Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Wizard of Milwaukee

I have been compiling a complete listing of every production of the Baum and Tietjens Wizard of Oz, from its premiere in Chicago through the handful of modern revivals. Obviously, it will never be wholly complete, but beyond 1915, productions become exceedingly infrequent.

I am very happy to be able to report on a production recently discovered by Joseph N. Rubin, the musicologist and theatre historian who staged the 2010 revival of The Wizard of Oz at the Canton Comic Opera Company. And most excitingly, this newly discovered series of performances dates from 1945-46, making this the last known licensed production of the original Baum and Tietjens Wizard of Oz, albeit with some interpolations from the MGM Arlen and Harburg score—but since when were interpolations into this show unusual?

The production was first announced by the Milwaukee Sentinel on September 2, 1945: "There was music in the air last night at Siefert Social Center where the Milwaukee Civic Light Opera Co. of the Municipal Recreation Department held auditions for the Wizard of Oz, which will be presented Dec. 1 and 8." The company later altered the performance schedule, omitting the December 1st performance and choosing instead to do both performances on December 8th.

Milwaukee Sentinel, September 2, 1945

The Milwaukee Journal of December 2, 1945, announced:

Players Are Named for Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, musical fantasy of Montgomery-Stone fame a generation ago, will be presented Saturday afternoon and evening by the Milwaukee Civic Light Opera company at Lincoln High School. Lorna Warfield is director, and a double cast will give the performances.

The Milwaukee Sentinel from the same date also announced the show. This paper confirms that "Music from the original opera by Tietjen [sic] will be augmented with music by Harold Arlen from the movie."

Milwaukee Sentinel, December 2, 1945

On December 5, 1945, the Milwaukee Journal published a publicity photo with the following caption: "Here you see the scarecrow, the tin woodsman and Dorothy, leading characters in The Wizard of Oz, that is to be given twice by the Milwaukee Civic Light Opera Company . . . No use trying to get tickets for the afternoon; it's a sellout."

Milwaukee Journal, December 5, 1945

The production got great publicity. The Milwaukee Sentinel shared a different rehearsal photo (below right) the next day, showing Elaine Bishop as a Court Lady, William Culbert as the Scarecrow, and Ray Sobczak (alternate spelling Subczek) as the Tin Man.

Milwaukee Sentinel, December 6, 1945
The production played two performances on December 8, 1945. In the review of the show in the Milwaukee Sentinel on December 9, we finally get confirmation that this is in fact a performance of the "Extravaganza," not the St. Louis MUNY version or other newly created script.

Wizard of Oz Charms 700 at Lincoln High

The Milwaukee Civic Light Opera Co. offered a creditable performance of the musical fantasy, The Wizard of Oz, last night in the Lincoln High School auditorium before 700 persons.

The delightful take, which has enchanted young and old for a generation, is woven around the adventures of Dorothy and her friends in the wonderful land of Oz.

Dorothy is played by Miss Jane Paradowski; the Wizard of Oz by Victor Wiening; a convincing Pastoria by George Paczena; the Scarecrow by Merlin Griffith; The Tin Man who wanted a heart by Clarence Eron, and Sir Daschimoff, [sic] Dorothy's lover, by Ray Kujawa. Lorna Warfield was musical director. 

The production of the old Wizard of Oz show was clearly a success, and it proved popular enough that it was revived by the company for the summer season at the Open Air Theatre in Humboldt Park on August 17, 1946.

Advertisement in Milwaukee Sentinel, August 11, 1946
The Milwaukee Sentinel reviewed the revival on August 18, 1946:

Capacity Crowd Joins Dorothy in Merry Hunt for 'Wizard of Oz'

An almost capacity audience last night gave itself to the perennial magic of The Wizard of Oz, presented by the Civic Light Opera co. at Humboldt Park.

The cyclone smitten Dorothy, played by Jane Paradowski, and her cow Imogene, portrayed front and rear by Bertram Behrens and Peter Sinclair, arrived zestfully in the Land of Oz, and their adventures in search of the Wizard were as merry as the Munchkins.

