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no. 428

Saturday, 26 November 2005

a comic opera in two acts,
with music by Hugo Felix, book and lyrics by Anne Caldwell,
produced at the Cohan Theatre, New York, 28 February 1916

a scene from Pom-Pom

'Mitzi Hajos as Pom-Pom, the boyish pickpocket in Pom-Pom
dons feminine garb in order to participate in a daring and clever burglary.
Her companions in crime are, from Left to Right: Carl Gantvoort as an Apache,
who is in reality a police inspector; William Eville as Macache, an ordinary burglar;
Thomas Walsh as Grolmus, an extraordinary burglar, and Tom McNaughton as the unlucky policeman, No.13.'

(photo: White, New York, 1916)


(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, 4 March 1916, p.8)

'There is so much that is sparkling, so much that is colorful, so much that is genuinely fresh and invigorating about Pom-Pom, the new comic opera with which Henry W. Savage resumed his producing activities last Monday night, that one is inclined to put aside all temptation to criticise. One is inclined just to join the merry throng of thieves at the "Black Elephant" and cheer Pom-Pom, the most fascinating little pickpocket that ever hooked a watch from a policeman's pocket.
'Mr. Savage has wisely departed from the methods of his contemporaries in the manner in which he has grafted Pom-Pom upon the American theatrical tree. He has not allowed the dialogue and rhymes of the Hungarian original of the operetta to pass through the withering fires of translation and adaptation. Rather has he outlined the course of the story, and commissioned Miss Caldwell to provide her own chatter and lyrics. She has fulfilled her assignment with a view more to characterization than to dialogue. We see deftly and skilfully drawn sketches that lift her work out of the monotonous uniformity that burdens the characterization of most operettas. But her lines, alas, are frequently meaningless and forced, and we depend for most of the humor upon the subtle, quite methods of Hiss Hajos, a real comedienne of comic opera, and Mr. McNaughton, whose sense of burlesque is well, though not at all times sensitively, developed.
''Hugo Felix has written the score with an ear to present-day musical whims. We frequently hear strident tones from the wood wind and shrieks from muffled trumpets. But fearing lest his work be labeled with Brander Mathews's stigma of "highbrow," he has included infectious march songs such as "Evelyn," who would not quite her "devillin," one or two languorous waltzes, which, while they possess sufficient languor and dreaminess, are rather conventional and uninspired, and many tunes of no particular classification other than that of "whistleable." He has followed his design closely, and his music always seems to fit a particular situation or incident in the piece, as in an amusing burlesque of a circus we hear strains that imitate the accompaniment of a "strong" man or a slack wire act.
'The story concerns the adventure of Pom-Pom, a pseudo-pickpocket, who is none other than Paulette, prima donna of the Olympia Theater at Nice. In the course of her professional duties on the opening night of a new operetta, she has donned the garb of a "dip" who has no respect for "good old, white-haired men." Having successfully gone through some of her paces, she has returned to her dressing apartment in the green-room, when she is nabbed by a policeman on the suspicion of belonging to an efficient band of thieves. Uncertain whether to view her state with alarm or amusement, she is hauled off to the local calaboose, where she makes new friends, Grolmus, a light-hearted burglar chief, and Macache, his aide-de-pistol. During a lapse in the vigilance of their guardians the three escape and flee to the notorious "Black Elephant," the haunt of desperate characters.
'The denizens of the resort are sceptical of Pom-Pom's pretensions, and put her to a test as a pickpocket. She proves her skill and is accepted as a regular, honest-to-badness crook. She amuses them with songs and dancing and burlesques of circus feats, and she is soon established as a leader. Her destiny seems secure until she falls in love with a young police inspector, who is masquerading as an Apache, whereupon, a jealous rival threatens exposure of her imposition. But at the critical moment her associates of the theater rescue her, and she resumes her stage activities with the assurance that her escapade will furnish a "great press story."
'So far as the acting is concerned, the cynosure of the whole thing was, of course, Miss Hajos. She has, if anything, an added grace, and she played with a sprightliness, a quiet sense of comedy and a demure charm that were always delightful. She made an amusing boy and the audience was quick to grasp the fun in Pom-Pom's serio-comic bravado, her naive attempts to play the desperado. The part offers wonderful opportunities for Miss Hajos's varied talents, and she makes the most of each, whether it be that of mimicking a strong man, swaggering under a feminine disguise, or dancing with a dummy.
'Mr. McNaughton brought his grotesque form of humor to good use in the part of an unlucky policeman, and in the circus scene proved a capable assistant to Miss Hajos. Carl Cantvoort's fine baritone voice was heard to advantage in "Only One Hour." His performance could be decidedly improved were he to act with a little more show of force and authority. Thomas Walsh gave an excellent study of the burglar-in-chief. Detmar Poppen made Big Blassou into a genuine character without any straining or extravagance. Rita Dane was a sufficiently sinister confidence-woman, and sang with considerable distinction. Phyllis Davis contributed a remarkable impersonation of an animated wax doll. There is talent there and charm, and her reception was deservedly uproarious. There is a comely and vivacious chorus in which good voices are generously sprinkled.
'Mr. Urban's settings were, as usual, rich in color and original in design.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 4 March 1916, p.8a/b)


