Posts Tagged ‘Drury Lane Theatre (London)’

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Sophie Eyre, Irish born actress, photographed by Sarony, New York, circa 1885

January 18, 2015

Sophie Eyre (1853?-1892), Irish born dramatic Actress
(cabinet photo: Sarony, New York, circa 1885)

‘THE LATE SOPHIE EYRE
‘The death is announced at Naples, Italy, Nov. 5 [1892], of Sophie Eyre, the well known leading lady. She had been sojourning in that city, and succumbed to an attack of heart disease. Six years ago, Sophie Eyre told THE CLIPPER the story of her life. She was born Sophia Lillian Ryan, at Tipperary, Ire., about 1857, and was the daughter of Maj. Ryan. At the age of seventeen she married Maj. Lonsdale, of the Seventh English Hussars, and went with her husband to India, where, at nineteen, she became a widow. Returning to England, she followed an inclination, which, in an amateur way, had manifested itself while she was quite young, and adopted the stage. Her first professional appearance was made at the Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, Eng., in a small part, and she remained at that house six months. Then she went on a provincial tour in ”Diplomacy,” playing Zicka. The following season she made another tour of the English provinces, doing the lead and playing at all the principal theatres of Great Britain outside of London. The Summer of that year she filled in with the stock at the Torquay Theatre. About May, 1882, she went to London and made her debut June 17 at a special matinee at the Adelphi Theatre as Queen Anne in the historical play, ”The Double Rose,” after which Aug. Harris, of the Drury Lane Theatre, engaged her to support Ristori at his house. Then she signed with the management of the Adelphi, and appeared Nov. 18, 1882, in ”Love and Money.” Later she acted in ”Rachel the Reaper,” after which she returned to the Drury Lane. On March 5, 1884, she created the title role in Sydney Hodges’ ”Gabrielle” at the Gaiety Theatre, London. A few weeks later Lester Wallack engaged her for this country, and she made her American debut June 23, 1884, at Utica, N.Y., with the Wallack Co. in the title role of ”Lady Clare.” She traveled through the West, and in California, about January of 1885, she married Chauncey R. Winslow [1860-1909], a resident of Cincinnati, O. Her New York debut was accomplished Oct. 26, 1885, in ”In His Power,” at Wallack’s. The play was a failure, and was immediately withdrawn. Then Miss Eyre went on the road by arrangement with Mr. Wallack, at the head of Charles Frohman’s Co., playing ”La Belle Russe.” Later Miss Eyre had trouble with Mr. Wallack, and withdrew from the theatre. She was in 1888 divorced from Mr. Winslow, and had since married again.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 12 November 1892, p. 573b/c, with engraved portrait)

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‘Kyrle Bellew, Mr. Wallack’s latest imported leading man, is also an ex-Australian… . He has put Mr. Wallack in an unpleasant predicament. Miss Sophie Eyre was engaged for leading parts this season and Mr. Bellew absolutely refuses to play with her on the ground that she is too large and would spoil his appearance on the stage. So much for having a petted actor in a company… .’
(Newark Daily Advocate, Newark, Ohio, 11 December 1885, p. 3c)

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Louie Freear as Reggie in The Babes in the Wood, Theatre Royal, Manchester, Christmas 1898

January 10, 2015

Louie Freear (1871-1939), English actress and singer, as she appeared as Reggie the boy babe in The Babes in the Wood, the pantomime produced at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, on 24 December 1898.
(photo: Lafayette, Manchester, 1898/99; for another pose from this sitting, see The Sketch, London, Wednesday, 15 March 1899, p. 330)

‘A curious and interesting experiment will be tried in Manchester at Christmas [1898]. When the Drury-lane Babes in the Wood is reproduced at the Theatre Royal. Mr Dan Leon’s part will be played by Miss Louie Freear, who is to have the noble salary of £110 a-week. The girl babe [Chrissie] will be Mr [John] Brabourne.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 7 May 1898, p. 12a)

‘The pantomime of The Babes in the Wood, which was produced at Drury-lane last year with Mr Dan Leno as a central figure, has been transplanted to the Theatre Royal, Manchester. With its adornment of local allusions and up-to-date matter of general interest, and the inevitable fun which must ever attend the efforts of such favourites as Miss Maggie Duggan [Prince Paragon], Miss Louie Freear, and Mr Thomas E. Murray [the Baron], the revivified Babes in the Wood promises to have a most successful run. One scene which promised to develop as a mirth-provoking incident of the pantomime is a schoolroom episode which even at this early period provides a fund of irresistible merriment. Another novelty of the pantomime, s those who saw it in London well know, is that the babes, Miss Louie Freear and Mr Brabourne, are not the usual innocent victims of a designing baron. They are real, live babes with a penchant for mischief which provokes merriment all round, and Miss Louie Freear’s dry humour, which takes the form of a quiet, spontaneous wit, rather than vivacious liveliness, is droll and invigorating in the extreme… .’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 31 December 1898, p. 24d)