The terrible Witch of the North; Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow who wanted a brain and the Tin-man who though he needed a heart; demented Cynthia, Tryxie and all of the enchanted characters of Paul Tietjen's [sic] classic tale, tripped and sang their way through a capable performance.
Milwaukee Sentinel, August 18, 1946.
The reviews  of this Milwaukee staging list all of the major characters from the Extravaganza. I wish there was some information on audience reaction to the unfamiliar characters and subplots. From the photo above we can see that the Lion is portrayed with a human face and walking upright a la Bert Lahr. But neither review mentions the lion wanting courage, while both the Scarecrow and Tinman are singled out for wanting brains and heart. The costume of the Wizard in the photo above is interesting, as it's similar to what the Wizard wore in the original stage show, very Irish looking with a sash across his chest—not imagery from the book or MGM film.

No mention is made of what MGM songs were interpolated into the show. Obviously "Over the Rainbow" would have been included. The penciled alteration to one of the surviving conductor's scores with the Tams-Witmark rental parts (seen below) might even have been made for this production. These notes insert "Over the Rainbow" into the middle of Tietjens's Opening Pantomime music in Kansas.

Penciled notes marking insertion of "Over the Rainbow" into Tietjens's score.

I think it likely the production also used "If I only had a Brain/Heart" for the Scarecrow and Tinman, and possibly interpolated "Off to see the Wizard," too.  They might also have added a quick romp through "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead"—a very popular song from the film—after Dorothy's house crushes the Wicked Witch (Note: I suspect the reviewer above confused Locasta, the Witch of the North, with the Wicked Witch that was crushed by Dorothy's house when he cited "the terrible Witch of the North.") It would also have been quite fun if Tryxie Tryfle had been given "The Jitterbug" in place of "Sammy."

Baumophiles might have found it curious that there is no mention of L. Frank Baum. The publicity evens refers to the show as "the original opera by Tietjens." But it is fairly commonplace to only reference the composer in connection to a show. One generally hears of Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland or  Lehar's Merry Widow.

I am most grateful to Joe Rubin for discovering this long-lost revival. I hope to find a few more!

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Attend the Tale of Blanche Powell Todd

Blanche Powell Todd as Dorothy Gale.
This is the tumultuous tale of Blanche Powell Todd.

Blanche Powell Todd was the third actress to play Dorothy Gale, replacing Isabel D'Armond, who had been company No. 2's Dorothy in the 1903-'04 season. Anna Laughlin, who had created the part, was still touring with company No. 1.

Blanche's husband, Frank Todd, was also connected with The Wizard of Oz and this tale involves him almost as much as it involves Blanche.

Blanche Powell was born March 19, 1880, in Greenville, Pennsylvania. By 1900 she was getting small parts in popular touring shows, including playing Captain Sigsbee in A Female Drummer. In 1902 she was playing Wilhelmina in A Runaway Girl.

For the 1902-'03 season she joined the Foxy Quiller tour, playing Leona, the tight rope walker. Despite her small part, The Oregon Daily Journal of December 13, 1902, took notice: "Miss Blanche Powell, sweet-voiced and of startling beauty . . . earned recognition for [her] painstaking work."

Also in the Foxy Quiller tour was Frank Todd, who played "Splicer" and had staged the tour for Klaw and Erlanger. As stage manager, Frank may have been responsible for casting Blanche. The two began a relationship and were married during the run of the show.

Frank Todd (Nathaniel Frank Todd) was born in Lexington, Massachusetts, September 8, 1875. The Boston Daily Globe of June 1, 1902, discussing his career, reported that Todd "went on the stage a few years ago because he had a good voice and knew how to use it. . . . Klaw and Erlanger discovered in him a rising stage manager, and for the past seven years he has served that enterprising theatrical firm. For the past two seasons he has been out with Foxy Quiller." The first season starred Jerome Sykes for whom the show was written; the second season starred Richard Golden.

