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no. 450

Saturday, 29 April 2006

a burlesque by George R. Sims and Henry Pettitt,
with music by Meyer Lütz,
produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890
following a short trial run at the
Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool, 22 September 1890

Florence St. John

a stylized portrait of Florence St. John as Carmen
probably after an original watercolour by Percy Anderson
from the cover of the Carmen-Up-To-Data Souvenir

(lithograph by F. Harris & Wells Ltd, London, 1891)

The successful burlesque Carmen-Up-To-Data, by George R. Sims and Henry Pettitt, with music by Meyer Lütz and costumes designed by Percy Anderson, was produced by George Edwardes at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 4 October 1890 following an short initial run at the Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool, beginning Monday, 22 September 1890. The piece ran at the Gaiety for 240 performances, closing on 4 July 1891. The principal parts were played by Florence St. John (Carmen), E.J. Lonnen (José), Arthur Williams (Captain Zuniga), Horace Mills (Remendado), Jenny Dawson (Escamillo) and Letty Lind (Mercedes). Smaller parts were sustained by several Gaiety Theatre favourites, dancers and leading members of the chorus, including Florence Levey (replaced during the run by Sylvia Grey), Maud Wilmot, Eva Greville, Maud Hobson, Day ford, Blanche Massey (daughter of Rose Massey), Flo Henderson, and Hetty Hamer as Partagas.

Florence St. John

Florence St. John as Carmen in
Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(photo: unknown, London, 1890)

'Such an experienced manager as Mr. George Edwardes may be safely trusted to feel the pulse of the frequenters of the Gaiety Theatre, and when a superfine critic, cinuncto nare, objects that the plot is flimsy stuff, or that the local colouring of song or dance is quite inappropriate, the astute manager blandly smiles in his sleeve, accept the soft impeachment and appears to Cæsar, represented in the present instance by the British public, who have already given their verdict, "guilty, and do it again."
'the jaded playgoer does not come in a critical mood to subject the situations of the play to the dry light of reasoning analysis; he comes to laugh and be amused, and if this end be attained everything else may go to - Hongkong.
'If the first -night symptoms of disapproval were intended to be a repetition of the tactics pursued at a certain royal house, they have ended in a miserable fiasco and exploded like a damp squib.
'In fact, such a rush has there been for seats, that it was only through the good offices of the popular manager (who is not merely a bud, but the very flower of courtesy) that I was indulged with a chair in the stalls.
'Following the lines of Carmen in its main features, the burlesque, by Messrs. Sims and Pettit, is full of life and go from first to last; it is certainly posted up to date, and the topical allusions were welcomed with shouts of laughter; it bristles, too, with outrageous puns enough to make Dr. Johnson turn in his grave.
'Miss Florence St. John, fresh from her American triumphs, sings and acts as charmingly as ever. Her sympathetic rendering of "One Who is Life to Me," with its very taking refrain, and of the melodious "Where all is Love" were received with great applause; her dress in the last act was most bewitching, a veritable triumph of the costumier's art.

incidents from Carmen Up To Data

incidents from Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(from original pen and ink drawings by Leonard Raven-Hill;
Pick-Me-Up, London, Saturday, 22 November 1890, p. 119)

'Mr. E.J. Lonnen, who seems glad to get back to Lonnun [i.e. London] (the genius loci must excuse this and other lapses from the paths of virtue) as José, was as amusing as ever, and sang "The Jolly Boys' Club" with immense spirit; even more successful was the song "Hush! the Bogie Man," in which Mr. Meyer Lütz has annexed a most dainty little bit of melody, and the effect is enhanced by the chorus singing the refrain pp. aux bouches fermées. This is decidedly the gem of the play, and was received with enthusiastic applause. It might have been as well, perhaps, to have mentioned that it was written by Harrigan and composed by Dave Braham, and as such finds its place in No. 15 of the Mohawk Minstrels Magazine, by whom it was sung ten years ago. It is, however, rather rough on Mr. Lütz to say that this is the only plum in the pudding.
'Mr. Arthur Williams, as Zuniga, sang "The Fashionable Villain" with great unction, and behaved himself as burlesque "captains" are wont to do, to the great enjoyment of the trop, as regards some of the imitations of the farmyard cries, the hen and the parrot, perhaps being the most successful of Miss Letty Lind's efforts in this line, though any little deficiencies in this matter were fully atoned for by the exquisite grace of her "tripping on the light fantastic toe."
'Miss Jenny Dawson was a very gay and dashing toreador, and Miss Maria Jones a very good example of a country girl, who knew her way about. One word of eulogium on an efficient ensemble is all that time and space will allow of the remainder of the cast.
'Miss Florence Levey, Miss Eva Greville, Miss [Alice] Gilbert, and Miss [Maud] Wilmot, in taking costumes, danced their "Seguidella" [sic] with infinite grace, and the fantastic burlesque, which a critic sets himself to dissect au grand serieux, was received with sympathetic merriment.
'The "Cachuca de Ocho" may be described as an acceptable variation on it.
The violin quartet, by Misses Ashby, Burle, Champion, and D'Alcourt, was well performed and made an agreeable variety.
'Between Scenes I. and II. Of Act I. the lights are lowered for a moment, and, hey presto, Scene II. opens with a rocky retreat on the seacoast, a triumph of scene painting, by Mr. [T.E.] Ryan, most romantic and picturesque, with the smugglers, male and female, stretched at their ease in graceful abandon.
'Without claiming a gift of prophetic insight, one may predict that Carmen will repeat the success which has been attained by its predecessors, and that a prosperous voyage is in store for the good ship and nothing remains now but to congratulate Mr. Meyer Lütz once more on his success in setting the libretto to taking and melodious strains.'
(The Footlights, London, Saturday, 11 October 1890, p.8c/9a)