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Louie Freear (real name Louisa Freear), one of the children of Henry Butler Freear (1840/41-1879), an actor, and his wife Mary (née Burke, 1835-), was baptised at St. John’s, Waterloo Road, Lambeth, Surrey, on 17 December 1871. Both her parents were born in Ireland, where they were married in 1860. She was married in 1912 to Charles Shepherd (who is thought to have died in 1963) and died in 1939.

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Alexandra Dagmar and Edmond DeCelle, duettists, United States and United Kingdom, 1890s

December 24, 2014

Dagmar and DeCelle (active 1890s), Anglo-American duettists: Alexandra Dagmar (1868-1940), English music hall vocalist and pantomime principal boy, and Edmond DeCelle (1854?-1920), American tenor
(cabinet photo: Robinson & Roe, 54 West 14th Street, New York, and 77 & 79 Clark Street, Chicago, circa 1890)

‘A CHAT WITH MISS DAGMAR.
‘(By Our Special Commissioner.)
‘Few of the critics, lay and professional, who waxed so enthusiastic over Miss Dagmar’s performance in the pantomime [Cinderella, produced on 24 December 1894] at [the Metropole Theatre] Camberwell had any idea that the lady then made her first appearance in the capacity of a principal boy. But such was the case. Previously Miss Dagmar had appeared on our variety stage, and, as she is an important from America, the impression prevailed that she is a product of the United States. But that is not the case. Miss Dagmar is a London girl, of Danish parents, which may account for her Junoesque proportions and wondrously fair hair. Her association with the stage began some ten years ago, when a friend of the family, remarking her beautiful voice, suggested a professional career. Miss Dagmar was delighted by the very thought. Her father, however, was reluctant, and it was some time ere he could be prevailed upon to let his daughter avail herself of an introduction to Miss Sarah Thorne. But at length all obstacles were overcome, and Miss Alexandra Dagmar became a very humble member of the theatrical profession, playing a fairy, ”of something of that kind,” she vaguely recalls, in a travelling pantomime, on the old subject of ”Peter Wilkins.” She has a vivid recollection of papa escorting her to Maidstone and committing her to the sober and respectable care of a temperance hotel.
‘But good luck was in store for her – good luck that grew, as it sometimes will, out of another’s misfortune. The second girl fell ill – Miss Dagmar was, after no more than a week’s experience, promoted to the part thus vacated, and continued to play it during the fifteen weeks ensuing. Her great effort was a ballad entitled ”Waiting.” Miss Dagmar recalls that one of her companions during a delightful engagement was none other than Miss Janet Achurch, who played the Fairy Queen. After an experience on the stage as free from temptation and knowledge of the great world as a sojourn in a seminary might be, Miss Dagmar returned to the bosom of her family, and her further devotion to the stage was regarded with much disfavour. But the circumstances of her friends underwent a sudden change, and Miss Dagmar was, in fact, quite grateful for the necessity to make the most of her talent. The most lucrative engagement that offered was to visit America, and there join the Boston Redpath Lyceum Bureau.
‘This is a curious and interesting organisation. It forms concert parties and other entertaining bodies, and sends them the round of high-class social institutions – literary society, young men’s Christian associations, and the like. The performances were given in evening dress, and were as proper as proper could be. The company that Miss Dagmar first joined had especially a German character, and she became a notable singer of Volkslieder. For several years Miss Dagmar travelled with the Redpath Lyceum companies; and here one Mr De Celle appears on the scene. Mr De Celle comes from Chicago, and has all his life been devoted to music – as a singer and as a manager for eminent performers. In his time has has, for instance, engineered Remenyi and Ovide Musin, the violinists. Mr De Celle was the manager of the Lyceum company to which Miss Dagmar belonged, and took a special interest in the development of her voice. Some four years ago [sic] they were married.
‘When Miss Dagmar left the Redpath Lyceum she soon found herself in great request with the managers of high-class variety entertainments. At Koster and Bial’s, for instance, she is a great favourite. Alone, or as eventually she appeared, in association with Mr De Celle, Miss Dagmar has appeared at Koster and Bial’s for two years in the aggregate, and she rejoices in a general invitation from Mr Albert Bial to make the famous variety theatre her home. At first Miss Dagmar used to sing on the variety stage in evening dress. Then she had the happy thought of giving in costume excerpts from popular operas, her husband also taking part. The managers of the American theatres, so Miss Dagmar tells you, look upon the variety performer with friendly toleration. ”Sing your exceprt,” they say, ”and welcome. So far from your injuring us, you give us a valuable advertisement.” So Mr De Celle and his wife acquired a vast repertory of operatic fragments. An except from La Cigale was a notable favourite with American audiences. But when the duettists reached England a stern copyright law assailed their repertory on every side, and decimated it. They are left with nothing much to sing besides their always popular jödel. And the worst of it is, pay what money they will for original compositions, they get nothing to suit them.
