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STORY OF THE PLAY
It is only a little love story, the slender plot of which is unfolded, without the slightest pretence at anything really "serious", in three short dainty scenes. At the rising of the curtain we find ourselves peeping into a deliciously cool and cosy bungalow somewhere on the sunny shores of Japan. In a bamboo hammock reclines the pretty heroine whose name is Sybil Cunningham, and who, without any other preamble, proceeds to explain her presence by singing very sweetly the following verses:-
It was just an old world village near an English country town,
It was just at eve in autumn when the leaves are showing brown,
And the maiden stood awaiting for her lover to confess,
Till he breathed a whispered "Will you?" and she softly answered "Yes."
It was just a twelvemonth later with her lover far away,
It was just a lonely maiden growing paler day by day,
Till there came a tender message from an easterly address,
Saying" Come to me, my darling," and again she answered "Yes."
Thus do we soon learn that Sybil, accompanied by a captivating widow, Betty Kenyon, for companion, has come out to Japan partly to escape a marriage which is not to her liking, and principally to be near Lieutenant Reggie Armitage, the man who had sworn to love none but her a year ago in England. And here, in this flower-scented Eastern retreat, where Reggie quite innocently installs his fair sweetheart until "promotion" shall enable him to marry her, it is arranged that Sybil shall pass temporarily as a "Japanesy" girl and be known as 0 San, "The White Chrysanthemum." It may be that Reggie would never have bolted to Japan (in which case Sybil could never have followed him) if it were not for the fact that his strong-willed father had made up his mind that his son should marry Miss Cornelia Vanderdecken, a wealthy American heiress; and, doubtless, you will better imagine than I can describe the consternation in this beautiful bungalow when a bombshell comes down upon Reggie in the unexpected arrival of his dad, who is no less a personage than the gallant Admiral in command of the China Squadron.
"For goodness sake, hide yourself, Sybil," implores Reggie distractedly. And, greatly wondering, the poor girl disappears only just in time. A few moments later the Admiral makes his entry accompanied by a handful of men from His Majesty's ship "Terrible" and the American heiress to whom his undutiful son is "officially" affianced. Whilst the father is affectionately shaking Reggie's two hands he is suddenly interrupted by a beautiful and unknown girl who rushes in wildly from an adjoining room, and remarks that "there is no room in the cupboard and I can't get under the bed."
The fat, of course, is in the fire, but the situation is momentarily saved by the audacious mendacity of a brother officer, a Lieutenant Chippendale Belmont, familiarly known as "Chippy." This blundering "Johnnie," in a well-meant effort to help his friend Reggie, tells the Admiral that the bungalow, its Chinese servant Sin Chong, and the beautiful "White Chrysanthemum" all belong to him.
Although the Admiral is not easily bluffed he at length believes this explanation and forthwith commands "Chippy" to go down to the ship and order preparations for the immediate marriage of Reggie and Cornelia. Matters thus go from bad to worse, and to Reggie the end of all things has come when Sybil, who has seen him with Cornelia, believes her lover to be false and goes tearfully away. Fortunately the loquacious Chinese servant and the widow between them soon convince Sybil of her mistake, and in due course she returns to fall into the arms of Reggie and seek his forgiveness.
In the end it is "Chippy" who captures the young lady from America. The pretty widow pairs off with the old Admiral, who, having fallen head over heels in love with her, is ready to consent to any number of happy unions, to say nothing of his willingness to bestow his blessing on those happiest of children - Sybil and Reggie.
The autbors of "The White Chrysanthemum," which was produced at the Criterion on August 31st, 1905, are Mr. Leedham Bantock, a comedian who has served many years under the banner of Mr. George Edwardes, and Mr. Arthur Anderson, who has also turned out some exceedingly neat lyrics. Mr. Howard Talbot's music is both charming and melodious, and he may fairly claim a goodly share of the congratulations that were showered upon all concerned. Many of his pretty numbers fall to the heroine, Miss Isabel Jay, who gives them, as may be expected, the most delightful interpretation. The little tiff between the lovers gives an opportunity for a telling little number of the sentimental type, the singing of which Miss Jay makes particularly effective, and the refrain of which is:
0, wandering breeze,
0, birds on the trees,
Come to me, comfort me now,
How may I recover
The love of my lover?
Come to me, comfort me, tell me how!
One is quite carried back to happy days at the Savoy, for besides Miss Jay the cast includes Mr. Henry A. Lytton and Mr. Rutland Barrington, both of whom, you may be sure, are warmly welcomed. Other favourites in this strong company are Miss Millie Legarde, Miss Marie George, Mr. Lawrence Grossmith and Mr. M. R. Morand.
Altogether the "White Chrysanthemum" makes a very big show upon the little Criterion stage, and it is not surprising that authors and composer, as well as Mr. Frank Curzon, whose company it is, and Mr. Austen Hurgon who helped to produce the piece, were called before the curtain on the night of production to receive thanks from a delighted audience.
