THE NEW ALADDIN
'London, 6 October 1906.
'"One woe doth quickly tread upon another's heels, so fast they follow," remarked the cryptocrank's idol Bacon (alias Shakespeare) upon a certain memorable occasion. That this is true is shown that while in my last week's epistle epistle it was my painful duty to chronicle the mutiny of Edna May, all on account of Camille Clifford – it is my sorrowful task this week to tell you that in connection with George Edwardes's production last Saturday of his latest (nine authored Gaiety play, The New Aladdin) loud "boos" burst forth from the usually faithful gods or gallery folk. Nay, more, the London press, which generally makes all sorts of allowances for this ever-enterprising if sometimes over-lavish manager, have also been "booing" (as it were) during the week.
'Indeed, I can call to mind no time in all the great Gaiety manager's twenty-one years of spirited management when there has been such a consensus of condemnation as greeted his latest production instead of the usual high praise for the magnificent mise-en-scene, and a pat-on-the-back kind of phrase or two, prophesying that the manager would soon pull the place together, "work it up," "brighten the comedy parts," "drop in new songs," etc.
'And yet, believe me or believe me not (as poor [Dan] Leno use to say) the New Aladdin – which is the third or fourth Aladdin at the Gaiety – is really no worse, but if anything rather better than many musical plays Edwardes has vouchsafed to us for the past few years.
'But "musical play!" Aye! There's the rub! For, look you, we poor hard worked and Bourchiered persons of the critical persuasion have after much suffering become used to the plotless, aimless (nay, often shameless), musical play. Therefore, the great and gorgeous George told us that this time he was going to return in some measure to the more plotful and certainly more sequent form of Gaiety piece, such as Richard Henry's burlesque melodrama, Monte Cristo, Jr., and Frankenstein, Sims and Pettitt's Faust Up to Date and Carmen Up to Date, the critics not only rejoiced, but the public prints teemed with more or less erudite on burlesque from its earliest ago to the present time, and of Gaiety burlesque in particular, from the day of poor John Hollingshead's sacred lamp (as he called it) to the Edwardsian early glories won by Fred Leslie and Nellie Farren, Teddy Lonnen and Florence St. John.
'So you see the critics expect this time to find an Edwardsian light play that should not be a mass of songs and dances – not a play of the kind concerning which certain American managers were wont to announce with praiseworthy candor "The plot stops at 8.15." for the first act The New Aladdin did promise to pan out as a clever, well knit and properly songed extravaganza, displaying a really smart, up to date travestic of the old Aladdin story of the wonderful lamp. The said lamp this time was discovered in a Bond Street bazaar, a picturesque shop such as Balzac described so marvelously in "Le Peau de Chagin;" otherwise, "The Wild Ass's Skin," and so forth. All the first act Lily Elsie, the Gaiety's new principal boy; Edmund Payne, the Gaiety's resident low comedian; George Grossmith, Jr. (the house's light comedian and frequent lyrist), little Adrienne Augarde and other strong favorites had real opportunities for the respective abilities.
'But alas! the second act not only often "flickered down to brainless pantomime" (as Tennyson said), but it even drifted into the usual modern musical play muddle, which is far worse. So toward the finish some of the hitherto kind friends in front chafed sorely, became restive, and some even (as I said) booed bitterly.
'The truth is that there was plenty of good material in this second act, but, strange to say (for G.E.), there had evidently been a lack of proper preparation, and many of the critics not having sufficient technical knowledge (alas! Some critics are so untechnical) they denounced the manager, mostly with no uncertain denounces. G.E., however, found plenty of good and gushing phrases, to quite the inevitable opinion of the press, and that without much garbling.
'At the moment of writing The New Aladdin is already much improved, and I suppose that in the course of a few nights we shall al be invited to see that formerly disturbing second act again. Then, I suppose, as in most of Edwardes' altered productions, we shall not be able to recognize it for its improvements.
'"Booed down by the gallery, but will run a year," was the Daily Mail's headline to its Gaiety notice, and really (as things seemed to shape last night) I feel that I must say (this time) "ditto to the Daily Mail."
(Gawain, The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 20 October 1906, p.15c)
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