A Period Theatre Review presented by www.stagebeauty.net
STORY OF THE PLAY
The Gaiety productions have long been famous for the splendour of the mise en scene, the elegance and beauty of the ensemble, and luxurious completeness of the "show," the nimble melodies of Messrs. Ivan Caryll and Lionel Monckton, the neat versification of Messrs. Adrian Ross and Percy Greenbank, the laughter compelling quality of the comedians and comediennes, and the physical charm of the bewitching ladies whose identity it is so difficult to guess, even with the aid of the programme, but whose appearance on the scene affords a continual feast for the eye. All this attractiveness is once more in evidence, and "The New Aladdin" is destined to bask in the sunlight of popular favour for many a month to come.
For some time past it has been common property that Mr. Edwardes intended to depart somewhat from the musical comedy style that has so long been in evidence at the Gaiety. The audience was therefore prepared for the change to what is described on the playbill as "Musical Extravagance." To return to burlesque in its entirety was regarded as a retrograde movement too sudden and too unexpected to be completely successful. Accordingly, with the golden rays of the "sacred lamp" are blended the white brilliancy of the electric arc of musical comedy. The old and the new join hands in cordial understanding, and in full agreement with the adage that "union is strength."
The familiar story of Aladdin is kept well to the front during the first act, and I am not sure if the piece would not gain in strength if it were more closely followed in the second. The note of modernity was struck by placing the first scene in Bond Street, in the shop of Ebenezer, a dealer in curios and antiques. Aladdin becomes Lally, a smart youth about town, who has fallen in love with a portrait on a miniature in his possession. Ebenezer returns home unexpectedly, and catches the young rascal and a number of boon companions holding midnight revel and making free with his best liqueur brandy. Ebenezer incontinently bids his frivolous nephew leave his house and take the page-boy, Tippin, with him. But the latter has his revenge by dropping a costly vase to the ground; in the vase is a scroll and a ring, which is given to Lally as his uncle's parting gift. Of course it is the magic ring, and the scroll tells where the wonderful lamp is hidden. Without more ado the party make for the palace in Far Cathay, and there not only does Lally gain possession of the lamp, but he meets the original of the miniature portrait, who proves to be a royal princess.
It was a happy thought to make the scene of the second act take place in "The Ideal London" as imagined by the Genie of, the Lamp. London has been metamorphosed with a vengeance, so much so that a constable who was on beat in Piccadilly at the time has spent more than two days in a hopeless endeavour to find Vine Street police station. Naturally such a change enables the comedians to indulge in a remarkable series of escapades and humorous situations, and since the first night, many and wonderful are the innovations that have suggested themselves to the fertile brain of Mr. George Edwardes and those associated with him in the supervision of the piece. It is this constant change, this process of weeding and brightening that gives to a Gaiety "show" some new element of surprise at each successive visit.
The only finality about it is when it is withdrawn for good and all. At the Gaiety there is the direct negative to the old adage which says "that too many cooks spoil the broth." Mr. Edwardes believes in variety, the selection of the fittest and the survival of the best. The libretto is the work of Messrs. James Tanner and W. H. Risque; the lyrics are by Mr. Adrian Ross and Mr. Percy Greenbank, reinforced by contributions from the pens of Mr. Risque, Mr. George Grossmith, junr. and others. The music is by Mr. Ivan Caryll, Mr. Lionel Monckton and Mr. Frank E. Tours.
The cast once again brings forward most of those whose names are now so closely identified with the Gaiety Theatre. Owing to the illness of her husband, Miss Gertie Millar was unable to take up the title role in the beginning, and a very charming substitute for her was found in Miss Lily Elsie. Now, however, Miss Millar is back again, and for the first time in her London career she is to be seen in boy's clothes. And a right dainty figure does she make, as our illustrations show. But she has many changes, and appears in costumes as widely different as a street caster and a grandmamma of the mid-Victorian period. It is this quaintly effective dress which supplies the coloured picture on our cover.
Naturally some of the most taking numbers fall to her lot to render, and they could fall to none better. "Bedtime at the Zoo" was a happy melody; excellent also was the topical ditty, "That's the sort of chap I'd like to know," but her great hit was made in "Grandmamma," when she is surrounded by a chorus of little girls looking quaintly attractive in outstanding skirts and carrying rose-coloured parasols. The number ends with a pas de deux danced by Miss Millar and one of the most diminutive of her attendants.
