A Period Theatre Review presented by www.stagebeauty.net

Performed at the Gaiety Theatre, London.
A musical play by George Grossmith and Graham Hill.
Music by Lesley Stuart.
Opened 25th April, 1908 - ran for 221 Performances.
Starring: Evie Greene, Olive May, Mabel Russell, Jean Aylwin.

All Editorial and Photos (except where indicated) as published in 'The Play Pictorial' Vol. XII, No. 71.
Dramatis Personae
Played by
Evie Greene
Bombito del Campo
Arthur Hatherton
Don Adolfo
Lawrence Grossmith
Jackson Villiers
Leonard Mackay
The Hon. Frank Charteris
Robert Hale
Mabel Russell
Olive May
Barry Lupino
Diego de la Concha
Edward O'Neill
Bosun Nix
Alfred Lester
Reginald Brown
W. H. Berry
Jean Aylwin
Gladys Homfreye
Adelina Balfe
Jessie Broughton



I do not know that I can add anything material to the knowledge of Havana that is within the reach of those who see the piece or the pictures of it. Havana is a specimen of a class of piece with which I have been a good deal associated. I was responsible for the verses of 'In Town', the pioneer musical comedy of 1892, and for those of many other pieces of the class, some very successful, others otherwise.

Musical comedy has evolved along two main lines, the "comedy with music" type and the "variety with a thread of story" type.


(Lloyds Weekly News [London, UK] - 26th April, 1908)
Much Fun and Gorgeous Dresses in "Havana"

Much Fun and Gorgeous Dresses in "Havana"

True to the traditions of its name the Gaiety gives us a new piece that is all sparkle and glitter - a wonderful melange of mirth, music, and spectacle, as delightfully inconsequent in plot as any of its predecessors.

"Havana", received with so many marks of favour last night, is the champagne of musical comedy. Mr. Graham Hill, the new author associated with Mr. George Grossmith, jun., in the writing of this "musical play," while he disappoints a little in regard to story, cleverly involves some two dozen interesting characters in a Cuban intrigue, and thus provides a picturesque background, suggesting rare things from "Carmen", "Florodora", and goodness knows how many other favourites.

The main idea is that Mr. Leonard Mackay and Mr. Robert Hale bring their steam yacht to anchor off Havana, and have a high time with many pretty girls. Need one mention the characters these people represent? Miss Evie Greene is about to be betrothed to Mr. Lawrence Grossmith, who is the wittiest simpleton imaginable, so Mr. Mackay starts to cut him out. One way is to sing a spirited song about "England," that implores her in truculent musical fashion to "wake up!"

Mr. Alfred Lester, as a melancholy bosun of ferociously comic aspect, finds in Miss Jean Aylwin a wife he has not seen for seven years, and their reunion leads very pleasantly to a "Merry Widow" burlesque duet. At one period Mr. Lester is not certain whether his wife is Miss Aylwin or the very substantial Miss Gladys Homfreys, and in a most astonishing conspirators scene we see him brandishing an axe and inviting her to be executed - as ludicrous a situation as we remember at the Gaiety. Mr. Lester is, of course, no newcomer to the palace of the sacred lamp, but it is the first time he has been principal low comedian. His success is unquestionable.

Mr. Lawrence Grossmith, whose fooling is of a very different brand, might have come straight out of "The Education of Elizabeth," and playgoers will not readily forget his performance in that piece. He has, however, the advantage of an entourage of eight dainty damsels, so much part of his existence that when he is abducted and carried on board the yacht the ladies are taken with him. Incidentally, he has a telephone song with them that should prove very taking.

Mr. W. H. Berry is a sprightly yacht's boy who does much of the business we have so long associated with Mr. Payne. Indeed, the special charm of the production is that, with so drastic a change in the character of the Gaiety company, the traditions should be so well carried on.

Miss Evie Greene has many taking ballads set in Mr. Leslie Stuart's best style, and she is really dramatic when she strikes Mr. Mackay with her glove. Why she does this is not very clear, but it is a pretty notion for the inevitable reconciliation that she should find him changing the name of his yacht to Consuelo, which is the name of her stage character.

There are the unusual number of three acts in "Havana" - each bristling with new effects, clever songs, and wonderful dance's. The measure is very full, and the mensure of success should correspond.