Florence St. John as Carmen

caricature of Florence St. John as Carmen in
Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(from an original pen and ink drawing by Leonard-Raven Hill;
Pick-Me-Up, London, Saturday, 22 November 1890, p. 118)

'The Gaiety Theatre was so crowded that people were dropping out of the doors - on their way to some less popular theatre. Notwithstanding this, I walked in and asked the courteous acting-manager if he could find me a seat anywhere. He expressed his deep regret, but they were doing such business that he was afraid there wasn't even a vacant tin-tack he could give me to sit on. I said I wouldn't mind sitting on somebody's knee, if it came to that - provided, of course, that she was agreeably young.
'Then they very kindly found a seat for me on a chair placed in the shadow of a private box, whence two beautiful young ladies dropped programmes and pieces of biscuit on to me during the performance. I have been wearing a broken piece of biscuit next my heart ever since. The house was certainly very full - that is, not in the convivial sense, of course. The audience, as a whole, was fairly well conducted - indeed, there were several people around me who were quite sober.
'There is a good deal of high-class kicking in Carmen, with the accent on the "high." The play opens on a square in Seville, celebrated in history as the place where they make Dundee marmalade. Young ladies run on and instantly merge themselves in a perplexing wilderness of underclothing, and then other young ladies with trousers on enter and try to make believe they're young men. There was a giddy young thing in the corner with a smarter pair on than I can afford to wear, but who seemed to think that she had got the score over me there, anyhow. But, as a matter of fact, she hadn't, because I never wear red trousers as they don't match my complexion.

Oh, I'm a dashing, gay young chap -
Yet you've noticed, when I've kissed her,
She doesn't seem to care a rap:
Well - the fact is - I'm her sister!

'Carmen, the young lady who changes her sweetheart with unfailing regularity as washing-day comes round, is played by Miss Florence St. John, who has a pretty winning way with her, that, no doubt, wins her a gorgeous salary on Treasury night. Capt. Funiga is played by Mr. Arthur Williams, and actor of some weight - especially about the waistcoat. When Mr. Williams had finished his song he was about to walk off. What does Mr. Meyer Lutz do but get up from his seat in the orchestra and call for a hornpipe, just as if he was the girls in the front row of the gallery.
'Mr. Williams comes back and explains that he doesn't dance hornpipes, as he's the heavy man of the piece, and it wouldn't be respectable. Mr. Lutz, however, insists, and poor Mr. Williams has to dance after all. All the while he is holding himself up on the top of that hornpipe he remonstrates with Mr. Lutz for having personal animosity against him. This novel piece of business is as good as most of the things in the play.

E.J. Lonnon :

song sheet cover of 'Hush! The Bogie' with a portrait of E.J. Lonnen as José,
Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(portrait after a photograph by Bassano, London, 1890;
lithograph by H.G. Banks; published by E. Ascherberg & Co, London, 1890)

'Miss Letty Lind is Mercedes, and her principal song is called "The Farm-yard." Miss Lind gives a passable imitation of the various entertaining and instructive chuckles made by lady fowls when they have laid an egg, or think they are about to lay an egg, or persuade themselves that they have laid an egg when they haven't. Personally, I should have thought a farm-yeard scene, to be complete, should at least have included an imitation of a cow-shed or even a clothes-prop, but these are not given. It is, however, in her admirable dances that Miss Lind brings down the house. (Yes; they are a trifle thin, my dear sir, but very graceful, all the same.)

At first, she nods her head to make
Quite sure her hair is stuck on tight;
Then, gives her skirts a little shake,
To see that she's hooked up all right.
And then, no long anxious lest
In dancing she should come unpinned,
She kicks and - you can guess the rest -
Delightful little LETTY LIND!