A prettier or more fascinating Princess than Miss Adrienne Augarde it would be difficult to find. In association with Miss Millar she sings a capital duet, "The Dream of You." Miss Connie Ediss, who represents the "Spirit of the Ring," is delightful as ever in her own characteristic way. Miss Ediss is inimitable in her manner of delivering a racy song, and she has a very taking number, among others, "In the Strand," and no less amusing is the number in which she desires to be a mortal and exchange a diet of dew drops and air for a seven course meal at a fashionable restaurant, with a prospect of being loved and kissed by a man.
A signal success was made by Miss Jean Aylwin as the Princess's Maid, and in the song "Dougal," she challenged comparison with Harry Lauder, so rich was her humour and refined drollery. A pronounced success was achieved by the newcomer from Paris, Mlle. Gaby Deslys, and not the least conspicuous feature of the evening's entertainment is her singing of "Sur la Plage." Mr. Edward Payne, as usual, carries all before him, and as the page boy, Tippin, he has a part after his own heart. In addition to many good numbers he is most happily associated with Miss Gertie Millar in a coster duet "Down where the vegetables grow." Very funny, too, is the meeting between him and the lost constable, a part played with admirable art by Mr. Alfred Lester. Mr. George Grossmith, junr., works indefatigably in the role of the Genie of the Ring, and many and varied are the costumes in which he is seen during the course of the evening. Among his humorous songs must be mentioned "Rub the Lamp," "The No Hat Brigade" and "Waltz me round once again." Miss Olive May, as the Cadi's daughter, delighted the audience with her graceful dancing. Mr. Harry Grattan touched a dramatic note in his rendering of the part of Ebenezer, uncle to Lally. Miss Kitty Mason, as Winnie Fairfax, contributes a charming pas seul.
Mr. Charles Brown was good as the Imitation Genie. A crowd of pretty and accomplished ladies form the chorus, and one of the best theatrical orchestras in London is directed by one of our most efficient conductors, Mr. Ivan Caryll, to wit. That the piece is beautifully staged is sufficiently apparent by the photographs we reproduce.
B. W. FINDON.
FRILLS AND FASHION
One would naturally expect that Aladdin's magical lamp would throw considerably new light on the modes of the moment. This, however, is not the case, and though the frocks which trail their dainty length upon the boards are both pretty and dainty, there is no special novelty or stroke of originality to characterise them.
A pleasing Empire frock is worn by Miss Kitty Mason in the first scene, built of shaded yellow chiffon, and trimmed with yellow ribbon. Tiny roses of shaded yellow chiffon appear at intervals on the skirt and bodice, the former being finished by a wide ruche at the bottom. In the second scene, this smart little lady appears in a gown of pale blue satin, the skirt absolutely plain, but falling in very full folds, and the bodice adorned with a cream-coloured lace fichu decorated by small applique wreaths carried out in velvet, in shades of delicate mauve and green. This was crowned by a big blue Gainsborough hat bearing two enormous ostrich plumes, one blue and one of mauve. Her dancing dress in the second act has pale mauve underskirts with an overdress of pink chiffon, trimmed elaborately with gold braid, yellow amethysts and silver paillettes. The bodice bears a zouave formed from it trellis work of gold braid, studded with amethysts and surrounded by steel sequin embroidery.
An exceedingly smart dress is that worn by Miss Baker in the first scene, consisting of heavy white crepe de chine, built princess fashion and displaying long stole like fronts of white net, heavily embroidered in white chrysanthemums with hanging silk petals and green silk leaves. The sleeves which are of chiffon display lines of very narrow silver braid, while the skirt is adorned with two bands of cream lace, embroidered in silver. This is completed by a large quaint hat of white satin, with an enormous stiff crown encircled by a band of blue satin embroidered in silver and finished by a long scarf of pale blue chiffon.
Pink satin is the material selected by Miss Violet Walker for her first dress. The skirt displays a broad band of velvet to match at the hem, and at the bodice comes corselet fashion upon an underblouse of cream lace; heavy cream lace applications giving it a distinctive finish on bodice and sleeves, while small pink velvet rosettes likewise do their decorative duty effectively. With this Miss Walker wears a pretty coat of cream net, trimmed with heavy guipure to match, and displaying short wing sleeves. Her second frock is in the new shade of gun metal grey satin, with a very full skirt, and the bodice draped with cream lace.
