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no. 331

Saturday, 17 January 2004

a new and original musical comedy,
Daly's, London, 22 May 1926

Yvonne, Daly's, London, 1926

programme cover for Yvonne, Daly's, London, 22 May 1926,
with a portrait of the English actress and singer, Ivy Tresmand (1898-1980) in the title role

(from original artwork by Charles Buchel;
printed by Wightman Mountain & Andrews Ltd, London, 1926)

Yvonne, 'a new and original musical comedy' in three acts (based on an original Austrian production) was written by Percy Greenbank, with music by Jean Gilbert (1879-1942) and Vernon Duke (1903-1969), and additional numbers by Arthur Wood, was produced at Daly's, London, on 22 May 1926. The cast, headed by Ivy Tresmand in the title role, included Mark Lester, Henry Hallatt, Gene Gerrard, Neta Underwood, Arthur Pusey, Maria Minetti, Dennis Hoey and the dancers Hal Sherman and Nan Wild.

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Yvonne. (Starts on or about May 15th. [1926])

'More Musical Comedy.
'A few days after the end of Katja [the Dancer] [Gaiety, London, 21 February 1925 – 5 September 1925; Daly's, London, 7 September 1925 – 12 May 1926] sees the production of Yvonne, a musical comedy which has met with considerable success during its provincial tour. Once more the music is by Jean Gilbert, with "book" by Percy Greenbank. (The latter has been concerned in this capacity with nearly thirty musical plays, so that he, too, should know his job!) This play is being produced for James White by Herbert Mason, who has been responsible for so many of André Charlot's revues, and the dances and musical numbers staged by Fred Leslie.

'A Fine Company.
''The cast of Yvonne is a particularly strong one. Ivy Tresmand, fully recovered from her operation, is in the name part, and incidentally realizes the ambition of most musical actresses by returning to Daly's as leading lady. Jeanne Aubert, a newcomer from Paris who is said to possess a beautiful singing voice, plays the part of a rather temperamental music-hall artist [Lolotte, a part that was actually to be played by Maria Minetti]. Mabelle George, a capable comedienne who has been touring in Yvonne, and pretty Nan Wild, who for the past two or three months has been playing René Mallory's part in Katja while the latter played Ivy Tresmand's, are also in the company.

'Hal Sherman's Début.
'Carl Brisson returns to Daly's as juvenile lead in the part of a young man who masquerades as a butler in the house of the girl he loves. [When Yvonne opened, this part of Maurice de Fremond (Max) was played by Arthur Pusey]. Mark Lester, an excellent comedian with a very "fruity" style, Horace Percival (in a "dude" part), Dennis Hoey, and Henry Hallatt are the other principals. A novel experiment is the introduction of Hal Sherman into musical comedy. In Yvonne he plays the part of a comic waiter, which should give this clever dancer full scope for his astonishingly funny footwork.'
(The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review, London, May 1926, p.23)

a scene from Yvonne, Daly's, 1926

'Temperament', an amusing number in act I of Yvonne,
with, left to right, Dennis Hoey as Minnepopulos, Gene Gerrard as Victor Dulac,
Mark Lester as Professor Savigny and Maria Minetti as Lolotte, a music hall star.

(photo: Stage Photo Co, London, 1926)


Act I. – Garden of Professor Savigny's House, ouside Paris.
Act II. – The Lounge of the Scale Music Hall.
Act III. – Morning Room at Professor Savigny's.

'The Value of Tradition.
'Few theatres to-day make any pretence of maintaining anything like a fixed policy of entertainment. So rapidly do most of them change from revue to comedy – alternating occasionally with a Shakespearian season or an attempt to catch up with the theatrical craze of the moment – that a new piece at a theatre like Daly's is something of an event. A certain type of musical comedy is expected at this theatre. There must be music – light, tuneful music as opposed to the prevalent surfeit of jazz – plenty of humour, dancing and beautiful dresses and scenery. That is why the choice of a new Daly's piece is likely to cause an amount of trouble and thought. There are always the traditions of the theatre to be considered.

