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Cissie Curlette, English music hall singer and mimic

October 22, 2014

Cissie Curlette (active 1905-1917), English music hall vocalist and mimic, in costume for her song, ‘What You Never Had,You Never Miss.’
(postcard photo: Schmidt, Manchester, circa 1909)

Tivoli Theatre, Adelaide, Australia, August 1909
‘Cissie Curlette, who is a clever, dainty, and refined comedienne, scored another success. The little lady is popular with all parts of the house, and she knows how to make very point tell with the audience. Miss Curlette will close her season at the Tivoli on Wednesday evening, as she sails for Europe by the Orsova on Thursday.
(The Register, Adelaide, Australia, Monday, 23 August 1909, p. 5c)

‘MORRIS’ PERSONAL PICKING.
‘Monday at the American, New York, Cissie Curlette, personally selected by William Morris in England, will be present as a feature of the vaudeville program for the week.
‘It will be Miss Curlette’s first American appearance. Mr. Morris is willing to gamble on her success. The outcome of the English woman’s debut will be watched with much interest by the vaudeville people. Mr. Morris saw her at the Holborn, Empire, London, immediately booking her twenty weeks yearly for the next three seasons. She was also among the acts last listed by VARIETY’S London correspondent as suitable for America.
‘Miss Curlette is on the style of Vesta Victoria. Miss Victoria claims to ”have but Cissie Curlette in the business.” Among Cissie’s songs are ”What I Never Had, I Will Never Miss,” ”Yea, Verily, Yea,” and a new ”Chantecler” number.
‘The accompanying photograph of Miss Curlette [similar to the postcard photograph, above] resembles somewhat Cissie Loftus in looks. The costume is worn singing ”What I Never Had”.’
(Variety, New York, Saturday, 7 May 1910, p. 11d)

American Music Hall, week beginning Monday, 23 May 1910
‘Daintiest of All English Comediennes CISSIE CURLETTE Direct from a Remarkably Successful Engagement in New York, where Press and Public Proclaimed Her the Best English Artist Ever Seen in America.’
‘Cissie Curlette, the latest importation from Europe, who has been winning a remarkable success for the past two weeks in New York will be the big feature at the American Music Hall this week. Miss Curlette is so different from the average run of English music hall artists that her success in this country was instantaneous. She has been likened to Vesta Victoria, Lucy Weston and Yvette Guilbert, but just where the similarity lies would be hard to say. She in an incarnation of dainty demureness and is gifted with a personal magnetism which fairly electrifies her audience.’
(The Boston Sunday Post, Boston, Massachusetts, Sunday, 22 May 1910, pp. 39b and 40d)

‘CISSIE CURLETTE, CHARACTER SINGER.
‘American Music Hall, No. 4. In one; thirteen minutes. Seen matinee, June 7 [1910]
‘What You Never Had You Never Miss, Chantecler and Toodle-I-Oodle-I-Oo was the repertoire which the much-heralded Cissie Curlette offered to the unsuspecting, but the eternal question, Who is Cissie Curlette? had been answered, and that was satisfactory. She acts her numbers cleverly, even to the lusty crow of a male rooster in her Chantecler number, and has a modest bearing, that won a place for her in the hears of the Music Hall patrons on short notice. Miss Curlette will never rival Halley’s comet, however, for sensational honors, her offering being a plain and ordinary singing act, with in its class, if it will be allowed to remain there, it is good with no moment of exception, and that much is enthusiastically shown by warm applause.’
(The Billboard, Cincinnati, New York, Chicago, Saturday, 18 June 1910, p. 11b)

‘Cissie Curlette was tremendously boomed by William Morris ere her American appearance. She scarcely lived up to the advertisement, but was reckoned a fair success.’
(The Newsletter, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday, 23 July 1910, p. 3d)

* * * * *

Cissie Curlette was born, probably in Liverpool, about 1876. She was one of the 11 children of John Leary (1832/35-1910), an undertaker of funerals, formerly a mariner, and his wife, Elizabeth (née Leary, 1844-1935). She was living in the early 1920s in the Hampstead area of London but further details of her life are at present uncertain.

