Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 22 November 2008

Billie Barlow (1865-1937),
English burlesque actress and singer,
as Mercury in the burlesque Orpheus and Eurydice
on tour in the United States, 1884/1885

Billie Barlow
a cabinet photograph of Billie Barlow as Mercury
in Orpheus and Eurydice

(photo: Falk, New York, probably 1884)

Billie Barlow as Mercury in Orpheus and Eurydice

'The Event of the Season.
'The Bijou Opera Company will appear at Nevada Theater on Saturday evening in the brilliant operatic burlesque entitled Orpheus and Eurydice. This Opera is full of pith and scintillates with bright music and amusing situations. They music in the present production is bright, the orchestration competent and the costumes superb. The cast includes many popular favorites and some new people who will be strong cards. Mr. Digby Bell as Jupiter, and Mr. Harry Pepper as Orpheus, do all that can be done in the vocalism and the lines. Mr. George C. Boniface, Jr., as Styx, the melancholy porter of Pluto, sings ''The Monarch of Arcadia'' with becoming solemnity, and Marie Vanoni does the opera bouffe business of Eurydice with chic enough to make it tell. Miss Billie Barlow, as swift-footed Mercury, recalls the pleasant impression she made in Billie Taylor and other pieces. Miss Amelia Somerville gives an enlarged living picture of an ideal Juno, and Laura Joyce Bell is resplendent in lavender silk, satin stars as Diana. The best work of the evening is accomplished by Miss Ida Mulle as Cupid. She is like a bisque figure of the German-doll type, and as dainty a Cupid as St. Valentine, instead of Jupiter, might have chosen as an emissary, and the applause she gains is accorded without hesitation, and the little lady at once becomes a favorite. The presence of any number of ethereally dressed beauties in Jupiter's Court will carry the opera to the satisfaction of the management and please the jeunesse doree, who delight in the frolic of the can-can, well danced, under the changing lights in a comfortable and pretty theater.'
(Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada, Thursday, 14 August 1884, p. 3c)

'BILLIE BARLOW'S SALARY.
'Billie Barlow, the dapper Mercury of Orpheus and Eruydice, in the jaunty hat and superbly fitting cloth suit, ascended the witness stand before Judge Browne in the City Court yesterday, and, under the pilotage of Mr. A.H. Hummel, swore that while she was playing at the Bijou Opera House in 1884 it was proposed by Miles and Barton that she should travel with the company. She refused unless an increase of salary from $30 to $50 during the tour was given her. She was paid $50 for her Baltimore engagement, but the defendants declined to give the increase during the period of the performances at Niblo's Garden, Williamsburg, and the People's Theatre. Gen. Barton denied the promise of the increase and showed Miss Barlow's written receipts in full for her salary up to the time she left them. The jury, after fine minutes' deliberation, returned a verdict for the full amount claimed and costs.'
(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 20 March 1886, p. 3)

BILLIE BARLOW

'MISS BILLIE BARLOW.
'This charming burlesque actress who has achieved such a conspicuous success as the principal boy in the pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, is not, as may be generally supposed, an American. Her stage appellative was given in America, and given under the following circumstances. Miss Minnie Barlow - her real name - was a member of a comic opera company travelling from Liverpool to New York. During the voyage a member of the same company jokingly called her ''Billie Barlow'' after the old song with that title, and on arriving in New York Miss Barlow found herself announced with ''Billie'' for a christian name. There was novelty in it, the name stuck, and Miss Barlow has been known by it ever since. Miss Minnie Barlow, however, is a Londoner. She was born in the Metropolis on July 18th, 1865. Her first appearance on the stage was in H.M.S. Pinafore at the Opera Comique, London, June 34d, 1879. In the following autumn Mr. D'Oyley Carte [sic] organised a company for an American tour. Miss Barlow was a member of this combination, and on Dec. 8 she sang in Pinafore at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York. On Dec. 31st she appeared in The Pirates of Penzance at the same theatre, and after going on a tour through the principal American cities, we find her in the autumn of 1881 playing in Patience at the Savoy Theatre, London. After remaining there for a year Miss Barlow made her second professional trip across the Atlantic, again with D'Oyley Carte's company, which opened the season at the Standard Theatre, New York, Sept. 26th, 1882. Miss Barlow appeared successively in Les Manteaux Noirs, Rip Van Winkle, and Iolanthe, under D'Oyley Carte's management, and then joined E.E. Rice and appeared at the Bijou Opera House as Mercury in Orpheus and Eurydice, and made a great hit. Subsequently Miss Barlow appeared in Falka and The Little Duke, in which she was last seen before her return to England. Her next appearance was in London as a member of the Dixey Burlesque Company at the Gaiety Theatre, when she played Artea in Adonis. When Dixey returned to the Stages Miss Barlow remained at the Gaiety, under the management of Mr George Edwardes, and before long she was playing Fernand in Monte Cristo, jun. During the temporary absence of Miss Nelly Farren from the role of Edmond Dantes, Miss Barlow took up the part at five minutes' notice, and scored an unqualified success. The charming freshness of her style was quite a novelty to audiences saturated with the conventional. Managers on the look out for attractions for their pantomimes soon had their optics focussed on the new burlesque star, and the competition for her services ended in Messrs Howard and Wyndham securing the prize. Of Miss Barlow's merits in The Babes in the Wood it is like gilding refined gold to say anything now. The grace and sprightliness of her acting, the conscientious desire she has to please, her sweet, well trained voice, charming face and figure, and above all her modest and becoming demeanour, make her performance of Walter stand out as a revelation in the method of playing burlesque boys.'
(The Newcastle Weekly Courant, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, Friday, 10 February 1888, p. 5f)

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© John Culme, 2008