'There is nothing peculiarly striking about the much advertised song, "The Bogie Man," although Mr. E.J. Lonnen, and the gentleman who works the limelight at the wings, produce between them a pleasing effect. The song, beyond question, owes its success to the tremendous amount of muscular effort Mr. Lonnen puts into it. I should say that he travels at least three miles in the few minutes he gives to that song. In less experienced hands the results would be as disappointing as they are to a man when the monthly nurse burst upon his solitude to say that what he expected was going to be a fine healthy boy has turned out to be a pair of mouldy twins.
'In the second act there is a very smart performance by an ordinary kitchen chair, whose name doesn't seem to be on the programme. When Mr. Lonnen goes to sit on the chair, it suddenly lets its legs go in what I believe is known in acrobatic circles as "the splits"; and then, while his head is turned, it calmly crawls back to the perpendicular without leaving its seat. The air of calm innocence with which that chair surveys its victim is simply superb. There isn't the ghost of a smile on it. And when it has got through its part, it doesn't swagger round and bow like some actors do, but preserves a modest demeanour all the time.
'Some of the puns are particularly smart, and there are the usual topical references, which, however, are a trifle dull. The finish of the burlesque hardly fulfils the brilliant promise of its earlier scenes, but it is agreeably entertaining all through. Mr. Williams and Mr. Lonnen have a topical song, chiefly on sporting matters, "It will cause a little unpleasantness," which gets a cordial reception.

The Gaiety ladies who kick up their heels,
And Williams and Lonnen with hornpipes and reels,
And jokes that are greeted with laughter in peals,
Are far from creating unpleasantness.
The dances, perhaps, are a little bit "tall,"
But nothing improper - oh, no, not at all!
Although such a show - say, at Exeter Hall,
Might cause just a little unpleasantness!

(Pick-Me-Up, London, Saturday, 22 November 1890, pp.118 and 119)

E.J. Lonnen

E.J. Lonnen as José in
Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(photo: Bassano, London, 1890)

'In calling their burlesque Carmen up to Data, possibly the two dear clever boys who wrote it intended some crypto-jocosity of which the hidden meaning is known only to the initiated in these sublime mysteries. Why "Data"? On the other hand, "Why not?"
'However attractive or not as a heading in a bill of the play, the Gaiety Carmen is, on the whole, a merry, bright, and light burlesque-ish piece, though, except in the costume and make-up of Mr. ARTHUR WILLIAMS as Captain Zuniga, there is nothing extraordinarily "burlesque" in the appearance of any of the characters, as the appearance of Mr. HORACE MILLS as Remendado belongs more to Christmas pantomime than to the sly suggestiveness of real burlesque.
'As Miss ST. JOHN simply looks, acts, and sings as a genuine Carmen, I can only suppose that her voice is not strong enough for the real Opera; otherwise I doubt whether any better operatic impersonator of the real character could be found. She is not the least bit burlesque, and though the songs she has to sing are nothing like so telling as those she has had given her in former pieces, yet, through her rendering, most are encored, and all thoroughly appreciated.

Letty Lind as Mercedes  in Carmen Up To Data

Letty Lind as Mercedes in
Carmen-Up-To-Data, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 October 1890

(photo: unknown, London, 1890)

'Mr. ARTHUR WILLIAMS as Zuniga is very droll, reminding some of us, by his make-up and jerky style, of MILHER as the comic Valentine in Le Petit Faust. Mr. LONNEN is also uncommonly good as the spoony soldier, and in the telling song of "The Bogie Man;" and in the still more telling dance with which he finishes it and makes his exit, he makes the hit of the evening, - in fact the hit by which the piece will he remembered, and to which it owes the greater part of its success.
'In the authors' latest adaptation of the very ancient "business" of "the statues" - consisting of a verse, and then an attitude, I was disappointed, as I had been led to believe that here we should see what Mr. LONNEN could do in the Robsonian [i.e. Thomas Frederick Robson] or burlesque-tragedy style. The brilliancy of the costumes, of the scenery, the grace of the four dancers, and the excellence of band and chorus, under the direction of that ancient mariner MEYER LUTZ, are such as are rarely met with elsewhere.
'Mr. GEORGE EDWARDES may now attend to the building of his new theatre [ Daly's, Leicester Square], as Carmen up to Data will not give him any trouble for some time to come.'
(Punch; or, The London Charivari, Saturday, 6 December 1890)

Carmen Up To Data costume designs

two lithographs from the Carmen-Up-To-Data Souvenir
after original watercolours by Percy Anderson of the characters
Captain Zuniga (Arthur Williams) and Carmen (Florence St. John)

(lithographs by F. Harris & Wells Ltd, London, 1891)

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