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no. 426

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Raymond Hitchcock in the title role of
King Dodo,
a comic opera by Frank S. Pixley,
with music and lyrics by Gustav Luders,
first produced at Chicago during 1901 and then on a United States tour,
opening at Daly's Theatre, New York, on 12 May 1902

A scene from King Dodo

'The sovereign of Dodoland makes an impression on Queen Lil.'

A scene from King Dodo, Daly's, New York, 12 May 1902,
with Raymond Hitchcock in the title role and Greta Risley as Queen Lil.

(photo: Byron, New York, 1902)

'King Dodo, produced in Chicago in 1901 and brought to New York in 1902, is memorable today only because it allowed Raymond Hitchcock, as the King of Dodo Land, to "jump into the front rank of comic opera comedians." The plot represented Hitchcock as an aging monarch with a yen for youth. He ordered the calendar set back thirty years, with rejuvenating results, only to fall in love with a queen who had an exclusive penchant for old men.'
(Cecil Smith, Musical Comedy in America, Theatre Arts Books: Robert M. MacGregor, New York, 1950, p.134)

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'The musical extravaganza, King Dodo, now in Chicago, has not proved such a "rara avis" dramatically as its name would suggest to the ornithologist. It was said to be very good fun, however, with Frank Norris in the leading part. He has recently been succeeded by Raymond Hitchock.
'If there is anything in a name King Dodo should certainly get the full benefit of it. The "dodo" is the bird we've learned so much about and are looking for a chance to see. There's something intrinsically ludicrous in the name of this mysterious bird. Even the mention of it, so often repeated in Clyde Fitch's play, The Climbers, always produced a ripple of amusement.'
(The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday, 21 July 1901, p.17a)

King Dodo at the Temple Theatre, Fort Wayne, 1 November 1901.
'A large number of theater patrons owing to the size of the audience last night at the Temple, were obliged to go way back an' stand up. Fort Wayne wanted to see the second Chicago opera, King Dodo, and judging from the applause the audience was most highly entertained. The first Chicago opera, The Burgomaster, faired equally as well as King Dodo at the hands of a Fort Wayne audience. Mr. Frank Pixley and Mr. Gustav Luders collaborated in both these operas and they seem to have caught the popular fancy. Their first effort is on the road this season with two companies and King Dodo will soon have a second company.
'"The Tale of the Kangaroo," from The Burgomaster, made many remember that opera between seasons, but it is doubtful if its running mate, "The Tale of the Bumble Bee" in Dodo will ever be as popular. It is not as good as the offering in The Burgomaster. The music of King Dodo pleased highly. The company carries a large orchestra and never before has Fort Wayne heard such instrumentation with a comic opera production. There was the cello to help out the soloists, there was the bassoon to help out King Dodo in his opening solo with the final "do" in Dodo. The orchestra was a great help. Mr. Raymond Hitchcock was a hard worker as the king, although some of his stuff was reminiscent of half a dozen other comic opera kings who have been seen in Fort Wayne. His good humor went, however, with a rush last night and the buffoonery caught on immensely, even the stale old gage of picking up a pin and then wing it off the stage with a crash following. The audience seemed willing to laugh all of the time and it followed Mr. Hitchcock with good humor all evening. He is really the king in everything and has the center of the stage most of the time and has all the opportunities. The production is elaborate in detail. There is a good singing chorus. The ensembles are beautiful indeed. The costumes are elaborate, tasty, attractive and charming. The stage pictures are all beautiful figures. The Misses Sieger, who are the king's heralds, are sweet pieces of feminity and grace the ends exquisitely. Their cornet and bugle duets add a charm to the marches.
'The production in its entirely seemed to be just what the audience wanted and it was most highly entertained. From a scenic and a spectacular point of view the production is superb. The chorus is strong voiced and attractive, the orchestra materially helps out the music and the fun is lively.
'The solos fall to Gertrude Quinlan, as Annette; Elsa Ryan, as Angela, the king's ward; Cheridah Simpson, as Angela's lover; Miro Delamotta, was Annette's sweetheart; Arthur Wooley as the court physician; Greta Risley, as Queen Lili; Charles Meyer, as the court historian, and Edward Clark, as Queen Lili's prime minister. Miss Ryan had been in the dramatic field before she took to singing in King Dodo. She has fresh voice, a pleasing presence, but no chance to act. Miss Quinlan and Mr. Delamotta have been valued members of the Castle Square Opera company.'
(The Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Saturday, 2 November 1901, p.2c/d)

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'After what has presumably been a very unprofitable season, Daly's seems to have a genuine success at last in King Dodo, opera-bouffe, by Frank Pixley and Gustave Luders, and presented at that house on May 12 by Henry W. Savage. This piece was produced a year ago in the West, and report at the time spoke favorably of it; but, surfeited as we have been with the "musical" rubbish usually inflicted on playgoers at this season, the accounts of its success were taken with a large-sized grain of salt. Chicago's judgment may, however, be accepted unreservedly. Northing better in the way of comic opera has been seen here in years. We have also made acquaintance with a practically new comedian, Raymond Hitchcock, who, in the title rôle of this piece, proves that he has no superior as a fun maker on our stage. They story is good enough for the purpose. The sovereign of Dodoland, a merry old gentleman, deplores the fact that he has seen sixty summers, for her aspires to wed a girl of eighteen. He orders the calendars in his kingdom set back thirty years, but this causes endless confusion, and makes him feel no younger. Finally His Majesty sets out in search of a fountain of youth, and comes to an island ruled over by a Queen who is convinced that only a man with the wisdom of many years is fit for her to wed. King Dodo, therefore, changes his mind, but drinking accidentally of the magic water, he loses his baldness and wrinkles, whereupon he is rejected by the Queen. A second drink, however, restores him to his normal state, and all ends happily with the desired nuptials.
'Mr. Hitchcock has the burden of the whole thing on his shoulders, and he carries it exceedingly well. He is immensely funny in his grotesque make-up as the frivolous old King, and while he is on the stage there is constant joy. Long familiarity has, of course, permitted him to extend and elaborate the leading rôle, but his clever performance makes it evident enough that in him we have a comedian of superior gifts and original and pleasing method, and one who possesses the power of compelling laughter to an extraordinary degree. The women in the cast are acceptable in their respective rôles, although none shine with any great lustre. Miss Cheridah Simpson (a soldier of fortune), Miss Margaret McKinney (the King's ward) and Miss Gertrude Quinlan look well and sing agreeably. Mr. Luders' score includes some pretty, if somewhat reminiscent, tunes, and there are also several capital songs, notably "The Tale of the Bumblebee," which will outlive the piece. The production has the advantage of a good chorus and well-trained ballet, which is also much of a novelty. Mr. Savage never does things by halves. He has proved that pieces of this kind can be put on in good taste, and, at the same time, be entertaining. The operetta is superbly mounted, the scenery, by Walter Burridge, being both elaborate and beautiful, while the costumes are unusually rich and effective. There is no reason by King Dodo should not enjoy a long lease of life.'
(The Theatre, New York, June 1902, pp. 6 and 7)

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