Miss Doris Beresford's gown of deep ivory satin has a distinct charm, with its tiny frills upon the skirt, and small rosettes of chiffon to match. The quaint little bodice displays a berthe-like arrangement edged with three wee frills of satin, while the sleeves are of short puffs of chiffon. I particularly admired the pelerine which she wears with this gown which is built of cream lace striped by bands of rather wide black ribbon velvet, held in front with red enamelled buttons set in rims of old silver. Cream ninon de soie forms Miss Beresford's second frock. It is built over lily of the valley green, the skirt displaying double frills headed by ruchings of mixed green and cream chiffon. The bodice has a pretty touch of lily of the valley green velvet which forms cross over revers ornamented with very small gold buttons, and this gown is crowned by an enormous black lace hat decked with a paradise osprey.
The latest Parisian shade of nut brown has been adopted by Miss. Enid Leonhardt for her first costume. The skirt is very full and plain and decorated at the hem with a pleated band of chiffon in a slightly darker shade, edged with gold braid on either side. The bodice struck me as being rather too severe in outline for so youthful a wearer, it is quite guiltless of the softening effects of chiffon or lace, being simply folded across and bordered with bands of orange velvet, while it falls well off the shoulders in early Victorian style. Rather more pleasing is her second frock of grey voile, bearing large inserted panels on the skirt in soft satin in a slightly paler shade, outlined with wide fancy braid to match. The bodice is built up in a succession of deep tucks which form the upper portion of the sleeves and drape the front of the bodice. The under sleeves are of cream lace, as is also the entire front of the bodice, this latter ornamented with a ladder of royal blue velvet bows, and effective touches of royal blue velvet appearing on other portions of the lace. Her hat is a huge picturesque shape of grey gathered chiffon, the big brim lined with blue, and edged with a falling frill of lace, while a large blue bow decorates it at one side.
Miss Tessie Hackney wears a pretty mauve satin Princess robe on her first appearance, with a lovely berthe of painted silk in a design of large mauve roses, edged with cream lace over a pink border. The sleeves are formed of the same silk, and the whole gown distinctly makes for elegance. Equally desirable is her second frock, which appears in one of our pictures in this issue. It is built of palest blue silk crepe de chine, and is beautified by an exquisite galon of silk, worked in shaded blues and yellows. The skirt is decked at the hem by graduated tucks framing bands of the galon, while the bodice has sleeves of white chiffon and a lace yoke, a dainty fichu-like drapery of the crepe de chine edged with the galon encircling the shoulders and draping the front of the bodice in an effective fashion. Her large hat of pale blue satin is decorated by two large ostrich plumes to match.
Those of our, readers who are contemplating the purchase of a fancy dress would do well to copy those dainty Directoire costumes worn by the Milliner Dancers. They are rather short, and consist of tight-fitting coats of white bengaline, with lace aprons and the orthodox collar and revers of the period carried out in black striped velvet on a ground work of white satin. A black Incroyable hat with the tricolour rosette completes the costume.
On the principle of keeping the best to the last we come to Miss Desmond's gowns, the first of which is built of apricot satin in a picturesque fashion, decorated on skirt and bodice with applications of taffetas silk to match. The fold over bodice is draped with chiffon in the same shade as the gown, and displays a pointed vest of chiffon in a slightly paler shade. A still greater triumph, in which a decided note of originality is struck, is her frock of moonlight blue silk spotted chiffon, which produces a delightful shaded effect. The border of the skirt is of crushed panne, edged with velvet in a darker shade. Stripes of this ribbon velvet appear upon the skirt and interlace upon the bodice which bears a vest of artistic silk lace in combined shades of grey and blue, relieved by touches of silver. The yoke is of cream chiffon heavily flecked with silverring sequins, and this frock may be cordially commended as a triumph of excellence, its crowning point a quaint bonnet-shaped hat of dark blue to match, being distinctly dainty.
The delightful costumes which so admirably become Miss Gertie Millar, Miss Connie Ediss, and Miss Gaby Deslys, though eminently becoming to their respective wearers, can hardly be relied upon by a chronicler of modes as key-notes of the coming fashions.
EDITH WALDEMAR LEVERTON
SCENES FROM THE PLAY