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Fascinating Flora

July 4, 2013

members of the chorus in Fascinating Flora, a musical comedy by R.H. Burnside and Joseph W. Herbert, with music by Gustav Kerker, Casino Theatre, New York, 20 May 1907
(photo: unknown, New York, 1907)

‘Fascinating Flora is just another musical concoction built along the same lines as scores of predecessors. Nothing but the expected happens; choruses sing, dance, and stand in line, smile, wear colored clothes; principals get into trouble and out of it, burst into song at intervals commensurate with their importance, make jokes about New York, do specialities of more or less cleverness; the curtain falls to divide the evening into two parts; the orchestra plays the air that the promoters hope will be popular. The whole thing is done according to formula as accurately as a prescription is compounded in a drug store. And the audience, strictly ritualistic as a musical comedy audience always is, is pleased.

‘It is the ingredients, the individuals and what they do that makes the success of a musical comedy. Fascinating Flora has the advantage of being made of good material. Its present faults are the faults of youth; the mixture has not aged sufficiently to develop effervescence and flavor.

‘The lady of the title is, of course, an actress, in this case an opera prima donna. She has deserted her husband on account of his incorrigible goodness and is seeking means of divorcing him in order to marry her impresario, Gulliver Gayboy. The desolate husband, Alphonse Alligretti, conducts a musical school in Paris, where the first act takes place. He attends a ball, becomes compromised with his wife’s maid, Fifi, suffers many tortures of conscience, and is received again into the affections of Flora. Incidental to the two acts there develop several complications relating to stock of a mining property owned by an impecunious German, Professor Ludwig Wagner, a series of love affairs between an operatic tenor, Edouard Valliere, and Rose Gayboy; a stock broker, Jack Graham, and Dolly Wagner; and a purely platonic friendship between Winnie Wiggles, who has taken vocal culture in a correspondence school, and Baron Reynard, an ancient patron of music. The first scene of the second act occurs in a broker’s office in New York, and the second scene takes place at Manhattan Beach. Some of the novel features are a duet between Winnie Wiggles and Caruso, the latter represented by a phonograph; a “Subway Express” song, with the chorus impersonating passengers in a Subway car; a ballooning episode that came too late on the opening night to be effective, and a dancing number by a dozen girls dressed as messenger boys. A bathing girl number in the second act promised well but failed to arouse much interest.

‘Adele Ritchie in the leading role of Flora played much in her usual manner. Of her two solos, a march song called “Yankee Land” has a catchy air. In the topical songs, “What Will Happen Then?” sung with Allegretti and Gayboy; “The Subway Express,” in which Allegretti has the other “Ballooning,” sung with the chorus, Miss Ritchie acquitted herself well. Louis Harrison was very agreeable in the role of Allegretti, and his own song, “Romance and Reality,” with music by Sloane, was the most favored vocal number after “The Subway Express.” Fred Bond as Gulliver Gayboy played with his customary ease and understanding. James E. Sullivan as Professor Ludwig Wagner was the conventional German, rather funny than otherwise. Charles Jackson, as Baron Reynard and Edward M. Favor as Edouard Valliere both added to the comedy element. Ella Snyder made an attractive Dolly, but Kathlee Clifford was dull and neutral as Rose. Tremont Benton had no chance to shine in the role of Fifi.
‘The really best work in the piece was done, as usual, by Ada Lewis. Her intelligent appreciation of the value of seriousness in burlesque makes her appearance in a musical play a surety of at least one interesting feature. In Fascinating Flora she has an inconspicuous part, but it becomes the most prominent through her work in it.
‘The staging of the play is elaborate. A clever dark change is made in the second act, from the interior of a broker’s office to the front of a hotel at Manhattan Beach. The color scheme of the first act is discordant. The chorus is dressed in light blue, pink and lavender, and the scenery is painted light green, with lavender trimmings.’
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 1 June 1907, p.3a)
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