(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 11 March 1916, p.9, advertisement)

'MITZI IN POM POM', Oliver Theatre, Lincoln, Nebraska, Friday, 27 October 1916.
'Henry W. Savage will offer Mitzi, better known as Mitzi Hajos, (the name simplified for critics and those interested in the doings of the theatre and player folk) at the Oliver, Friday night, October 27, is the newest New York and Chicago success, Pom Pom. Mitzi is now a full-fledged star. She came into public notice first in The Spring Maid, later Henry W. Savage introduced her to the public in the Hungarian operetta, Sari, and last season she came into her own in the George M. Cohan theatre, New York, in the most fetching, winning, roguish comic opera of many years entitled Pom Pom, in which she won instantaneous triumph. For over two hundred performances she charmed the blase New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolis, and now she has just closed a long Chicago engagement at the Illinois theatre.
'Pom Pom is a real comic opera, brimming with good things, and a departure from the cut and dried formula which was formerly used in the construction of musical pieces. The story begins in the green room of a theatre in Nice. It progresses to the foyer and thence to a jail. At least it places the prima donna in jail. Mitzi appears as Paulette, prima donna of the Olympic theatre, Nice, the idol of all the idlers of the town. All the events of the play occur on the night when Paulette is to make her debut in the role of Pom Pom, the pickpocket, a new character for her. Amid all the excitement that attends a first night, with the flutter of hearts and ballet skirts, Pom Pom gets into her boys' clothes and stands ready to maker her entrance. Suddenly she misses her skeleton keys and runs back to her dressing room to get these necessary "props."
'In her dressing room she encounters burglars who have sneaked in to rob the leading lady of her diamonds. The police run in and mistake Paulette, in her Pom Pom make-up, for one of the thieves. They bind her, gag her, and ride her in the wagon to jail. There is the plot. The action of constant, the fun furious. Mitzi charms with her voice and sings and dances her way into the affections of her audience. She is assisted by a large company of singers and dancers including Tom McNaughton, one of the premier fun-makers of America. A symphony orchestra of over thirty musicians will render the score which was composed by Hugo Felix.
'The book and Lyrics of Pom Pom were written by Anne Caldwell, who wrote Chin Chin for Montgomery and Stone. The scenery was designed and executed by Josef Urban, whose striking settings for the Boston Grand Opera company and Ziegfeld's Follies, have won much admiration. The production was staged by George Marion.'
(The Lincoln Daily Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, Sunday, 15 October 1916, News and Editorial, Music, Theatres and Motion Pictures section, p.6d)

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