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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 332

updated
Saturday, 31 January 2004

Puss in Boots,
Christmas pantomime
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane,
London, 26 December 1887

Puss in Boots, Drury Lane, Christmas 1887

Puss in Boots, Drury Lane Theatre, London, Christmas 1887.
left to right: Gus Harris (in circle), Herbert Campbell, Harry Nicholls,
Letty Lind (below), Harry Payne (above), and Charles Lauri Junior in the title role.

(from original artwork by TR, The Penny Illustrated Paper,
London, Saturday, 31 December 1887, pp. 424 and 425)

The vignettes at top left and right represent scenes respectively from the Christmas 1887 equestrian show at
Olympia, West London; and the Christmas 1887 production of Bluebeard at Sanger's Amphitheatre:
'The Brothers H. and W. Wardroper will appear respectively as Bluebeard and Sister Anne in this annual,
which, as per usual, will be strengthened by those auxiliaries of the menagerie which Mr. Sanger is in a
position to supply. The pantomime will be, as usual, preceded by "scenes in the arena."'
(The Entr'acte, London, Saturday, 24 December 1887, p.7b)

'The pantomimes and Christmas entertainments generally have been described so fully and so picturesquely in the dailies that I will only venture to pick out the plums of the dramatic and spectacular puddings. Of the pantomimes, make it a point to see first Mr. Augustus Harris's resplendent and magnificent version of Puss in Boots, written by Mr. E.L. Blanchard, and produced on Boxing Night with brilliant and deserved success at Drury-Lane. What a good-humoured audience it was that filled Old Drury! What genial chaff it was that greeted Mr. [George Augustus] Sala as "Good old George!" when that accomplished and popular writer took his seat in the stalls! The talented young chef d'orchestre, Mr. Walter Slaughter, received a well-merited round of applause as he began his admirable overture with Mr. [Charles] Coburn's topical song of "Oh! The Jubilee," in the chorus of which the "gods" jubilantly joined. This spirited overture was the best I have heard for years. Interest in it went on increasing until the succession of national airs was appropriately concluded with "God Save the Queen" which elicited a hearty volley of cheers from the gallery, the National Anthem being honoured by all upstanding. Never has the nursery story of Puss in Boots been so richly embellished by the arts of the costumier and the scene-painter as it is at Drury-Lane. To being with, Mr. Harris gives us an incomparably agile and intelligent Puss-in-Boots. It would be impossible to excel Mr. Charles Lauri, jun., in this part. Make-up, gambols, dances, and "tumbling" are of the first order of Pantomime. Puss is the esquire of a most charming, graceful, and very sweet-voiced Jocelyn in Miss Wadman, whose merry and vivacious presence enlivens every scene in which she appears. She sings her song, one or two really poetical lyrics, to perfection; and is, in fine, just the gay and dashing hero to take captive the fancy of the fair young Princess who falls in love with him. Attired in robes of ravishing beauty, the Princess daintily dances through the pantomime, being represented with fascinating chic by lissom and pretty Letty Lind, who sings with point the well-known "I love you" ditty. Her handmaiden could not be enacted in a sprightlier fashion than it is by Miss Marie Williams, who is rivalled in good sprits by the comely impersonator of Love, Miss Jenny Dawson. Mr. Herbert Campbell, the favourite comic vocalist, fairly revels in the rôle of the burlesque King, with a congenial consort in Mr. Harry Nicholls. Past masters both in the art of Pantomime, they may be depended upon to furnish soon a more mirth-moving duet than the one they sang on Monday. The Brothers Griffiths, for their part were full of admirable fooling in their familiar donkey scenes; and their rollicking humour has, doubtless, by this time been emulated by Mr. Lionel Rignold and Mrs. Charles Danby as the Brothers William and Henry. So gorgeous and so gigantic a pantomime as Pus-in-Boots is needs to be knit together by the most bustling and unceasing fun, such as the famous Payne Family used to be noted for at Covent-Garden, and such as Mr. Harry Payne still enlivens the Drury-Lane Harlequinade with. The elaborate pantomime of Mr. Harris will be firstly remembered, however, for the palatial tableau of the Royal silver Wedding, an outline sketch of which is introduced in the two-page Illustration [see above] of Puss-in-Boots. This is a chaste feast of colour. There troop down the grand staircase bevies of radiant girls and Court officials, arrayed in costly silks and cloth of gold and beautifully embroidered dresses that charm the eye in every direction p the procession of the beauteous Princess being the culminating point of attraction, whilst the humours of the grotesque King and Queen offer a relief to the splendour. The other regal set which "All London" will make it a point to see is the glittering procession of Amazons in gold and silver armour down the lofty staircase in the Pavilion of Chivalry. This superlatively grand scene (which no Court could eclipse) elicits such a storm of applause, Mr. Harris being quite deservedly called and cheered for the second time, that the "comic business" of Mr. Harry Payne, King of Clowns, should be made to immediately follow the set. The bewitching poetic Transformation Scene could then be postponed to the end, thus bringing this marvellous pantomime to a delightful close. Try it, Mr. Harris. Had I space, I would dilate on the beauty of Katti Lanner's new ballets; on the attractive charm of the scenery by Mr. W.R. Beverley, Mr. E.T. Ryan, Mr. William Telbin, Mr. Henry Emden, and Mr. William Perkins; on the sustained merit of Mr. Walter Slaughter's invaluable orchestral accompaniments and original songs; and on the admirable way in which Mr. Reuben Inch (a capital Ogre) acts as Mr. Augustus Harris's stage lieutenant. It is satisfactory to know that every playgoer within measurable distance of London will hasten to Drury-Lane to enjoy Puss in Boots.
(The Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 31 December 1887, p.423a/b)

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