'The Modern Trend.
'In the selection of Yvonne, the management have obviously been influenced by the modern trend of musical comedies, in so much as the new piece is of considerably lighter texture than is usually found at Daly's. The story is slight to the point of flimsiness, but, while it throws little fresh light on some fairly ancient subjects, it deals quite amusingly with an old professor with a taste for riotous gaiety, his daughter, Yvonne, who saves a badly contrived "situation" by impersonating a music-hall artist during the latter's absence, a young man who disguises himself as a servant in the professor's house in order to be near Yvonne, temperamental fireworks from the lady of "halls," and sundry plots and counter-plots before the course of true musical comedy love is allowed to run smooth.
'Given time for the inevitable alterations and improvements which any musical show has to undergo after the first few performances, Yvonne should prove very popular. Jean Gilbert's music, while containing no sensational "song hits" – a welcome relief, this – is melodious, often witty, and admirably orchestrated. The humour is not overstrong, but that, again, allows plenty of scope for working up.

'Miss Tresmand's Success.
'Above all, Yvonne is well played, well-produced, and staged with a lavishness unusual even for Daly's. In the title rôle Ivy Tresmand is a delightful surprise, for the part suits her perfectly, Hitherto, dancing and a sort of unassuming charm have been Miss Tresmand's main assets. These enable her to make Yvonne a pretty, appealing "heroine," but both her singing and acting have improved wonderfully. Mark Lester is a joy as Professor Savigny. Already his engaging, almost confidential, manner enables him to extract a great deal of humour out of a none too brilliantly written part, and he is obviously going to be very funny indeed later on. Horace Percival also makes a success in a G.P. Huntley fashion, as Yvonne's "silly ass" fiancé. The inclusion of Hal Sherman in the cast is an inspiration. As a comic waiter-cum-gardener he gives two amazingly funny dances. Maria Minetti gives a conventionally flamboyant performance as the music-hall star, and Arthur Pusey, though handicapped by a poor singing voice, makes an attractive "hero" of Max, Yvonne's servant-suitor.'
(S.T.H., The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review, London, June 1926, p.17)

Ivy Tresmand

Ivy Tresmand

(photo: unknown, probably London, 1926)


'A Success.
'The success of Yvonne - and success it most surely is – is as gratifying as it is deserved. Without wishing to poach on the preserves of a certain evening newspapers which specialises in "as exclusively announced last week" as its stock opening to most of its theatrical news, we can claim that The Theatre World was practically alone in prophesying that this musical pieces could be sure of a long and popular career. As first seen Yvonne had certain glaring faults, which obviously would be speedily eradicated. The essentials for an excellent show were all there, and it has only been a question of a little time for revision and improvement. Of course, these alterations should not have been necessary. Why a musical production can never be in the first class order for the first performance passes the understanding of ordinary mortals. The once-accepted idea that a short trial run must be given to anything about which there might be some doubt has been proved to be only a popular theatrical fallacy. A first night audience is either hysterically enthusiastic or noisily disapproving and in neither circumstances representative of the real playgoing public. The latter usually go to a new piece when they know they will see the finished article.

'The Modern Trend.
'In its present form, Yvonne compares very favourably with Katja the Dancer, its famous predecessor, and in many ways is more in keeping with modern tastes. Katja was definitely of the "romantic" type of musical comedy, which Yvonne is lighter, gayer, and altogether more akin to the irresponsible song-and-dance shows of to-day. Fortunately, there is a very refreshing absence of the more virulent forms of jazz, noise, "pep," speciality dancers, and breathless speed. Instead, we still have a musical comedy. The story of Yvonne matters no more than in any other musical play and can be dismissed in one word – sufficient. The music is far more important. Much of it is written by a young Russian, [Vladimir Alexandrovich] Dukelsky, who prefers to be known as Vernon Duke. This young composer has a gift for light, tuneful, often witty music, which, though it has more than a suggestion of syncopation, is considerably more melodious than unadulterated jazz.