‘One has run ahead a little. From time to time, ere yet they left America, Miss Dagmar and Mr de Celle appeared with ”combinations,” and notably with Mr William A. Brady‘s companies. They appeared in the variety scene when he produced After Dark, and when eventually he set out with Gentleman Jack, they ”supported” Mr Jim Corbett during a tour of the phenomenal success. Miss Dagmar, in making up her mind to visit England some nine months ago, had two objects in view. She wanted to ”go in for” a severe course of study; and she wanted to distinguish herself as a burlesque boy. Alas! burlesque boys were not in strong demand, and Miss Dagmar determined on a pilgrimage to Italy. But Mr. Brady, then about to exploit Corbett over here, begged his old friends to join him; and so they did, although there were not able to take part in the first week’s performances of Gentleman Jack at Drury-lane [21 April-5 May 1894]. This, by the way, was a memorable period of Miss Dagmar’s life. She wore tights for the first time! One’s demand for a full and particular account of the sensations that a young lady experiences in such circumstances is doomed to disappointment, for Miss Dagmar says, ”Well, you may call it the first time; for I had just had them on previously. That that began my career as a stage boy.”
‘London music hall managers were quick to appreciate the worth of the new turn. Since Miss Dagmar and Mr De Celle arrived in London they have never been out of an engagement, their notable successes having been achieved at the Palace Theatre, the Alhambra, and the Royal. Their services have been secured for well nigh six months to come, and during the spring and early summer they will visit a series of the great continental music halls. Meanwhile, neither of the objects that Miss Dagmar had in view when she determined to come to London has been lost sight of. She meant to study, and she is studying very diligently, with Mr [Albert] Visetti, at the Guildhall School of Music. As to the principal boy? Well, here is the progress of the principal boy. The tantalising delays attendant upon the completion of his theatre at Camberwell left Mr [John Brennan] Mulholland in grave doubt as to whether he should be able to do a pantomime this year or not. When at length he could make arrangements there was probably the shortest space of time at his disposal that ever a manager dared to contemplate for the preparation of a Christmas annual. But he had many potent influences at command, and with wondrous tact and energy he manipulated them to the point of success. Who should be principal boy? That was, indeed, a momentous question. Would Miss Dagmar like the engagement, said her agent? Was not Miss Dagmar, indeed, dying to show London what she could do in this capacity[?] She set to work, and for the first time in her life found herself an important figure in the development of a story on the stage. Miss Dagmar is perfectly delighted with her success. And, indeed, her ambition has received a particular incentive that is not yet the time to disclose. But the variety stage may, at any rate, take a hint to make the most of her while it can. Camberwell is not so very far from the Strand – nor too far for the excursions of observant managers, with eyes wide open when new ”talent” is airing itself, and words of honey on their lips when the discussion of future arrangements begins. Of one thing Miss Dagmar is quite certain. She never had a happier thought than when she determined, after so long an interval, to resume her theatrical career in circumstances curiously similar to those wherein she left it. The years ago she played in a pantomime with conspicuous success, and by the way of a pantomime she has stepped into a position of gratifying distinction on the London stage.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 January 1895, p. 11e)

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Alexandra Dagmar as Dandini in the pantomime Cinderella, Drury Lane Theatre, Christmas 1895

December 24, 2014

Alexandra Dagmar (1868-1940), English music hall vocalist and pantomime principal boy as Dandini in the Ballroom Scene of the pantomime Cinderella, produced at Drury Lane Theatre on Boxing Night, 26 December 1895.
(cabinet size photo: Alfred Ellis, 20 Upper Baker Street, London, W, negative no. 20706-7, early 1896)

‘Miss Alexandra Dagmar, the Dandini, is an accomplished vocalist, and her singing adds much to the general effect.’
(The Standard, London, Friday, 27 December 1895, p. 2b)

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Alexandra Dagmar, whose real name was Dagmar Alexandra Heckell, was born in Polar, east London, on 13 March 1868, one of the daughters of her Danish-born parents, Charles Heckell (1828?-1889), a ship’s chandler (bankrupt, 1868) and later a wholesale provision merchant, and his wife, Christine (1833?-1898).

