep my pranks for Bench and Bar..."
*Hyman, Alan. "The Gaiety Years" (Cassell, 1975) ISBN 0304293725
* [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-frames.html?http&&&www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-peerge.html Article about marriage between Gaiety Girls and noblemen]
* [http://www.halhkmusic.com/gaietygirl.html Midis, lyrics and cast list]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/british/authors/hall.html Profile of Owen, with a description of the preparation of "A Gaiety Girl".]
* [http://www.musicals101.com/usafter.htm Info from the comprehensive musicals 101 site]
*www.gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchiveTextG/GaietyGirlNY1894.html Photographs and reviews of the New York production
* [http://www.nodanw.com/london_shows_chronology/1893.htm Information about London productions that opened in 1893]
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