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George Rae, Scottish eccentric comedian and dancer

October 18, 2014

George Rae (active 1907-1922), Scottish eccentric comedian and dancer, who appeared towards the beginning of his career on the bill for the opening night of the Finsbury Park Empire, north London, Monday, 5 September 1910. He appeared in the United States in 1912 and again in 1922.
(black and white halftone postcard, circa 1910; photo: unknown; artwork signed ‘Jack Ross’)

New Cross Empire, south east London, week beginning Monday, 31 August 1908
‘George Rae, Scotch comedian, is in fine form, his songs, tales, and dances being rare mirth-provokers.’
(The Kentish Mail and Greenwich and Deptford Observer, Deptford, Friday, 4 September 1908, p. 5e)

Proctor’s 23rd Street Theatre, New York City, week beginning Monday, 27 February 1922
‘George Rae came next. He opened with a Scotch number and was attired in Scotch costume. Following this, he did a bit of talk in Scotch dialect that met with favor. He closed with a Scotch comedy song and dance to a good share of applause. The act is good for the better three a day houses.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, Wednesday, 1 March 1922, p. 11d)

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Mabel Berra in London, 1910

October 17, 2014

Mabel Berra (1886-1928), American prima donna and vaudeville star, as she appeared at the London Coliseum ‘in operatic excerpts and other songs’ in August 1910.
(photo: Hana, London, probably 1910)

Mabel Berra was accidentally killed on 28 December 1928 when she was hit by a motor car on Park Avenue, New York City. She was buried with her mother and sister in the Vermillion Cemetery, Haesville, Ashland County in her home state of Ohio.

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The Brodsky Quartet plays Greig, Queen’s Hall, London, 1907

October 17, 2014

The Brodsky Quartet (active from 1895 until circa 1918), of Manchester, England, led by Dr Adolph Brodsky (1851-1929), with Christopher Rawdon Briggs (1869-1948), Simon Speelman (1852-1920) and Carl Fuchs (1865-1951).
(photo: Percy Guttenberg, Manchester, circa 1907, postcard published by the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd, Rotary Photographic Series, no. 2576A)

Grieg Memorial Concert, Queen’s Hall, London, 3pm, 23 October 1907
‘For the second of the two concerts arranged by the directors of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra in memory of Grieg, the more intimate side of the composer’s art was pleasingly brought forward in some of his distinctive chamber music, which formed the programme yesterday afternoon. Apparently, this particular phase of music does not appeal so strongly to present day concert goers, and the attendance was not nearly so large as was the case last week at the orchestral concert.
‘The performance of the works chosen, however, was in every sense a most artistic tribute to the memory of the dead musician. It was exceedingly interesting to hear the melodious, if somewhat unequal, string quartet, the only one which Grieg wrote, and with which he certainly enriched the literature of music. It would be difficult to point to a more finished or sympathetic interpretation of the work than that given by the Brodsky Quartet, a body of players who play together with charming feeling and unanimity, and who yet exhibit freshness and individuality. The breadth of the opening movement, the tender and suave melody of the Romance, the lively grace and movement of the dance-like finale, were all expressed with subtlety, strength, and finish, and Manchester – when Dr. Brodsky and his fellow players come – is certainly to be envied in the possession of such distinguished musicians… .’
(The Standard, London, Thursday, 24 October 1907, p. 7d)

The programme for this memorial concert included the following Grieg songs by the Brodsky Quartet: ‘Voer hilset, I Damer,’ ‘Zur Rosenzeit’ and ‘Ein Traum.’ Ellen Beck and Percy Grainger also appeared.

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Katie Barry as Fifi in A Chinese Honeymoon, New York, 1902

October 12, 2014

Katie Barry (1869?-after 1909), English actress and singer, as Fifi in the first American production of A Chinese Honeymoon, produced at the Casino, New York, on 2 June 1902. The part of Fifi was first played in London (Strand Theatre, 5 October 1901) by Louie Freear who was succeeded by Hilda Trevelyan.
(photo: Gilbert & Bacon, 1030 Chestnut Street. Philadelphia, probably 1902)