Miss Dagmar first came to general notice on 8 November 1884 under the management of ‘Lord’ George Sanger at his Grand National Amphitheatre, Westminster Bridge Road, London. Sanger, who billed her as ‘First appearance in England of the celebrated American actress Miss Grant Washington,’ cast her as Richard, Duke of Glo’ster to appear in ‘the Fifth Act of ”Richard III.,” portraying the Battle of Bosworth Field and Death of White Surrey – a scene of unparalleled effect.’ (The Era, London, Saturday, 1 November 1884, p. 16b) ‘… and then the last act of ”Richard III.” was given, an especial novelty being the representation of the chief personages by ladies. It had certainly a comic effect when Miss Grant Washington appeared as the crook-backed tyrant with beard and moustache, fighting and declaiming in the most ”robustious” manner. If Shakespeare was shaky it could not be denied that Miss Grant Washington was a handsome young lady with a fine figure and a good voice, and her rendering of Richard was vigorous in the extreme.’ (The Morning Post, London, Monday, 10 November 1884, p. 2f)

Miss Dagmar subsequently toured the United States under the auspices of the Boston Redpath Lyceum Bureau. Here she met Edmond DeCelle (1854?-1920), a tenor, and the couple were married in New York in 1888; their son, Edmond Carl DeCelle (1890-1972), became an artist and costume designer. Mr and Mrs DeCelle subsequently appeared for a few years together on both sides of the Atlantic, billed as Dagmar and DeCelle, before Miss Dagmar resumed her solo career. She appears to have retired on the outbreak of the First World War, after which she and her family resided exclusively in America.

Alexandra Dagmar died in Mobile, Alabama, on 8 December 1940.

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Fitzsimmons & Flory, American vaudeville entertainers

November 21, 2014

Fitzsimmons & Flory (active 1926-1927), American vaudeville entertainers, as they appeared on tour in the United States during 1926 and 1927 in ‘A Novel Comedy Diversion’ entitled By the Weight?
(photo: Sussman, 305 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1926/27)

Before teaming up with Mlle. Flory in 1926, Billy Fitzsimmons had been on the vaudeville circuits in the United States for some years, notably in 1918 with Florence Normand, whom he had married he had married on 9 November 1917 at City Hall, New York, in Trimmings, a comedy skit (Variety, New York, Friday, 9 November 1917, p. 25c; The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Wednesday, 11 September 1918, p. 2a). Between 1921 and 1925 he toured with Joe Shriner in ‘a new comedy diversion’ entitled The Newsdealer.

Mlle. Flory was known as Jeanette Fleury before the fall of 1926 and her appearances with Billy Fitzsimmons. The reason for her change of name is unknown but it is remarkable in the light of the widely reported suicide at Drury Lane Theatre, London, on 17 June that year of the well-known French actress and singer, Regine Flory.

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Keith’s Vaudeville at Fairfax Theatre, Miami, Florida, week of Monday, 23 April 1923
‘Joe Shriner and William Fitzsimmons have a novel comedy entitled ”The Newsdealer.” This little sketch portrays an old man of 92 as the newsdealer, while Shriner as an actor brings in much witticisms in this conversation with the newsdealer. They offer many songs of the rag time variety as well as the old ones of yesterday.’
(The Miami Daily Metropolis, Miami, Wednesday, 24 April 1923, p. 2c)

Faurot Opera House, Lima, Ohio, October 1926
‘Billy Fitzsimmons and Mlle Flory are a new combination of entertainers and will be seen in a novelty comedy diversion entitled ”By the Weight.” Fitzsimmons has made a speciality of eccentric old men parts, haing appeared in intimate productions under the management of Cohan and Harris … Mlle. Flory was in four consecutive editions of Greenwich Village Follies and with ”Innocent Eyes” and ”Gay Paree.”’
(The Lima News, Lima, Ohio, 13 October 1926, p. 13a)

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Queenie Leighton’s visit to the studios of The Gramophone & Typewriter Co Ltd, London, December 1904

August 6, 2014

Queenie Leighton (1874-1943), English singer, actress and pantomime principal boy
(photo: unknown; colour halftone postcard published by A. & G. Taylor, London, ‘Orthochrome’ series no. C.O. 213, circa 1905)

Queenie Leighton is thought to have made only one recording: the song ‘Love’s Gramophone‘ for the Gramophone & Typewriter Co Ltd of London. Her first attempt at recording, on 14 December 1904, was a failure, but she returned to the studios two days later and the result was eventually issued in February 1905 as a 10” black label ‘Gramophone Concert’ record, matrix no. 6382b, catalogue no. 3577.

