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no. 368

Saturday, 2 October 2004

The Arcadians
Liberty Theatre, New York, 17 January 1910

The Arcadians

Some of the cast in the New York production of The Arcadians,
Liberty Theatre, 17 January 1910, including (fourth from left) Julia Sanderson as Eileen Cavanagh,
(fifth from left) Connie Ediss as Mrs Smith, (centre, left) Frank Moulan as James Smith / Simplicitas
and (centre, right), Alan Mudie as Jack Meadows.

(photo: unknown, New York, 1910)

The Arcadians, an immensely popular English musical play by Mark Ambient, A.M. Thompson and Arthur Wimperis, with music by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot, that ran for 810 performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, between June 1909 and July 1911, reached the United States early in 1910. After playing for three weeks in Philadelphia (Forrest Theatre, 4 January 1910), the Charles Frohman production moved to New York where it opened on 17 January with the following cast:

The Arcadians, New York, 17 January 1910

The Arcadians transferred from the Liberty to the Knickerbocker, New York, on 16 May 1910, for a total run of 193 performances.

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Charles Frohman's production of
The Arcadians,
Forrest Theatre, Philadelphia, 4 January 1910

'Coming direct from London, where it enjoyed a long and prosperous run, The Arcadians began a three weeks' engagement at the Forrest last Tuesday evening before an audience that was next door to, if not quite, capacity. This latest of Charles Frohman's English productions at once created a marked impression maybe a decided hit would be nearer the mark. The music is by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot, the book by Mark Ambient and A.M. Thompson, while the lyrics were furnished by Arthur Wimperis. The humor is excessively English, and the comedy passages are often lacking in snap. But there fault-finding must end. A more beautifully staged production of its kind has never been seen in Philadelphia, and that is saying not a little. Colors are harmoniously blended in the artistic settings, and the dresses of the ladies of rich material are stunning in effect, and combine tastefulness and luxury. The music is exceedingly melodious and of superior quality. Several of the songs are charming, and the score in its entirety is musicianly, a rather uncommon characteristic in latter-day musical plays. Frank Moulan, the principal comedian, impersonated a wealthy Cockney restaurant keeper whose airship carried him to Arcadian. His arrival creates great interest among the shepherds and shepherdesses, who lead the simple life in that blissful abode of perfect truth and happiness. They had just heard of England, a land of "monsters," and of London as a terrible place where the people did not tell the truth, and lived in "cages" built of bricks and stone instead of in the open air and cheerful sunshine. In consequence of telling a lie, the Cockney is immersed in the well of truth and comes forth an Arcadian. He is obliged to lead a part of Arcadian shepherdesses to London on a missionary enterprise to convert the wicked Londoners to the truth. From Arcadia the scene is transferred to Askwood race course, where the climax of absurdity is reached by having the transmogrified Cockney ride the winner in the principal race. When the horse and rider are brought in to receive the triumph due them the jockey is clinging to the horse's neck fast asleep. To account for this it is explained that the intelligent animal had entered into a compact with an Arcadian shepherdess who understood the language of all the animals. Arcadia is brought to London in the form of a restaurant in the third act. The Cockney falls from grace by telling another lie and is again dipped in the well of truth and restored to his own grotesque self. The prima donna of the company is Ethel Cadman, an English beauty, who as Sombra, a shepherdess, sang in a pure, fresh, cultivated voice of considerable flexibility and range. She had several charming numbers, which were repeatedly encored, and deserved to be. Julia Sanderson made a most attractive Irish lassie, and her singing and dance of "The Girl with a Bit of a Brogue" took the house by storm. Percival Knight as an English jockey aroused much merriment with his English comedy. Connie Ediss was humorous as the Cockney's wife, and Audrey Maple was pleasing in song and dance. Alan Mudie and Lawrence Grant were two other principals who played with success. All of the minor parts were well taken.
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 8 January 1910, p.14b/c)

Ethel Cadman

Ethel Cadman (b. 1886), English actress and singer

(photo: Dover Street Studios, London, circa 1908)

Charles Frohman's production of
The Arcadians,
Liberty Theatre, New York, 17 January 1910

