Posts Tagged ‘William Pruette’


Katie Barry as Fifi in A Chinese Honeymoon, New York, 1902

October 12, 2014

Katie Barry (1869?-after 1909), English actress and singer, as Fifi in the first American production of A Chinese Honeymoon, produced at the Casino, New York, on 2 June 1902. The part of Fifi was first played in London (Strand Theatre, 5 October 1901) by Louie Freear who was succeeded by Hilda Trevelyan.
(photo: Gilbert & Bacon, 1030 Chestnut Street. Philadelphia, probably 1902)

‘English Musical Comedy is Presented at the Casino.
‘Distinct achievement in A Chinese Honeymoon, the new musical comedy seen at the Casino last evening, is to be credited to Katie Barry, a diminutive newcomer, who, by reason of a quaint personality, a semblance of buoyant good nature and ability in the direction of grotesque activity, scored an unusual success with an audience that was not always as discriminating as it was demonstrative. From the occasion of her first entrance through the successive drolleries in which she figured, as well as in her individual songs, which proved among the most diverting features of the entertainment, Miss Barry’s efforts provided occasion for much spontaneous laughter. Entirely unknown here up to last night, her success is, therefore, a fact to be recorded.
‘Another surprise of the evening was provided by Aimee Angeles, who blossomed forth as an imitator of no mean ability, to the satisfaction of those who had heretofore known her simply as a graceful dance in the Weber and Fields ranks. The enthusiasm evoked by her mimicry, in which she was admirably assisted by William Pruette, was unbounded.
‘Mention of these distinctly favored features of the new musical comedy seem fitting in the very beginning for such success as the piece achieved is largely due to the efforts of the actors, and to those of the scene painters and costumers. If the author of the book and the composer of the music had been as successful as those who had the setting forth of their work, praise, which must now be qualified, might be accorded without stint. But there is little in the book, which is by George Dance, that provides any occasion for humor, and most of Howard Talbot’s music, which it is not reminiscent, is lacking in such tunefulness as is required to make it of the essentially popular sort. One has passed the stage nowadays of asking for great originality in such composition – or, at any rate, one is mightily surprised if it is forthcoming. But that the tunes shall fall pleasingly on the ear and that they shall come readily to the lips of whistlers and singers – that may be fairly demanded. Perhaps after a few nights, too, the tendency toward ear-crashing effects in the rendering of the choruses will have been overcome – that may well be hoped for, for last night noise, rather than melody, marked much of what was sung.
‘In point of lavishness of production A Chinese Honeymoon is entitled to much praise. The two scenes – ”the garden of the hotel at Yiang Yiang” and ”the room in the Emperor’s palace” – are well painted, and the pictures presented, with many richly dressed women on the stage, is one of Oriental splendor. In the combinations of colors one notes the absence of those faults in taste which so often mar. An exceptionally pretty and novel effect was obtained in the second act, where disappearing and reappearing lines of chorus girls in bright colored gowns provide a panorama of changing color.
‘The story of the Chinese Honeymoon is not important. It concerns one Simon Pineapple, who goes to China on a honeymoon with his bride, under the somewhat unusual conditions of being accompanied by her eight bridesmaids. The chief uses of these bridesmaids is apparently to blow screeching whistles, which add to the general clamor, and to wear ”creations” in the now absolutely essential ”octet speciality” [a reference to Leslie Stuart’s song, ‘Tell Me Pretty Maiden‘ from Florodora (1899]. Pineapple meets in China his nephew, Tom Hatherton, who is there for the purpose of falling in love with Soo Soon, the Emperor’s niece, Fifi, a waitress in a hotel, is in love with Tom, but sacrifices herself to make that worthy young man happy. The Emperor has ordered his Lord Chancellor to find him a bride, one of the conditions being that the aspirant for that position shall not known the real rank of her fiance-to-be, but shall be allowed to think that he is a bill-poster. Various complications result through the peculiarities of the Chinese laws. Pineapple finds himself married to his niece-that-was-to-be and Hatherton’s intended bride becomes his aunt-in-law. It may readily be observed, therefore, that atmosphere is not entirely forgotten even to the extent of providing a Chinese puzzle in the disposing of the variously related persons.
‘Thomas Q. Seabrooke, who played ”Pineapple,” won favor for a song, ”Mr. Dooley” and Van Renssalear Wheeler was particularly favored for his number, ”I Love Her.” Edwin Stevens was successful as the emperor, as was Amelia Stone, the ”Soo Soo”.’
(The New York Times, New York, Tuesday, 3 June 1902, p. 9a)

* * * * *

Katie Barry (whose real name appears to have been Catherine Patricia Rafferty or, possibly, Laverty), was a niece of the actor and playwright, George Conquest (1837-1901), sometime manager of the Grecian Theatre in the City Road, London. She is said to have been born in London about 1869 and her career began as a small child at the behest of her uncle. She subsequently had a very busy career, including a tour of Australia in the late 1888s, before going to the United States in 1902 to star as Fifi in A Chinese Honeymoon. Miss Barry remained in America, where she became very popular, both in musical comedy and in vaudeville. Her career appears to have ended upon her marriage in 1908 as the second wife of Julius Scharmann (1867?-1914), a widower with three children and a member of the well-known brewing firm of H.B. Scharmann & Sons of 355-375 Pulaski Street, Brooklyn, New York. Mr Scharmann committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver on 3 December 1914. It was said that he was grieving over the recent death of his closest friend, Ferdinand Schwanenfingel (various contemporary reports, including The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,, New York City, Thursday, 3 December 1914, p. 1c). It is assumed that Mrs Scharmann (Katie Barry) remained in the United States but her whereabouts following the death of her husband is as yet unknown.

