Posts Tagged ‘The Marquis of Michigan (musical comedy)’

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Sam Bernard

February 24, 2013

a photograph of a three-sheet lithograph poster by H.O. Minor Litho Co, New York, with a portrait of Sam Bernard (1863-1927), English born comic actor, in the role Hermann Engel in The Marquis of Michigan,
produced at the Bijou Theatre, New York, 21 September 1898
(photo: unknown, probably New York, circa 1898)

‘BERNARD’S NEW PLAY NONE TO STRONG
Marquis of Michigan Saved by Comedian and Alice Atherton.
‘SMALL CREDIT TO ITS BUILDERS
‘Some of Its Redeeming Features Noted Together with the Plan of the Piece.
‘The principal members of the cast of The Marquis of Michigan – notably, Mr. Sam Bernard and Miss Alice Atherton – had a good deal more to do than the authors with the favor that marked its reception last night at the Bijou theatre. For two men as well known in the business of writing as Mr. Glen MacDonough and Mr. Edward Townsend to have turned out such a thin and inconsequential farce as this one, was a thing not to have been expected and not worthy of praise.
‘Mr. Bernard’s original humor and Miss Atherton’s remarkably clever singing of a number of new and attractive sons unquestionably saved the day – or, rather, the night. The hero of The Marquis of Michigan is the son of a brewer, and he has artistic tendencies which lead him to make a trip to Europe. While there he is captured by banditti, along with a wealthy clergyman who is his companion traveler, and the clergyman is shot. Before dying he tries to make his will, and being without writing materials he paints it upon the back of his young artist friend with that cherry youth’s own oils and brushes. That at least is the story the youthful artist tells on his return to America to foil the scheming daughters of the dead clergyman, who are having a former will probated.
‘It is developed later on that the will painting affair was accomplished by another prisoner of the bandits, a female circus performer who went through some sort of a marriage ceremony with the artist before she could be induced to even look at his bare back, ”out of feelings of delicatessen,” as Mr. Bernard cheerfully remarks. He has gone through all this decorative business so that the girl in American whom he loves, and who is a foster daughter of the dead parson, may inherit the estate.
‘The most of this is told in dialogue, and all of it is supposed to have happened before the curtain goes up on the first act. Here the brewer’s son has just returned , having escaped from the bandits, and he find his lady love practising law as an up to date member of the bar. Of course the circus woman turns up to interfere by her presence with his other matrimonial affairs, and this neither new nor specially diverting complication, coupled with the vicissitudes of the woman’s newest venture in the show world, serves as the backbone of the piece.
‘it is fortunate that Mr. Bernard and his associates had an opportunity to play The Marquis of Michigan for a term out of town in order to get it into shape for New York. It must have been a pretty crude affair originally, and it is to be presumed that the work will improve with further repetition and revision.
‘Of Mr. Bernard’s personal performance there is nothing to be said save in a commendatory spirit. He possesses a dialect which is at all times amusing and frequently so grotesque as to awaken the heartiest of laughter. The deep earnestness with which he performs trivial acts is intensely ludicrous, and it must be admitted without reserve that he is an actor of the utmost worth.
‘His extensive popularity in New York was manifested last night through the expression of enthusiastic good will that greeted him upon his entrance, the applause and laughter that followed him throughout the evening, find the great number of imposing floral pieces contributed by his admirers and former associates. It may be necessary to find a substitute for Mr. Bernard. He is distinctly all right and like any other actor, no matter how high his ability, he must have the right kind of material.
As already noted, Miss Atherton was the leading feature of the supporting company last evening. She played the circus woman with intelligence and spirit, and she sang her songs so effectively that her encores followed on upon another deafeningly. In the first act she had a song called ”Lady Jim” that met with a tremendous reception, and in the second she introduced among others a ”coon” ditty, the refrain of which, set to very tuneful music, ran:
‘Nobody’s business what my man does to me,
‘Nobody’s business if he takes me on his knee,
‘Nobody’s business if he chastises me,
‘Nobody’s business but my own.
‘These two songs were unquestionably the great hits of the evening, although there were others. One of these was contributed by William Burress, who played in the first act with a sleight of hand performer with a foreign accent and the gift of hypnotism. This was a capital study, well worked out.
‘Mr. Dan Collyer appeared as a sentimental burglar. Miss Harriet Sterling was the young woman loved by the brewer’s son. Miss Maud White was her bosom friend, and Mr. Charles Jackson was a young fellow with a perpetual hoo-doo. The prettiest girl in the company – of whom there were several – was Miss Helen Potter, and among those who ran her a close race were Vivian Townsend, Grace Freeman, Helen Lacy, Annie Black and Lillian Collins.
The Marquis of Michigan was prettily stage, and with further work in the line of reconstruction, it will probably serve Mr. Bernard’s purpose.’
(L.R., The Morning Telegraph, New York, New York, Thursday, 22 September 1898, p. 3e)

‘Sam Bernard has recovered from the nervous stress which made him too hard and loud in the first performance of The Marquis of Michigan at the Bijou. He is easier with the fun, and therefore more laughable. The venture of putting him forward as a ”star” is justified. The best characterization in the acting is done by Mr. [William] Burress as a hypnotist and a rural Sheriff, both excellent delineations. Alice Atherton’s songs are valuable contributions to the entertainment.’
(The Sun, New York, New York, 2 October 1898, p. 3b)