May De Sousa (1887-1948)
By Sir Frank Burnand.
Produced at Theatre Royal Drury Lane - 26th December, 1905.
Review from The Daily Mail (London) - 27th December, 1905.
A BEAUTIFUL PANTOMIME - BRILLIANT SUCCESS AT DRURY LANE - NOVELTIES IN SONGS - SOME NEW PLAYERS
It is with the greatest, satisfaction we record that the new pantomime which was produced last night at Drury Lane meets and overcomes every objection which was raised by the "Daily Mail" against the pantomime of last year. Every number was applauded, and the piece was received with delight. The review which follows is written by the same critic who described the pantomime last year.
A PERFECT CHILDREN'S PANTOMIME
I have seen two ideally perfect children's pantomimes during-the last few years; one was "Cinderella" produced at the Lyceum with Miss Ellaline Terriss as heroine and Miss Minnie Terry as a fairy queen; the other was "Cinderella" produced last night at Drury Lane. The Cinderella story is so simple in its charm that nearly every pantomime manager in London has come to grief over it, attempting additions and omissions, exaggerating the farce and sentiment, piling up gorgeous scenery till the characters disappear, like Heliogabalus and his guests, under a shower of roses. Four hours entertainment does, of course, however, take a little providing; hence interludes, and with them a good many blunders. Sir Frank Burnand's "Cinderella" sailed last night through untroubled seas of jokes, pathos, farce, charming dresses, motor-car accidents, love-scenes, and comic songs into a hurricane of applause, and a final haven of assured welcome for the rest of its career. The old subtle skill of Drury Lane playwrights and stage managers came to the fore again, and, throughout all the farcical scenes provided in such plenty by Mr. Walter Passmore and Mr. Harry Randall, a tight hold was kept on the story; while the delicate aroma of Paris introduced by Mr. Harry Fragson has infected the dress designers and dressmakers, whose work can mercifully never once be described as "a gorgeous blaze of colour." It is artistically perfect.
THE RIGHT STEPMOTHER
Mr. Walter Passmore's short experience of pantomime has been turned to such good account that from the first minute of his appearance as the Baroness de Bluff, the newly-married wife of Mr. Arthur Williams as the Baron de Bluff, and stepmother of Cinderella, everyone sees that here is the right stuff for a stepmother, another Dan Leno, whose every movement is uproarious farce and every word a joke. The Baroness arrives on the stage in a hansom, and after a row with the driver (Who ostentatiously puts cotton wool in his horse's ears) finds that "there is something distinctly wanting about this home-coming. Where is the cheering crowd of tenantry, the village maidens strewing roses, the joy-bells ringing in the old church tower, the village idiot, the red carpet? As a bride I have always been accustomed to these attentions." Fortunately the Mayor and a comic band appear; but presently the step-daughter is discovered with twenty children, "all jam and sticky fingers," having tea, and the Baroness demands to know whether she has married a boarding school, and gives the familiar command that Cinderella is to take up her quarters in the kitchen.
A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
Cinderella herself, it must be added, provides one of the most delightful surprises of this pantomime. Here is no stagey young person with theatrically-narrated sorrows and stagily dirty hands and clothes; but Miss May de Sousa, delightfully young and fresh and gay, laughing even when she is most pathetic, singing charmingly, and looking distractingly pretty in her white ball dress and silver coach. Before this, however, Mr. Harry Fragson, with his French songs, has claimed attention. He is Dandigny, secretary to the Prince, with whom, according to his own account, he walks arm, in arm saying "Princey, my dear boy"; while the Prince says confidentially, "Dandy, old chap, I am off the colour." Dandigny, however, finds English sport a trifle wearisome: "I shoot at the birds that fly about till I am weary. I am always too late for the one I aim at, and too soon for the one that follows him. At last I have seen on a fence before me a bird that sits still and Says, 'Cluck, cluck!' 'Aha,' say I, ' I am challenged. Then I stalk him and stalk him, until my gun touch his tail; then 'Bang!' and he is at my feet."
