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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 390

updated
Saturday, 5 March 2005

Wars of the World,
a spectacle in three Acts,
Hippodrome, New York, 5 September 1914

Wars of the World, Hippodrome, New York, 1914

'The American invasion of Vera Cruz as represented in the
Hippodrome's new spectacle, The Wars of the World.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 23 September 1914, p.2)

(photo: unknown, New York, 1914)

The spectacle Wars of the World, written by Arthur Voegtlin, with music and lyrics by Manuel Klein, and staged by William J. Wilson, was produced by the Shuberts at the Hippodrome, New York, on 5 September 1914.

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'Even the glittering Hippodrome, temple of merriment and color that it is, may be draped in the sombre garments of sorrow while the brasses are stilled and muffled drums are sounded in memory of the dead. When this happens - when the clowns and the ballet dancers, the acrobats and the strong men are told to wait their turn in the wings - the Hippodrome becomes serious in a magnificent way. With the drop of a curtain the mood is changed. One century sinks into darkness, and out of the dense blackness of the stage another dawns. The first of the great world wars, the war for mere existence, has been fought and won; centuries have elapsed and the Romans have conquered the barbarians; more centuries have passed and men are ready to die for their God - they are the Crusaders.
'The scene is an abbey in the forest, the great stone portals rising in the background and flanked by mammoth trees. On the greensward in front are Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and a great congregation of knights, nuns, and yeomen. Presently there is a joust between two mounted knights, and scarcely has this ended before the doors of the abbey swing open, disclosing a cross of fire high above the heads of the multitude. The devout followers of Christ prostrate themselves in front of the flaming emblem. It increases in brilliancy; it appears to kindle a religious frenzy as the nuns chant and the knights dedicate themselves to a Holy War. The scene is colossal.
'Another mood and another century bring us into the beautiful artificiality of the Gardens of Versailles, where silk-clad gentlefolk trip through the figures of the minuet. But a coarse looking fellow dispels the genteel calm of the gathering. He is a member of the Committee of Public Safety and the spokesman for hungry citizens waiting at the gates. The laughs of derision turns [sic] to cries of fear when the nobles and their ladies see Marie Antoinette being taken to the guillotine.

Wars of the World, Hippodrome, New York, 1914


(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 9 September 1914, p.9d)

'From the war of mass against class and France, the audience is jumped, in as little time as it takes to write it, to the war of brother against brother and the United States. As the stage is slowly illumined, one sees an old Southern mansion and behind it great sweeps of farmland. The Confederates have converted the estate into a headquarters, but that does not exclude the appearance of girls in crinoline, who find partners for the dance in a regiment of cadets about to enlist for service; nor does it exclude the Southern darkies and their plantation melodies. It would be an unresponsive temperament, indeed, that failed to respond to the singing of "When You Come Home Again, Johnny!" as the stage fills with young soldiers and pretty girls. And the horror of it all, the tragedy lurking behind martial thrills, is made sadly impressive in a tableau, "The Price of War."
'With "The War of Sport," which is really no war at all, the clowns and the ballet dancers, the acrobats, and the strong men are summoned from the wings for the gorgeous and glorified vaudeville to be expected at a Hippodrome performance. Marceline [the clown] is present, but he does not have an opportunity for conspicuous fun-making. It is in the carnival scene, however, called "The War of Pleasure" and in "The Terrace of Fountains," with which the entertainment closes, that the superb color effects in the costuming of the dancers and the lightning, are especially prominent.
'Comment on the most warlike of all the war episodes has been reserved until the last. It is the taking of Vera Cruz by the Americans. Judging from newspaper accounts, the fighting in that city must have been a sham battle in comparison to the happenings on Sixth Avenue. As the marines attack and the Mexicans defend, the reports of firearms and exploding bombs are almost deafening. Buildings crumble, they are set on fire before the Americans, via the orchestral aisles, rush onto the stage and hoist the Stars and Stripes. This episode is a marvelous accomplishment.
'Mauel Klein's music is pleasant without being at all distinctive. The real force of Wars of the World lies in the introduction of stupendous and dignified spectacles, in addition to the colorful gayety without which the Hippodrome would not be itself.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, p.8c/d)

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