‘The talking machine figures in Drury Lane Pantomime in Miss Queenie Leighton’s song, ”Love’s Gramophone,” now reproduced on the instrument itself. Messrs. the Gramophone and Typewriter Co., Ltd., of 21, City Road, E.C., have just been awarded the Grand Prince for Talking Machines and Records, Department of Liberal Arts, Group 21, St. Louis Exposition, 1904.’
(The Illustrated London News, London, Saturday, 14 January 1905, p. 74c)

This short report was indeed correct. Miss Leighton’s inclusion of ‘Love’s Gramophone’ in the Drury Lane pantomime, The White Cat, which opened on 26 December 1904, was one of the features of the show. While she played the part of Prince Peerless, the cast also included Marie George as Cupid; James Welch as Prince Plump; Johnny Danvers as King Ivory; Fred Eastman as Prince Plummett; Hugh J. Ward as Simeon; Tom Wootwell as Populo; Harry Randall as Fairy Asbestos; Ruth Lytton as Aristo; Tom Hearn as Snale; and Whimsical Walker as Clown.

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The framed photograph on the wall above the gramophone is by the Biograph Studios, London, of Miss Leighton as she appeared as Dona Teresa in the musical play, The Toreador, which opened at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 17 June 1901.

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Amy Webster, who appeared in the first English production of The Merry Widow at Daly’s Theatre, London, and was later sent to America

June 21, 2014

Amy Webster (active 1900-1908), English actress/showgirl, at about the time of her appearance as Jou-Jou during the long run of the first English production of The Merry Widow, which was produced at Daly’s Theatre, London, on 8 June 1907 and closed on 31 July 1909. During that time Jou-Jou was at various times also played by Dolly Dombey, Dorrie Keppell and Gladys Carrington.
(photo: Rita Martin, London, probably 1908)

Amy (sometime Aimee) Webster was born in London about 1886, the daughter of Frederick Webster, about whom nothing is at present known. She is thought to have made her first professional appearance as an extra in The Price of Peace, the ‘Drama of Modern Life’ produced at Drury Lane Theatre on 20 September 1900. She remained at Drury Lane until early 1903, a period during which she was seen in two more dramas and also in two pantomimes, Blue Beard and Mother Goose (26 December 1901 and 26 December 1902 receptively). She then progressed to adult roles, as Mary Macclesfield in The Little Cherub (Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, 31 January 1906) and its revised edition entitled The Girl on the Stage (same theatre, 5 May 1906) in which her part was renamed Gertie Macclesfield. Her last appearances were in The Merry Widow, as above.
Amy Webster was married for the first time on 15 March 1906 at Fulham Register Office to Owain Edward Whitehead Greaves (1882-1941); their wedding was kept secret owing to his position in the Royal Horse Guards. In January 1907 he was posted to India and between August that year and March 1908 she is said to have committed adultery with Eric Loder (who in 1912 married Gabrielle Ray) and George Jervis Wood (who in 1909 married Rosa, Countess von Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya und Vásáros-Namény). When Greaves sued his wife for divorce in 1909, she and Wood denied any wrongdoing while Loder failed to appear or file an answer. Rufus Isaacs represented Greaves; Sir Edward Carson represented Wood. (The Times, London, 27 March 1909)

In 1912 Mrs Greaves gave birth to a daughter, Josephine, whose father was George Maria Joseph Alphonsus Grisewood (1891-1916) of the Grenadier Guards. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France from February 1915 and the couple were married in Marylebone while he was home on leave early in 1916. He died at the front near Merville on 27 March 1916 of pneumonia.

According to Grisewood’s grandson, his widow was subsequently obliged to sever her connection with both the Grisewood family and her daughter. In 1919 she was given a one-way ticket to America and duly arrived at the Port of New York aboard the SS Royal George on 23 February that year. Nothing is known of her life after that date.