'The Comedians.
'Above all, Yvonne is funny. An abundance of humour is often the saving grace of musical comedy, and this Daly's piece is no exception to the rule. Ivy Tresmand makes Yvonne an attractive "heroine," Arthur Pusey makes the very most of the rather incomprehensible "hero", there is a typically gorgeous Daly's production, but the comedians have the best of it. Mark Lester, Hal Sherman, and Gene Gerrard are an extraordinarily good trio. All have different styles, which blend as delightfully as their owners work unselfishly. Gene Gerrard (who replaced Horace Percival [as Victor Dulac] about a month ago) is an enormous asset. His easy, natural manner coupled with an apparently never failing sense of humour, is invaluable to any musical comedy, and has proved wonderfully beneficial to Yvonne. His dancing duet with Hal Sherman, "Teach Me To Dance," is one of the most riotously comical things to be seen on the stage to-day.
'Having successfully weathered the storms of the first few weeks, there is little reason why Yvonne should not enhance the Daly's tradition of long runs.'
(The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review, London, August 1926, p.17)

Hal Sherman

Hal Sherman

(photo: Stage Photo Co, London, 1926)


'100 Up.
'This musical piece is now close on its hundredth performance, presumably to the delight of "all concerned," and, moreover, to the complete mystification of the clever ones who, after the first night of Yvonne, were convinced that Daly's had a bad failure. Jealousy is not unknown in the world of the theatre and quite a number of people were intensely pleased to think that Daly's, which has made its own brand of musical comedy world-famous, was not infallible. Happily, a possible failure has been turned into a very certain success.
'Yvonne is not another Merry Widow [Daly's, London, 8 June 1907] but in its present form is certainly one of the most amusing musical comedies in London. The big hit, of course, is "Teach Me to Dance," the duet and dance worked by Gene Gerrard and Hal Sherman. This amazingly funny burlesque of dance fads and fashions has improved with age and now receives as many encores each evening as did "Leander," the song success of Katja the Dancer, Yvonne's famous predecessor. Messrs. Gerrard and Sherman give an entirely new version of that perennial favourite, the Apache Dance. In it the inevitable red rose, which is always coyly thrown from partner to partner, is filled with lead! Will cabaret producers please copy?

'Real Dancing.
'Unless you happen to be enslaved to the idea of noise, "pep," and untiring (except to the audience) energy, the absence of the Charleston and other contortionist dances will be a pleasant change. Instead, there is Ivy Tresmand, one of the few remaining musical comedy actresses who dance with a natural grace, which charms because it is natural and not the result of determined efforts to beat American "board beaters" at their own game. Her "Day Dreams" number in the last act alone would justify Yvonne. It is tuneful and prettily stage, while Miss Tresmand's dancing leaves one wishing that the producer could have found room for more of it – English dancing full of the real beauty of movement, not merely a series of highly technical "steps."

'Daly's Tours.
'Whatever the vicissitudes of musical comedy in London, the provinces remain a theatrical Tom Tiddler's ground for all sorts of musical plays, old, new and those which try to catch up with the times by calling themselves revues. Musical comedies that were seen in London in pre-war days are still touring in various parts of the country, while the first tours of an important success of to-day are becoming nearly as important as the actual London productions. The No. I company of Yvonne, which recently opened at Dublin, is an example of the care and money that are lavished on the modern touring company. Staging, production, and cast compare very favourably with the original to be seen at Daly's. The title part is played by Mamie Watson, with Mona Magnet as Lolette, Walter Bird as Max, Jay Laurier (last seen in London in Cleopatra [Dalys, 2 June 1925]) as the Professor, and Horace Percival in his original part of Victor. A new tour of Katja, the Dancer is also doing exceptionally well. Billy Leonard is extraordinarily funny in the Gene Gerrard part. Patricia is played by Billie Hill, the Yvonne of the original tour of that piece. Edith Cecil is the Katja, and Roy Russell, whose fine voice was an asset to Riki-Tiki [by Leslie Stiles and Eduard Kunneke, Gaiety, London, 16 April 1926, 18 performances], the prince.'
(The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review, London, September 1926, p.21)

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© John Culme, 2004