programme cover for the burlesque, Joan of Arc, Opera Comique, London, 1891

May 8, 2014

cover of one of the programmes printed for the burlesque, Joan of Arc, which ran at the Opera Comique, London, from 17 January until 17 July 1891, after which it was toured in the United Kingdom. A second edition of the piece then opened at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 30 September 1891 before being transferred to the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, on 22 December 1891, where it finally closed on 15 January 1892.
(lithograph by Holdsworths for The Edwardes Menu Co Ltd; printed for the Edwardes Menu Co Ltd, 6 Adam Street, Adelphi, London, by G. Harmsworth & Co, Hart Street, Covent Garden, London, WC, 1891)

‘Redecorated in a warm and rich style, and much improved from the point of view of the comfort, convenience, and safety of visitors, the Opera Comique reopened its doors on Saturday evening to receive a crowded audience, manifestly rejoicing in the addition of a second burlesque house to the list of London theatres. The Opera Comique, however, is now something more than this; it is a burlesque house under the direction of a manager who comes with the prestige of the immense popularity of the Gaiety. That Mr. George Edwardes was attending to his new charge in his own person was shown by the promptitude with which he appeared before the curtain to repress a rather noisy demonstration in the gallery just before the commencement of Messrs. [J.L.] Shine, [Adrian] Ross, and Osmond Carr’s new operatic burlesque of Joan of Arc. ”Is there anything you want?” inquired Mr. Edwardes, and the same question had been puzzling the quieter portion of the audience unable to distinguish words amidst the confused babel of sounds. Could it be that there were purists in the gallery who objected to the perversion of a noble historical episode? The management appeared to have had some misgivings on that score; for by way of preface to the book some one had contributed an apology in the form of a very gracefully-turned and really poetical sonnet, which out to have appeased the ire of any Frenchmen present. As it was rumoured, however, the trouble was nothing but a rather scant supply of programmes. It would have been well if the louder demonstration towards the close of the performance had been on no more substantial ground; but the truth is that, in spite of public explanations and anticipatory disclaimers, there was a considerable part of the audience who took offence at Mr. Arthur Roberts’s strike solo and still more at the alternate choruses of railway guards, policemen, postmen, messengers, dockers, and colliers. On the whole, however, Joan of Arc was indulgently received in spite of the fact that the humours of the first act were rather forced and the whole piece something wanting in the prettiness and quaint drollery to which the frequenters of the Gaiety have been accustomed. The most amusing thing was the duet ”Round the Town” between Mr. Roberts and Mr. Charles Danby, attired as two costermongers who are supposed to have arrived with a huge barrow of provisions for the relief of the besieged city of Orleans. Miss Emma Chambers, who has returned to our stage after a long absence, sings, dances, and utters her lines with unabated sprightliness, but does not do much to identify herself with the Maid of Orleans beyond donning brilliant armour, waving the Royal Standard of France, and finally turning up in the market place at Rouen, there to be unhistorically rescued from the stake. Mr. [J.L.] Shine, as King Charles VII., laboured under the disadvantage of a hoarseness which finally rendered him almost inaudible. The humour of Miss Alma Stanley’s Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury appeared to be chiefly in embroidering her costumes with the initials with which certain cabs have rendered the eyes of Londoners familiar. Miss Phyllis Broughton brought to the performance her graceful talents as a dancer; as did a new and valuable recruit to the burlesque stage in the person of Miss Katie Seymour, while Miss Grace Pedley’s agreeable presence and well-trained voice served her well in the part of the Queen of France. Provided with brilliant costumes, picturesque scenery, and very tuneful music, Joan of Arc is probably destined to enjoy some measure of success.’
(The Daily News, London, Monday, 19 January 1891, p. 3c)


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