Katie Barry’s recording (Columbia 1797, circa May 1904) of ‘I Want to Be a Lidy’ is included on the CD, Music from The New York Stage, 1890-1920, vol. I, Disc 2, no. 11.


January 9, 2013

chorus girls from the first New York production of
Oscar Strauss’s The Chocolate Soldier,
Lyric Theatre, Manhattan,13 September 1909
(photo: White, New York, 1909)

‘Turned Into a Comic Opera Book Arms and the Man Is More Shavings Than Shavian.
‘As The Chocolate Soldier New Piece Is Especially distinguished by Strauss’s Charming Music.
‘THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER, an opera bouffe, in three acts. Music by Oscar Strauss. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Libretto by Rudolph Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson. English version by Stanislaus Stange. Lyric [New York, 13 September 1909].

Nadina Popoff … Ida Brooks Hunt
Aurelia Popoff … Flavia Arcaro
Mascha … Edith Bradford
Lieutenant Bumerli … J.E. Gardner
Captain Massakroff … Henry Norman
Louka … Lillian Poli
Stephen … George C. Ogle
Colonel Kasimir Popoff … William Pruette
Major Alexius Spirideff … George Tallman
Soldiers of Bulgarian Army, gentry, peasants, wedding guests, villagers, musicians, &c.

‘Count Mr. George Bernard Shaw himself in his most fantastic mood have imagined anything more ironical than Mr. George Bernard Shaw set to comic opera music, danced and soubretted, done into duos, trios, and quintets, march time, walt time, everything, fortunately, but rag time.
‘That is what has happened to Arms and the Man, acted here originally by the late Richard Mansfield, subsequently revived by Arnold Daly and now imported as The Chocolate Solider, with made-in-Vienna label. How much of the present book is due to Rudolph Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson, the foreign librettists, and how much to Stanislaus Stange, who has Englished it, would be difficult to say, but as far as lines and story go it is more shavings than Shavian.
‘That, however, need not matter if Mr. Shaw is satisfied. And as it stands The Chocolate Soldier is a decidedly pleasant evening’s entertainment. Once in a while the real Shaw lines and situations come to the surface, and then one wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to stick more precisely to the text, but Mr. Oscar Strauss’s music is so soothing, where it is meant to be soothing, and so stirring where it is meant to be stirring, that it really need not matter. Mr. Shaw has been taking liberties with other people so long it isn’t surprising that chickens come home to roost.
‘People are renamed in the operatic version apparently to suit the librettist’s sense of humour, with Bluntehli becoming Bumeril, which might have a sort of meaning in German, though you must drop the last two syllables to give it any point in English. Their dispositions and intentions are considerably changed, also, from what they appear to be in Arms and the Man.
‘Instead of the one maiden succumbing to the attractions of the Swiss adventurer, here we have three, (including the mother of the bride-to-be,) and they quarrel for the privilege of soothing him to sleep after his hurried escape from the pursuing Bulgarians, when he takes refuge in Nadina’s bedchamber. So, too, each of the three must hide her photographs in the borrowed coat, to make the complication greater when the returning Popoff arrives on the scene. In other words, the general idea seems to be that it will not do to be too subtle in a comic opera, which perhaps is the right idea.
‘Mr. Shaw cables last night that if the audiences was pleased with the entertainment they should congratulate themselves, and it is not unlikely that his advice was followed by the greatest number of those present. For there is enough broad fooling to the action to make it appealing to people who do not care for Shaw, and enough bright and spirited music to make it worth while to those who do, but who now find they must take a good deal of his play for granted.
’ When somebody or other sings, ”Why don’t you close the shutters? My heart with terror flutters,” you are certain that you will not find those lines or any like them in Arms and the Man, but fortunately you are more likely to be interested in the refrain rather than the words.
‘The music in fact is most agreeable, from the charming aria in the first act, with its lilting, rhythmic waltz movement, to the delightful duo in the last, in which Bumerli insists that Nadia loves him, though he is reading a letter in which she has expressly tried to covey the other impression. There is a fine swinging march to bring on the soldiers and the populace overjoyed that, ”the war is ended, the war is ended,” and a capital trio, one of the kind in which one after the other of the characters repeat insistently ”Something is wrong,” ”something is wrong,” ”something is wrong,” though there does not appear to be the slightest desire on the part of any one to deny it.
‘The music is very well sung, too, and the piece is charmingly staged, though there is hardly a girl in the chorus who isn’t a reminder of the old story of the newly married man who begged his wife to sing. They do sing, too, with good spirit in the ensembles, which is something for which to be thankful.
Ida Brooks Hunt, acting with plenty of vivacity, easily carries off the vocal honors in the rôle of the girl whom the Chocolate Soldier surprises and who he is eventually to marry. She has a rich, well-trained voice, no unpleasant affectations, with sweetness, and good range, and, not the least important essential for this sort of thing, she enunciates so as to be understood. Edith Bradford soubrettes easily though the rôle of Mascha, a substitute for the Louka of the original play, dances nicely, and shares with Flavia Arcaro the secondary honors among the women.
‘Mr. Gardner’s acting of the Swiss adventurer can scarcely be judged from the standards of the rôle that have been establishes, but he seems to satisfy the popular idea of the comic-opera hero, and he was agreeable in several of the duos, while George Tallman, William Pruette, and Henry Norman filled in the other rôles very well.
‘Mr. [Antonio] De Novellis conducted with enthusiasm.’
(The New York Times, New York, Tuesday, 14 September 1909, p. 9c)