PEOPLE IN THE PLAY
It was quite by the merest chance that MISS ISABEL JAY went on the stage at all. Her favourite hobbies as a child were painting and singing, and her parents had already decided that she should take up painting, when a well-known professional singer came along, and persuaded them to have her trained for the concert platform. While she was still only a student, however, she accepted the position of prima donna at the Savoy Theatre, where, as we all know, she was the delightful heroine of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, and where, in Iolanthe, she made one of her greatest hits. In January of this year, Miss Jay appeared (with Mlle. Adeline Genee, the premiere daneuse of the Empire Theatre) before the King and Queen and other guests of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. Miss Jay sang "My heart's at your feet," and the "Jewel of Asia," which latter was so much applauded that she had to sing it again. The husband of Miss Jay, it is interesting to recall, is Mr. Henry Cavendish, the great-grandson of the second Baron Waterpark, and consequently a member of the family of which the Duke of Devonshire is the titular head.
There are probably very few actresses who could boast, off the stage, that they had ever been stolen by gipsies. And yet this was once the fate of MISS MILLIE LEGARDE. At the early age of ten she made her first appearance at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, Birmingham, as Winnie in the inevitable East Lynne. Whether it was due to her association with the stage or not I cannot say, but some months later a band of gipsies enticed her away from home. During the six unhappy months spent with them she was compelled to earn her living by telling fortunes, and was only allowed to return to her sorrowing parents when the gipsies had obtained from them a substantial ransom. Her mother now thought that school would be the safest place for her daughter, and Miss Legarde was forthwith packed away to school for three years. At the end of this period she visited South Africa and played in Comic Opera for six months. On returning to England she fulfilled numerous engagements both in the provinces and in London, playing lead during one of these with Mr. Arthur Roberts. In due course she joined Mr. Geo. Edwardes Three Little Maids Company at the Apollo, and after leaving that theatre for the Gaiety she went back to the Apollo to play the title role in The Girl From Kay's. Then followed some ill health and a slight operation. Her next engagement was in Sergeant Brue at the Strand Theatre, but after that, and, indeed, during the summer months of this year, she spent most of her days up the river. Miss Legarde likes her not very heavy part in The White Chrysanthemum immensely, but has fond hopes of some day appearing in a Comedy "without music."
"ONE has to 'hustle' at home if one wants to get on." The speaker was MISS MARIE GEORGE, with whom I was having a little chat. "From which I may take it," I remarked, "that you worked real hard when you were in America?" "That's so," replied Miss George. "Why, two years before I came to England, I originated five big parts in less than a year at the New York Casino, and never missed a performance in all that time. As each Company went on tour, I remained at the theatre for the new piece. We rehearsed from ten in the morning until five and six at night. One of the pieces, I remember, played two special weeks in Philadelphia, two and a half hours from New York by fast train. I played every performance, and did the double journey each day, in order to rehearse in New York in the day time for the new production. Of course, the work was dreadful, but, as I remarked a while back, one has to 'hustle' at home if one wants to get on."
I wonder how many good, bad and indifferent plays have been produced since MR. RUTLAND BARRINGTON made his first appearance? He first faced the footlights in 1874, in Clancarty, at the now demolished Olympic Theatre, where he subsequently played in The Two Orphans, under the management of Mr. Henry Neville. When the late Mr. D'Oyly Carte produced The Sorcerer (one of the most humorous and successful of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas) at the also demolished °l,era Comique, in 1877, Mr. Barrington played the part of Dr. Daly; and when Mr. Carte migrated to the Savoy Theatre, Mr. Barrington accompanied him, and remained with him there playing in nearly the whole of the long series of Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Playgoers of twenty or more years ago can never forget his delightful performances in H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Peuzance, Patience, Iolanthe, The Mikado, The Gondoliers, and others. Nor will they find it difficult to recall his appearances in The Match Girl, The Vicar of Bray, Haddon Hall and Utopia (Limited), all of them big successes created by Mr. Barrington in the nineties. Coming to more modern days, I need only mention such plays as The Geisha, San Toy, The Country Girl and The Cingalee, to remind you of the great popularity which Mr. Barrington enjoyed at Daly's Theatre.
An old Savoy favourite, of course, is MR HENRY A. LYTTON, whose last appearance at that theatre was, I believe, as William Jelf, A.B., in A Princess of Kensington. Since then Mr. Lytton has given us such fine breezy impersonations as his Dick Wargrave in The Earl and the Girl at the Adelphi, Lieut. Reggie Drummond in The Talk of the Town at the Lyric, and his present part in The White Chrysanthemum. Once upon a time Mr. Lytton was playing the part of Lielmore Licks in a play called The Devil's Luck. The big scene was a lonely desert from which he had to make his exit to go in search of water for his gasping companions. This usually meant that be would sit down in the wings until the cue came for his re-entry. One night during this particular "rest," Mr. Lytton sat down near some fire buckets, which (strange though it may seem) were actually filled with water. Now whilst he-was thus sitting, the tails of his long cloak must have lain comfortably in one of these buckets, with the result that when he had dragged his weary body again on to the stage, and had faintly lisped that not a drop of water could he find, and that they would all have to die of thirst, a shrill voice somewhere in the audience shouted "Liar." Whilst everybody was laughing, and probably this was the biggest laugh Mr. Lytton ever got in a serious part, he looked behind him and found that his cloak had left a long trail of water behind it.