'The piece was received with every mark of popular favour and offers an interesting entertainment to all classes of playgoers. It enabled Percival Knight to score as a melancholy jockey, Ethel Cadman in the principal singing part, Frank Moulan in a light comedy role with dances, and Julia Sanderson in dainty dances and several pretty songs with Alan Mudie.
'James Smith, a vulgar, worldly London caterer, drops from an aeroplane into the midst of a colony of Arcadians, who have been forgotten by Father Time, and where simplicity and truthfulness are the cardinal principles of virtue. He is hospitably received as a harmless monster, but being caught in a lie is thrown into the proverbial well of truth, turned from an ugly, baldheaded and wrinkled middle-aged man into a glorious Greek youth, and given the name of Simplicitas. The Arcadians conceive a heroic notion of reforming the wicked population of fabled London, and send two of their fairest sisters, Sobra and Chrysea, to accompany Simplicitas to spread the doctrine of truth in the land of the monsters. They reach London by way of the Askwood race track on racing day, where the metamorphosed Smith meets his wife, Maria, who fails to recognize him, however, but prevails upon his mercenary nature to co-operate with her in establishing an Arcadian restaurant, with Simplicitas, Sombra and Chrysea as the bright particular attraction. She meets in the hapless, half-starved jockey, Peter Doody, an old admirer, and consents to add him to the restaurant in the capacity of an Arcadian waiter. The restaurant proves a great success, and is decorated in a lavish Arcadian style down to an exact replica of the well of truth, and everything goes swimmingly until Simplicitas is caught telling another lie, drops inadvertently into the well and is pulled out again in his former character of plain Smith, baldheaded and wrinkled as of yore. Sombra and Chrysea now despair of their mission and prepare to return to their native Arcadia, leaving Smith to the tenderness of his delighted spouse.
'It is evident that the composers of the English musical comedies are profiting by the lesson which the invasion of the Viennese operetta in London has taught them, to supply something better than thin, tinkling tunes of pallid melodies. Lehar, Fall and Strauss, with their dashing tunefulness and dramatic energy and their elusive charm, have set up a new standard. The fullness of the melodic novelty of The Geisha and The Runaway Girl long ago dwindled into a tinkling rivulet of feeble, pulsating melody of recurring forms. The public has grown weary of musical haberdashery in so-called musical comedy and has had its ear attuned to a more masterful form of composition by The Merry Widow, The Waltz Dream, The Love Cure, The Dollar Princess and above all, by the rugged opera bouffe style of The Chocolate Soldier.
'We get a reflex of their influence in the Arcadians, by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot. The music is in the main excellent. The composers have not been able altogether to get away from forms made familiar in their previous works, and ever and anon they become reminiscent and slip into shoes with which they have trodden the musical pathway for a period of about thirteen years. But they slip out again, and here and there their work shows musicianly qualities of real charm substance combined with melodic delicacy which at not stage degenerates into the barbarity of popular street tunes, or, as some one has aptly expressed it, gramophone music. The piece has a spirited first act finale, a very pretty march movement, sung by Eileen and Jack, and an effective topical song, "My Motto Is, Be Merry and Br-r-ight," which, as sung by Percival Knight in the last act, is sufficiently characteristic and unique to earn the comedian a half score of encores. Another delightful number is "Arcady Is Ever Young," excellently sung by Ethel Cadman as Sombra, with chorus, in the second act.
'The musical setting, however, is on an unvarying level of interesting uniformity, and nothing stands out as a distinct feature of characteristic perspicuity from the mass of melodious prettiness, and part-songs are sparingly introduced.
'This notwithstanding, the performance was musicially [sic] better than the libretto, whose chief novelty is the delightful first act, representing the Arcadian glades peopled with dainty chorus ladies in the guise of Greek dryads and sylvan shepherds with Pan's pipes. When the transmogrified Smith as Simplicitas, in company with Sombra and Chrysea, appear at the Askwood race track, London, where Simplicitas wins the horse race, we are on the familiar ground of the London musical comedy. There is a revived interest of novelty in the Arcadian restaurant of the last act, presided over by Mrs. Smith, but aside from the exquisitely picturesque setting of this scene, the interest is monopolized more by the individual acts, notably by the metamorphosed jockey, Peter Doody, in his Greek vestments, than by the development of the plot.
'It suffices, however, to record that The Arcadians must be included in the season's most interesting offerings, and no one will regret the price of admission to see this pretty tuneful comedy, interpreted as it is by Mr. Frohman's excellent company.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 29 January 1910, p.6a/b)

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John Culme, 2004