A CHINESE HONEYMOON.
‘English Musical Comedy is Presented at the Casino.
‘Distinct achievement in A Chinese Honeymoon, the new musical comedy seen at the Casino last evening, is to be credited to Katie Barry, a diminutive newcomer, who, by reason of a quaint personality, a semblance of buoyant good nature and ability in the direction of grotesque activity, scored an unusual success with an audience that was not always as discriminating as it was demonstrative. From the occasion of her first entrance through the successive drolleries in which she figured, as well as in her individual songs, which proved among the most diverting features of the entertainment, Miss Barry’s efforts provided occasion for much spontaneous laughter. Entirely unknown here up to last night, her success is, therefore, a fact to be recorded.
‘Another surprise of the evening was provided by Aimee Angeles, who blossomed forth as an imitator of no mean ability, to the satisfaction of those who had heretofore known her simply as a graceful dance in the Weber and Fields ranks. The enthusiasm evoked by her mimicry, in which she was admirably assisted by William Pruette, was unbounded.
‘Mention of these distinctly favored features of the new musical comedy seem fitting in the very beginning for such success as the piece achieved is largely due to the efforts of the actors, and to those of the scene painters and costumers. If the author of the book and the composer of the music had been as successful as those who had the setting forth of their work, praise, which must now be qualified, might be accorded without stint. But there is little in the book, which is by George Dance, that provides any occasion for humor, and most of Howard Talbot’s music, which it is not reminiscent, is lacking in such tunefulness as is required to make it of the essentially popular sort. One has passed the stage nowadays of asking for great originality in such composition – or, at any rate, one is mightily surprised if it is forthcoming. But that the tunes shall fall pleasingly on the ear and that they shall come readily to the lips of whistlers and singers – that may be fairly demanded. Perhaps after a few nights, too, the tendency toward ear-crashing effects in the rendering of the choruses will have been overcome – that may well be hoped for, for last night noise, rather than melody, marked much of what was sung.
‘In point of lavishness of production A Chinese Honeymoon is entitled to much praise. The two scenes – ”the garden of the hotel at Yiang Yiang” and ”the room in the Emperor’s palace” – are well painted, and the pictures presented, with many richly dressed women on the stage, is one of Oriental splendor. In the combinations of colors one notes the absence of those faults in taste which so often mar. An exceptionally pretty and novel effect was obtained in the second act, where disappearing and reappearing lines of chorus girls in bright colored gowns provide a panorama of changing color.
‘The story of the Chinese Honeymoon is not important. It concerns one Simon Pineapple, who goes to China on a honeymoon with his bride, under the somewhat unusual conditions of being accompanied by her eight bridesmaids. The chief uses of these bridesmaids is apparently to blow screeching whistles, which add to the general clamor, and to wear ”creations” in the now absolutely essential ”octet speciality” [a reference to Leslie Stuart’s song, ‘Tell Me Pretty Maiden' from Florodora (1899]. Pineapple meets in China his nephew, Tom Hatherton, who is there for the purpose of falling in love with Soo Soon, the Emperor’s niece, Fifi, a waitress in a hotel, is in love with Tom, but sacrifices herself to make that worthy young man happy. The Emperor has ordered his Lord Chancellor to find him a bride, one of the conditions being that the aspirant for that position shall not known the real rank of her fiance-to-be, but shall be allowed to think that he is a bill-poster. Various complications result through the peculiarities of the Chinese laws. Pineapple finds himself married to his niece-that-was-to-be and Hatherton’s intended bride becomes his aunt-in-law. It may readily be observed, therefore, that atmosphere is not entirely forgotten even to the extent of providing a Chinese puzzle in the disposing of the variously related persons.
‘Thomas Q. Seabrooke, who played ”Pineapple,” won favor for a song, ”Mr. Dooley” and Van Renssalear Wheeler was particularly favored for his number, ”I Love Her.” Edwin Stevens was successful as the emperor, as was Amelia Stone, the ”Soo Soo”.’
(The New York Times, New York, Tuesday, 3 June 1902, p. 9a)

* * * * *

Katie Barry (whose real name appears to have been Catherine Patricia Rafferty or, possibly, Laverty), was a niece of the actor and playwright, George Conquest (1837-1901), sometime manager of the Grecian Theatre in the City Road, London. She is said to have been born in London about 1869 and her career began as a small child at the behest of her uncle. She subsequently had a very busy career, including a tour of Australia in the late 1888s, before going to the United States in 1902 to star as Fifi in A Chinese Honeymoon. Miss Barry remained in America, where she became very popular, both in musical comedy and in vaudeville. Her career appears to have ended upon her marriage in 1908 as the second wife of Julius Scharmann (1867?-1914), a widower with three children and a member of the well-known brewing firm of H.B. Scharmann & Sons of 355-375 Pulaski Street, Brooklyn, New York. Mr Scharmann committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver on 3 December 1914. It was said that he was grieving over the recent death of his closest friend, Ferdinand Schwanenfingel (various contemporary reports, including The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,, New York City, Thursday, 3 December 1914, p. 1c). It is assumed that Mrs Scharmann (Katie Barry) remained in the United States but her whereabouts following the death of her husband is as yet unknown.

Katie Barry’s recording (Columbia 1797, circa May 1904) of ‘I Want to Be a Lidy’ is included on the CD, Music from The New York Stage, 1890-1920, vol. I, Disc 2, no. 11.

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Ben Greet’s Company on tour in The Casino Girl, 1901

October 10, 2014

Ben Greet’s Company on tour in The Casino Girl at the New Theatre, Cambridge, for three nights beginning Monday, 2 December 1901. The cast was headed by Isa Bowman as Laura Lee and Gabrielle Ray as Dolly Twinkle. Ethel Allandale, as Lotta Rocks, was also in the cast; she later became a member of G.H. Pelissier‘s ‘The Follies.’
(programme printed by Cowell, Ipswich)

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Marie Löhr, Australian-born English actress, photographed in London, circa 1907

October 8, 2014

Marie Löhr (1890-1975), Australian-born English actress
(photo: Dover Street Studios, London, circa 1907)

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