MR. FRAGSON'S SONGS
Mr. Fragson's songs are so charming and witty in themselves that one listens in amazement, wondering how they have been made to fit this milieu so well. It is a polished little bit of comedy when he and the Prince change places because Miss Queenie Leighton (who, of course, plays the Prince; and would one ask anything better?) wants, as these dramatic princes will, to be loved for himself alone; and when he tries to console his master for missing a bird: "But you terrified the bird awfully; and the feathers flew ... pouf!" - he is delightful. Yet something so very broad and loud and jovial is wanted for a comic song at Drury Lane, whose schoolroom audience does like moreover to understand its jokes, that such witty morsels as Mr. Fragson's songs are a most startling novelty. Last night there was no mistake about the matter at all. "Pour Elle" and "Mai de Mer" were a "succes fou." "Vive le sport" was received with shouts of applause from pit, gallery, and stalls. Mr. Fragson's work is, in point of fact, the polished, finished work of a great singer and actor, full of the chic, finesse, hints, gesture, and exquisite enunciation of your first-class Parisian artist-humourist. It is a real pleasure to see how quickly such work catches on everywhere. Every class of English playgoer loves a master of his art, and greets him loyally, whether his words are French or English. The children, of course, all applaud approvingly when Mr. Randall commands two men to go out and help Cinderella gather wood on pain of getting "a good hiding; and, look here," he reminds them, "I'm the featherbed champion for thirty miles round. Last week I hit a man just once, and all his relations died. A year ago I challenged the whole world, and knocked it out in three rounds."
transformation being received with long-delighted "oh-h-hs" of satisfaction from the grateful young audience who had realised by now that no tricks were to be played with their story. Dances of dolls, birds, squirrels, and flowers succeed one another in fine familiar Drury-lane fashion, all seeming just a little better done than they have ever been done before; the political song of Miss Queenie Leighton, "I want a song to sing," written by Mr. Arthur Sturges, with a charmingly catchy tune by Mr. James Glover, is thoroughly good even if it shows some "hedging" on the fiscal question; and the bull-fight, which ends by the bull being scared away with a "Bovril" bottle, and the fishing scene, which ends in Mr. Passmore falling into the river are prolonged first-class fooling. Mr. Passmore's narrative of his honeymoon tour: "We went to Poland and saw the Poles, and to Holland and saw the Holls, and to New Zealand and saw the goals," received, of course, much applause. Words of sincere commendation must be given to Miss Pollie Emery and Miss Emilia Spiller for their clever acting of the two sisters, one of whom is a little doubtful about the Prince: "He isn't in the 'Harmsworth Encyclopaedia."
A PERFECT CAT
One is less certain about a somewhat long-drawn-out collision between cabs and motors; wherein stage management seemed, momentarily, lacking; but some very ingenious devices represent Cindarella's coach with its team of smart little ponies moving rapidly along; and when that most perfect of pantomime cats, Mr. Arthur Conquest, climbs round the boxes and dress circle the nursery has nothing more to ask of life. The shrieks of terror which came from a young person in a box when the cat arrived near him by no means, it is to be feared, decreased the delight of the other young folk, one of whom exclaimed rapturously: "I do hope someone will scream with fright like that next time!" One last word of warm approval is due to Mr. James M. Glover, the composer and arranger of the music, which, it is easy to foresee, will be raging round London in a few weeks' time. The music of the choruses, songs, and dances contributed largely to the uproariously delighted reception accorded to the piece. If one may do such a thing without undue egoism, I should like to add my personal congratulations to Sir F. Burnand, Mr. Arthur Collins, and Mr. Glover, with their brilliant helpers, on this clever and joyful result of their many months of hard work. "It makes me feel like a big happy child - again," Said Lady Bancroft, who was in a box with Mr. and Mrs. George Alexander, laughing and applauding delightedly throughout.
EDWARD H. COOPER