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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 528

updated
Saturday, 27 October 2007

FOOTLIGHT NOTES
images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s

<I>The Rogers Brothers in Harvard</I>

A scene from the musical farce, The Rogers Brothers in Harvard,
produced at the Knickerbocker Theatre, New York City, on 1 September 1902,
with, left to right, Gus Rogers, Clara Palmer, Hattie Williams and Max Rogers.

(photo: unknown, New York, 1902)

'The Rogers Brothers in Harvard at the Knickerbocker . . .
'The career of the Rogers Brothers in Harvard, as represented at the Knickerbocker Theatres, takes place with the dignified Colonial proportions of Harvard Hall on the left of the stage, and on the right the ivy-covered walls of Massachusetts Hall, memorable as having been converted into a hospital during the Revolution. Between these is the neo-Colonial gate, over which broods no less a spirit than that of Charles Eliot Norton.
'Upon the quiet walks between, and in the shade of the academic elms above, two old rakes of guardians and two young dogs of wards, two French milliners and two young women to whom virtue is too easy, are entangled in a plot resembling a double quadrille, in which the dry is always, "Change partners!"
'The Rogers Brothers meanwhile appear now and again with song, dance, and jocularity, sometimes in the character of professors, sometimes in that of members of the 'Varsity eleven, thus effacing with one masterful stroke a long standing difference between the faculty and athletics. The most superficial observer must note that Mr. James J. McNally and his fellow-artists in the service of the Rogers Brothers have caught the very breath of Harvard reality.
'The first of the scenes of the play is in the garden at Claremont, with Grant's tomb looming on the back-drop; and the third is in the entertainment hall of the Eden Musee. All three, and especially the Harvard yard, are done with admirable scenic effect, and all the trappings of the show are in luxurious good taste. Especially to be noted is the ballet.
'Its gowns are of excellent variety and richness; it is at once well trained and spirited, and the young women who compose it are far above what one is accustomed to in seemliness and good looks. Take it all in all it is as much above the average of this sort of thing as it is above the other features of the performance.
'Of the book of the play, and of the many principals in the cast, the best that can be said is that they are repeatedly applauded and seemed to give genuine pleasure. To a critical mind the jokes were mainly old and the songs mainly flat.
'A topical song of William Gould's had two amusing stanzas, and Hattie Williams's "I'm a Lady," by Ed Gardiner, has the true touch of satire; but for the rest it was vaudeville merely, and not more than passable at that.
'As for the Rogers Brothers it is to be recorded that they - or is it Messrs Klaw & Erlanger? - have spared no expense, at least as regards scenery and costume, to make a pleasant evening.
'They worked hard, moreover, and refused many recalls in order that the rest of the cast might have a fair chance; and even if, on a rigid judgment, they lacked genuine merriment, they were beyond question the cause of merriment in an indulgent audience.
'Their performances, as they would be the first to admit, are the result of an inspiration from Weber & Fields. One great service they render, and that is to show beyond peradventure of a doubt that the originators of this sort of thing are, in their excellent line of nonsense, indisputably men of genius, and that Mr. Edgar L. Smith, or whoever gets up the business for the house down Broadway, has the touchstone of true burlesque and satire.
'In such matters the great public is, happily for itself perhaps, not very knowing, and in consequence having once learned to laugh at this particular kind of broken English, it laughs on any and all occasions. Yet those who have a palate for the real vintage will do well to pass by the doctored dilution proffered by the Rogers brothers.'
(The New York Times, Tuesday, 2 September 1902, p.9e)

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