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Lila Clay and her Musical and Dramatic Company of Ladies

February 17, 2013

cover of the programme for the appearance of
Lila Clay and her Musical and Dramatic Company of Ladies,
including Emma D’Auban, Lizzie Comyns, Alice Aynsley Cook,
Little Birdie Brightling (the Banjo Queen), Cora Cardigan and others,
Opera Comique Theatre, London, first night, Monday, 9 October 1882
(printed by R. Wilson & Co, Dorset Buildings, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, EC, 1882)

‘The Lord Chamberlain tells the proprietors of some of the minor theatre that they must keep their programmes tolerably free of the music-hall staple, but he tolerates the experiment of Miss Lila Clay, which, with all its virtues, is eminently music-hally.
‘Miss Lila Clay is what would be called a very interesting-looking young lady, and as she pressed the forte pedal with that dainty little foot on Monday [9 October 1882], one would hardly wonder that Brinsmead’s “grand” got more demonstrative. There are several very charming countenances to be seen in this troupe.
‘Not the least amusing part of the performances on Monday was to see Miss Clara Douglas go on with her singing while a couple of her fair colleagues were repairing the damage done by an unfortunate lace, which, in the elegant language of the late Mr. Buckstone, had “busted”.’
(The Entr’acte, London, Saturday, 14 October 1882, p.4b)

‘THE OPERA COMIQUE.
‘The experiment made by Miss Lila Clay and her troupe of performers on Monday may be said, perhaps, to be more odd than satisfying. It is an every-day matter to see members of the stronger sex doing duty in the orchestra, but it is an uncommon event to find daintily-dressed young ladies tootling flutes and scraping away at double-bases. It seems a pity that the more blatant instruments of the ordinary orchestra have not a place here, for though the lady who manipulates the contra-basso, displaying a fine, bare arm as she contrives her vigorous bowing, is attractive as a spectacle, she would be sill more effective if, with distended cheeks, she had to wrestle with the trombone or euphonium. The orchestra is destitute of brass; and this, for more than one reason, is to be deplored. Miss Lila Clay, the young lady who controls this enterprise, is a pianiste of good parts, and though on Monday she did not choose to interpret the work of any great master, she chose a trifle which, perhaps, better suited a miscellaneous audience, and treated it in such a manner as must have convinced her hearers that she is possessed of considerable executive skill.
‘The first portion of the programme, entitled Something New, consists of those items which are generally employed in making up the first part of a minstrel entertainment. The opening chorus, given by the whole strength of the company, was followed by “La Serenata,” sung by Miss Ada West. Not the least satisfactory feature of this contribution was the obbligato for violoncello, most ably and tastefully played by Miss A. Porter. Miss Fanny Howell sang “The Funny Little Woman.” This lady is the “bones” of the company, and it may be said that she is more of a humourist than a vocalist. The flute solo, which came next, and for which Miss Cora Cardigan made herself responsible, was one of the greatest, if not the chief, success of the opening section of the entertainment. This was a thoroughly legitimate performance, and the spontaneous manner in which the audience cheered and encored it testified to its effectiveness. Miss Emma D’Auban’s comic song, “Isn’t he good looking?” was given with excellent point. Miss D’Auban is one of the two “corner” ladies of the troupe, and the arch humour she infused into her performances helped to proclaim her fitness for the situation. Miss Edith Vane gave “Little birds are sleeping” so satisfactorily as to gain the distinction of an encore, and the same compliment was awarded to Miss Clara Douglas for a rendering of “There’s lots of fun in London.” But for legitimate singing, there was nothing that could compare with that of Miss Alice Aynsley Cook. This lady sang a very pretty and original type of song called “Dreaming,” and by her interpretation proved that she rejoices in not only an excellent voice and educated method, but that she is in possession of something beyond all that culture can bring. Miss Cook evidently feels all she sings, and her earnestness is communicated to her audience with unerring celerity.

Emma D'Auban
caricature by Alfred Bryan of Emma D’Auban (née Warde, 1842-1910; married John D’Auban, 1871),
English dancer and singer
(The Entr’acte, London, Saturday, 25 November 1882, p.9)

‘After the first portion of the programme had been brought to a close by a chorus in which the strength of the entire company was asserted, Miss Rose Arnoldi sung and danced, Miss Pauline Feathersby rendered a not particularly original ballad, supported by harp accompaniment, and Miss Katie Logan sung a topical song, written by Mr. John Dallas. Then followed an “American Boot Dance,” in which the performers, in black knee-breeches and white stockings, danced and posed effectively, after the manner which has been employed in several of the ballets designed by Mr. John D’Auban at one establishment and another. In this, [his daughter] Miss Emma D’Auban took the principal part.
‘The only dramatic feature of the entertainment – and he would be a bold man who would construe this as a stage play – was to be found in a bagatelle, entitled, On Condition, which serves the purpose of fitting some of the members of the company with parts which are supposed to suit their capabilities. Paul d’Esparre, a wealthy harlequin, is supposed to be dead, and an aunt and a male and female cousin believe that his property comes to them. Paul is not dead, however, but with the object of being revenged for the insults they have heaped on his sister for following the acting profession, he disguises himself, and professes to be a friend of the supposed dead man. He is in possession of a last will and testament, and the document demands all legatees to appear at a certain time and place, attired in a Pierrot costume, failing which their claims will be ignored. This is the “condition” which is suggested by the title, and when it has been fulfilled and the three interested persons, who have a horror of everything appertaining to the mountebank calling, appear in this garb, they discover that it has all been a practical joke devised by Paul, who is by no means dead, but who has served them this cruel trick in return for the contemptuous treatment they have warded his sister because she is an actress. The music wedded to this text is by Mr. Meyer Lutz, and is pretty, but the piece itself, wh9ich has evidently been written to order, does not possess sufficient body to interest a London audience. One or two of the ladies employed in this are somewhat too pronounced in the attitudes they strike; their poses being redolent of anything but refinement. Miss Alice Cook again in this asserts herself, not only as a most capable vocalist, but as an actress of talent; while Miss Emma D’Aubin relieves the general despondency by a brilliantly-executed hornpipe.
‘Miss Lila Clay can easily alter the programme, and no doubt she will soon see the necessity of doing this. At times on Monday evening Alice Aynsley Cook such as when Miss Cook sang, Miss Cardigan played, and Miss D’Auban danced – the audience were quite enthusiastic. Miss Clay is too observant not to have noticed these outward and visible signs, and we doubt not that her future programmes will be influenced by such manifestations.’
(The Entr’acte, London, Saturday, 14 October 1882, p.6a/b)

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