Petals of Fashion from The White Chrysanthemum
By Edith Waldemar Leverton.
"I wonder, yes, I wonder, how it's done," Mr. Lawrence Grossmith might well reiterate when contemplating the intricacies of chiffon, lace and embroidery, the ruchings, the frills, and the trimings, which constitute the costumes in "The White Chrysanthemum." No doubt, the Powers that Be at Viola, Ltd., would be perfectly competent to explain the situation, and certainly, if the frocks upon the stage are supposed to be typical of the characters wearing them, those in "The White Chrysanthemum" give a very evident proof of the fact.
The freshness and simplicity of the dainty girlish gowns adopted by Miss Isabel Jay, the piquancy of the costumes exploited in so fascinating a manner by Miss Marie George, and the severe style of the dresses adopted by Miss Millie Legarde, as the demure little widow, who in the last act blossoms forth into the daintiest of evening frocks, as a final effort in the captivation of the gallant admiral: all do their duty admirably in this respect.
Miss Isabel Jay, in the title role, naturally wears nothing but white frocks. Her first is a really beautiful creation of mousselline de soie, bearing an elaborate insertion of lace down the front of the skirt and round the hem, while a deep collarette arrangement completes the bodice. The lace, by the by, is of a very elaborate design, depicting chrysanthemums in full bloom. The skirt is simply pleated in at the waist, the sleeves are of elbow length, and it is completed by a long sash of soft white silk. Her kimono of white satin and gold embroidery, though a very becoming garment, is not exactly true to Japanese fashion, still one must not be too critical in musical comedy. In the last act she wears a dress which may be quoted as typical of the evening gowns for the debutantes in the coming season. Of white chiffon this is made, the hem of the skirt decorated with three bands of graduated white satin ribbon; a few inches below the waist come rows of dainty little white butterfly bows, while the bodice is edged with wide pointed revers of chiffon, edged with a band of satin ribbon.
What an exceedingly dainty little figure Miss Marie George always is! Very few could carry off that bright yellow silk frock in the bewitching manner she does. It is an exceedingly intricate garment, made in the corselet princess fashion, the under-blouse and puffed elbow sleeves being of yellow chiffon, while the yoke and epaulettes are of rich Irish lace. The corselet skirt is held up by rather broad bands of yellow silk, which cross the shoulders and are decorated on either side by a small silk frill. This skirt is made with a narrow front panel, decorated on either side with tiny rosettes of the same silk; it fits very tightly to just below the hips, and then falls in wide full folds to the ankles, these folds being held at intervals by a band of silk, edged with a silk ruching. When Miss George first appears upon the scene this costume is crowned by a yellow hat to match with two black quills jauntily set at one side. Her second gown is an evening frock of rather deep pink chiffon, liberally trimmed with rows of pink ribbon arranged with a series of true lovers' knots, down and around the skirt. The bodice displays a fichu-like arrangement of pink silk, decorated with pendant loops of ribbon.
Miss Millie Legarde in the first act strikes a distinct note of novelty in the way of millinery, which the matinee girl who affects the all-obscuring picture hat would do well to copy. She wears a little capot of cream lace, made Marie Stuart fashion, and finished at the back with two rosettes of blue satin ribbon and long pendant ends. Should theatre-goers adopt this style of headgear in the future, the unfortunates who are doomed to sit behind them will begin to take a more hopeful view of life. Miss Legarde's first frock is of pale blue silk, simply pleated in at the waist, and finished with a pointed waist belt. It is trimmed with a very wide cape-like collar of white taffetas silk, with insertions of thick coffee coloured lace, the elbow sleeves having turned-back cuffs of the same silk and lace. White serge goes to the composition of her second dress; the skirt is set in rather wide box pleats and the front of the blouse-like bodice is of pale blue velvet; a square collar and turned back cuffs of blue velvet further ornament it, and beneath the former a long white scarf with a pale blue border is prettily knotted. A row of rather large gilt buttons is effectively employed on either side of the coat, and the costume is crowned by a smart white hat with a pale blue velvet brim. Miss Legarde's last gown, however, is a decided triumph. It is of exquisite sea-green chiffon, with vertical lines of silver embroidered upon its surface, held here and there with pale green velvet butterflies. The bodice bears a fichu-like drapery of silver embroidered lace, which falls in long pointed ends to below the waist; bands of silver form the shoulder straps, and the sleeves of green chiffon and silver spangled lace fall well off the shoulder to the elbow.
SCENES FROM THE PLAY