The first species was practically comic opera without vocalists, or without ambitious music. The second was burlesque without a travestied story. Now, however, the success of the German and especially the Vienna operettas, and the reaction from the invertebrate type of musical piece, have led to a return to what is very nearly comic opera. In fact, Havana is as much light opera as The Merry Widow. There is a larger bulk of music, and the choral effects of the finales and opening scenes, for instance, are more elaborate and effective.

Havana is a musical comedy overflowing into opera comique and very nearly into grand opera. How it compares with other pieces of the kind it would be invidious for me to say. I can only confess that I found the portion of the work allotted to me easy to do, because the scenes and characters suggested ideas for lyrics naturally. One or two numbers, of course, had to be inserted for their own sake rather than because they were connected with the plot. In the main, however, the piece had its own ideas and these took shape in words and music. For this abundance of dramatic suggestion the authors of the play, Messrs. George Grossmith, Junr., and Graham Hill, deserve my gratitude.

Between my dramatic collaborators and myself the only rivalry was to work for the success of the piece; and the same can be said of Mr. George Arthurs, who has contributed several excellent lyrics. Finally, I must contradict any alarming rumours that may have arisen about my relations with the composer of Havana. It is true that while I was engaged on the piece I had a slight accident; it is also unhappily true that Mr. Leslie Stuart has had a more serious mishap since the production. But when I suffered, there was no composer with me, only a conductor of an omnibus; and Mr. Stuart was alone when he fell. I never raised a hand against him.

My method in collaboration was simple. I divided the musical numbers into classes beforehand. In one class, the musical effect was the main thing. This was especially the case in choruses and ensembles, where a stanza form was obviously unsuitable. For this class, Mr. Leslie Stuart mostly composed the music beforehand and I put words to it, trying to fit them to the dramatic situation and also to make them fairly easy to sing. One of the chief secrets of this is to give a broad vowel sound on a high note. Occasionally the English language fails to supply a suitable word.

Another class of musical numbers was the comic songs and duets, &c. For these the words were the more important factor, and Mr. Stuart, recognising this truth, set my work with untiring energy, sometimes suggesting an alteration which was usually an improvement.

For sentimental numbers we compromised, and had words or music first as we felt inspired. The results are before the public; long may they remain so.

I admit that from a selfish and literary point of view I should like to write all the lyrics first, and have relays of composers competing to set them ideally. Then I would indulge an innate taste for following and even exceeding Sir W. S. Gilbert in metrical subtleties. As it is, I occasionally drop into quadrisyllabic rhymes, and I once planned an opera in which five-syllabled rhymes should occur. I remember two pairs of these monstrosities; "andante pathetic" rhymed to "antipathetic," and "scratchy collations" to "machicolations."

But while such ingenuity might make the books of lyrics pleasanter reading, it would hamper the composer, especially a musician so individual in his rhythms as Mr. Leslie Stuart. There is such a thing as being too ingenious for your composer; and when a rhythm is good and effective in music the words can depart from conventional prosedy to fit the notes. Hence it occurs that in the lyrics of Havana - though not so much as in 'The Merveilleuses' - there are passages of verse which no intelligent critic can scan without a friendly sympathy with the author.

It has been fair give and take, however; if I have sometimes cut or stretched my metres to fit the kinks of the tunes, Mr. Leslie Stuart has done for me what nearly every artistic composer hates; he has set a topical song, adhering rigorously to the every day jingle that I gave him. Unselfishness in this case, also, has been rewarded, to judge by periodical and pathetic appeals for encore verses from Mr. W. H. Berry.

On the subject of my relations with Mr. George Edwardes during the construction of Havana, I cannot well speak. While on the one hand my mathematical and historical training would force me to be strictly accurate, on the other hand his constitutional modesty would be offended by what he might construe as flattery. I therefore merely register the fact that Havana is to me a name that carries no memories that are not entirely pleasant. (I do not smoke cigars.)

Yours truly,



Click any image for a larger view
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Consuelo (Evie Greene)
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Teresa / Bosun Nix / Reginald
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The Cuban Girl
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Don Adolfo and Consuelo agree to flirt as much as they like
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Consuelo meets the owner of the 'Jaunty Jane'
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Hello, People! People, Hello!
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Jackson Villiers and Consuelo
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Beauty in the play
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Bosun Nix discourses on matrimony
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It's a shame to take the money
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Cupid's Telephone
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The Bosun on a point of law
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A Cuban conspiracy
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Consuelo is disappointed with her English lover
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The Touring Newspaper Beauties
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The Cuban Taxi-cab
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More beauty in the play
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How did the bird know that (song)
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Pensacola (song) / r hale
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The Cuban's caress

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