A Period Theatre Review presented by www.stagebeauty.net
STORY OF THE PLAY
In the days when I was a curly-headed angelic little chap, with a white surplice and an official position as organist of the village church, I remember our esteemed vicar beginning his sermon one Sunday by remarking with a far-away look through the window on his right, "What shall I say to you this morning?" - (he had just taken to preaching extempore), and I am always reminded of his apposite query when I am called upon to write about the plot of a musical comedy.
In the first place a musical comedy has no plot; and even if it had, to relate it would imply that a musical comedy should be taken seriously. And who wants to do that? Who goes to the Gaiety with even the slightest assumption of gravity?
Who could be grave when there is "Teddy" Payne with his quaint twists of the eye and his delightful lisp, happy natural qualifications predestined to banish melancholy? Then there is that superlatively dressed young man, Mr. George Grossmith. jun. Can we take him seriously? Are we interested in what he does? Of course not. We are interested in his airy, flamboyant manner of doing it. As for those charming ladies. Miss Phyllis Dare and Miss Olive May, que voulez vous? We know they are going to fall in love with one or the other of the cast, and knowing it is not going to be one of us, what does it matter? They will sing sweetly and dance deliciously, and we shall gaze on their beautiful faces and listen to their enticing voices and be quite content.
And if the eye wanders from these two peris there are the beauteous houris, whose names figure but lightly on the programme, to be considered in all their infinite variety. What charms they possess and what charms they reveal!
Like Sam Weller, I regret that my eyes are not "a pair o' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power," so that I could see into their dear little minds, and inform myself which is to be the next addition to the roll of peeresses.
Who cares for a plot when such visions of delight are about? Plot, indeed - be hanged to it! And that is just what Mr. George Grossmith, jun. said to himself when he was concocting the melange which Mr. George Edwardes, with the assistance of Mr. Edward Royce, scene painters, costumiers, wig makers, and so forth, has served up in such a magnificent and costly manner at the Gaiety.
Before going to "Peggy" one should dine well and wisely. I had a dozen natives, ris de veau, chop, marrow bones, and a bottle of 1900 tres sec, and in my pocket were my best pair of rose-tinted spectacles.
Do you think I wanted to trouble about such commonplace things as a plot? Perish the thought! And I was well assured that my ear would be sainted with tuneful melodies and bright songs, for is not, Mr. Leslie Stuart the composer?
If there be those who think I am shirking my duty and indulging in flighty persiflage, all I can say is that I will present two Gaiety stalls to the one who sends me by June 12th the best version of the story that does not exceed three hundred words, and print it in "The Count of Luxembourg" number. Je vous attends de pied ferme.
FROCKS AND FRILLS
Peggy and her accompanying troupe of manicurists are a pleasing sight, although it may occur to many that the lounge at the New Hotel is scarcely the place for them. However, the stage has great license in this respect.
Miss Phyllis Dare as the manicurist and the fiancee of that ugly little barber, Albert Umbles, looks very sweet in a neat little rose pink soft satin frock. It is quite plain in front, forming a straight panel which is divided into a tunic from the side, trimmed with silk corded soulache. Pretty white lawn collar and cuffs and pink satin shoes are worn with this.
The Assistant Manicurists are clad in soft grey with touches of cerise, and very becoming caps with cerise introduced. The hunting costumes are particularly charming in this act; some of the ladies in fawn-coloured coats, some in green, and others in blue; all in riding breeches and top boots, and mostly the astride cut skirt coats. The "Harem" girls were somewhat startling, but the shades of the different gowns made a delightful colour scheme. Purple, heliotrope, rose pink, white, cerise, petunia, and many other bright tones were more than captivating.
Miss Olive May, as Doris Bartle, was a sympathetic picture through-out. In this, her first appearance, she wears a white cloth gown, slightly high waisted at the back, and showing under the tunic skirt a lace underskirt at each side, blue ribbons being faintly seen as she moved. Her hat of white, turned up with black velvet, had black and white feathers and a cluster of pink roses.
The second act, the Plage, at Friville, opens with an array of delightfully cool bathing costumes, cool because they do not consist of very much material. The bathing mantles were in the Directoire shapes, and the caps were very quaint and varied in styles.
Olive May's bathing costume was probably very dainty, to judge by her chic white silk coat and wide lace revers and touches of orange colour: also her white cap trimmed with the same shade suited her dark piquante face admirably. But she had evidently finished bathing when we saw her. She carried also a white Japanese sunshade.
Mr. Edmund Payne as Umbles looked more attractive than usual in his smart bathing costume. The red and white striped tunic and blue and white knickers, together with his sailor hat and sandalled feet, made a very dazzling whole.
Another bathing costume was fascinating - that of Gabrielle Ray in flesh colour and coral, with white sandalled shoes. A very pretty crepe de chine mantle, with wide sailor collar at back, cut into points from which hung long tassels, and a chic little coral pink swathed cap. In the juggling duet, she slips off her coat and quick changes into a spangled purple skirt, beautifully embroidered in tulips of all colours. The skirt is elaborately lined with pink gauged chiffon. She also looks very sweet in the naval officer's cap and epaulettes - another quick change.
Peggy was absolutely charming in this act, in white striped voile over pink, trimmed with lace and a pink sash, with straight Japanese bows at the back. Her white hat, with little pink rosebuds and blue ribbons hanging free at each side.
Miss Gabrielle Ray, or rather Polly Polino of the Vaudeville stage, again appears in an up-to-date gown of white and blue and a full muslin mob cap with lace frill and blue ribbons and a very elegant sunshade in blue with pink lining, having a long stock handle decorated with roses.
The scene where the Honourable James Bendoyle conjures up all the girls he once loved affords scope for some very delightful groups of pretty girls in various costumes. There is Dulcie, the white muslin episode of his youth, with her companions in dainty tucked white frocks and blue sashes, and Mitzi, in her green cloth and gold Austrian uniform. Then Gabrielle Ray, in Shantung tunic blouse, with her Leap Frog boys in butcher blue, with white collars and pink bows.
The hats and gowns of the visitors to the Plage were most elegant. Again the blending of the colours was a perfect study and a pleasing suggestion for our own sea shores. One lovely gown in sea blue with large black hat and feathers. Another in a beautiful shade of green with a hat covered in sweet pea blossoms. A very chic hat in eau de nil green with long Pleureuse feathers in the same shade. A very large black hat with graceful curve had pink and blue roses. Black and silver, mauve and white and many other delightful combinations and the very latest of French shapes were amongst them. Indeed, almost every hat and every costume, and the number was uncountable as they flitted across the scene in the almost bewildering brightness, was a fashion plate in itself.
This bright and amusing play is throughout a study in the modes of the moment, and anyone planning out new toilettes will find hundreds of ideas both in gowns and millinery. The jupe culottes, although at the moment not appreciated by the general public, may become more prominent when the summer season is over.
I must not forget the striped pink and white gowns and the "Grandmother" bonnets and little sunshades of the ladies Grossmith and Payne and their dainty little grey boots and black stockings, amongst the reminiscences of the past, that were most effective and made such a quaint contrast to the rest of the toilettes.
SCENES FROM THE PLAY