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Gabrielle Ray, English musical comedy dancer and actress

July 7, 2013

Gabrielle Ray (née Gabrielle Elizabeth Clifford Cook, 1883-1973), English musical comedy dancer and actress
(photo: Bassano, London, probably 1909)

‘… To-day, in musical comedy it is the day of Mr Sydney Ellison [1870-1930, who in 1900 married Kate Cutler]. To hear a new number – a pretty tune, some smart lyrics, a pretty woman to sing and dance – and to see it on the night, and to mark the vast difference between the one and the other, is to see where the genius of the producer comes in. The newest sample of his work will be seen at the Gaiety on Wednesday, when ”The Orchid” will be brought up to date with new songs and dances.
‘Mr Ellison -small, alert, active, quiet, vivacious, restrained, and, above all, with a marvellous grasp of every tiny detail, from the set of a scene to the shoelace of a chorus girl – is a wonderful type of a modern institution… .
‘To appreciate his skill, one must know that he sings, dances, designs costumes, paints pictures, acts, and nothing is too smell or too trivial for him to lavish his care upon. He will invent a step for a dance, plan a mechanical change of scenery, or design a colour scheme with equal facility, and some of his finest effects come to him on the spur of the moment.
‘He taught a Parisian company the cake-walk when he went over to produce ”Florodora,” and he produced ”Veronique” for Mr George Edwardes [at the Apollo, 18 May 1904], and he worked out the decorative embellishments of ”The Orchid” when the new Gaiety stage was literally in the hands of the builders, carrying the thing through to a triumphant and gorgeous success on a ”first night” [26 October 1903] that will long be remembered by all those who were privileged to be present… .
‘Miss Gabrielle Ray, slim and graceful, tucks up her long silk walking skirt, takes off her big black hat, pats the wayward mass of shimmering hair, and sings her new song, the ”Promenade des Anglais,” that is going into the Carnival scene. Her voice is barely audible beyond the tall bracket with the lights, under which Mr Ellison stands and directs; but every action, every look even, is as it will be on the night. The verse ended, the chorus is given with a swing and a go quite irresistible even at twelve o’clock on a damp drizzly morning. Then Miss Ray dances.
‘Suddenly a brilliant idea strikes Mr. Ellison. She must do a complete turnover as a startling exit. Miss Ray, quick to respond to originality, sees it in an instant. With two of the chorus ladies as a sort of fulcrum, Miss Ray turns over, laughing the while, a swish of the skirts, and she alights on the dainty tips of her dainty toes. ”Excellent!” says Mr. Ellison. ”Oh! it’s really quite easy,” laughs Miss Gabrielle Ray. But those who know will tell you that the acrobatic feat, so neatly and withal so gracefully accomplished, involves thought and agility to bring it about.’
(Wakeling Dry, ‘Making Musical Comedy,’ from the Daily Express, London, reprinted in the The Wanganui Chronicle, Wanganui, New Zealand, 25 January 1905, p. 5g)

‘Concerning Gabrielle Ray, it may be of interest to note that here is a prime West End favorite who has won a foremost place in her particular section with no special gifts beyond those of comeliness and that indefinable quality of attractiveness which her countless admirers express in the phrase of ”awfully sweet.”
‘Wins By Sheer Magnetism.
‘Even among the easily-pleased patrons of musical comedy the girls who are singled out for distinction have to make good either as singers, dancers or comedians but the case of Gabrielle Ray is an exception. Accomplishing nothing with special ability, she still has contrived by sheer magnetism of the prime favorites of the hallowed precincts of Daly’s and the immediate neighborhood. Ask an ardent admirer just why he goes to see her and he answers, ”Oh, she’s quite charming,” and you have to let it go at that… . As a picture postcard subject she is an easy winner from all rivals.’
(The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Sunday, 19 March 1911, p. 21c/d)

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