Jerome Sykes in The Billionaire.
After the Foxy Quiller tour ended, Frank was hired as stage manager for Peggy from Paris, but soon he was back with Jerome Sykes on his next show, The Billionaire. Sykes became ill, supposedly from attending a party without warm clothing and catching pneumonia, and Frank Todd had to perform as Sykes's understudy. When Sykes succumbed to his illness, December 29, 1903, Frank Todd continued in the starring role, seeing the tour through its next several engagements.

While Frank was touring with Peggy from Paris and The Billionaire, Blanche (now performing as Blanche Powell Todd) joined the tour of The Sultan of Sulu during the 1902-'03 season. Many theatrical couples found ways to tour together, but Blanche and Frank seem more often than not to be working different tours of different shows.

Click to Enlarge

During her time in The Sultan of Sulu, Blanche's career got a major boost when she appeared in the June 1903 issue of Burr McIntosh Monthly, a high-end magazine specializing in beautiful photographs. Blanche was featured in a full page photograph under a large rubber plant. The explanatory text stated:
" 'Rubber!' So many are interested in the development and growth these days. Blanche Powell Todd has gone to visit the Sultan of Sulu, and is interesting herself in the great problem of what the future has in store. Most of us are daily cultivating the rubber plant to aid us in our various searches, so we can not blame the poor girl."
In August 1903, Burr McIntosh featured Blanche wearing a swimsuit in another full-page photograph, this time printed in full color (see below).

By the winter of 1903-'04 Blanche had moved from The Sultan of Sulu to  the tour of A Chinese Honeymoon where she played Sing Sing.

Blanche Powell Todd in Burr McIntosh Monthly, August, 1903.

While Blanche continued her tour with the Chinese Honeymoon company, the death of Jerome Sykes left Frank Todd without a job. But another death of an actor would bring Frank, and eventually Blanche, into The Wizard of Oz.

J. Lod Sutherland had been stage manager for company No. 2 of The Wizard of Oz in addition to playing the part of Brigadier General Riskitt. While the Wizard company was in Beloit, Wisconsin, Sutherland died suddenly of a burst appendix on January 8, 1904. Wizard of Oz stage director Julian Mitchell, in need of a new stage manager and a new General Riskitt, hired Frank Todd. He was a perfect replacement, not only could he serve as stage manager, but he was also a basso—a prerequisite for singing the part of General Riskitt.

Frank seems to have found a good home with The Wizard of Oz company and he almost certainly suggested his wife, Blanche, would make a wonderful Dorothy Gale for company No. 2's 1904-'05 tour.

Blanche Powell Todd, March 1903.
On August 11, 1904, Blanche Powell Todd opened the new season of company No. 2 as Dorothy Gale in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Unfortunately, Frank had now moved on to Chicago to assist in Julian Mitchell's debacle of a musical, Bird Center, in which Frank played the part of Chris Newbower. So the couple were once again performing in different shows.

Mitchell clearly had long-range plans for Frank Todd. The same day Blanche debuted as Dorothy, the following appeared in the papers: "Hamlin and Mitchell have engaged Frank Todd to produce their pieces, The Wizard of Oz, Bird Center and Babes in Toyland."

Blanche did well as Dorothy Gale. The October 14, 1904, Portland Oregonian said: "Blanche Powell Todd has the part of Dorothy Gale, the Kansas girl . . . She is one of the daintiest little women you might see in a year's beauty quest."

The Atchison (Kansas) Daily Globe of December 15, 1904, reported:
The Atchison people who fell in love with Maud [sic] Powell Todd, who took the part of "Dorothy Gale," the Kansas dairy maid, last night thought she might possibly be fourteen years old. She told reporters she has been married three years, and is so old she no longer tells her age, but she did not look it even when she said so. She said she appeared in Atchison three years ago in the chorus of Jerome Syke's [sic] production of Foxy Quiller, and that year married Mr. Todd, the stage manager of the company. . . . Mrs. Todd said her part in The Wizard of Oz is her first big part, and she seemed as delighted with her success last night as a high school girl who makes a hit before her relatives in an amateur play.
While performing in Nashville, Tennessee, on January 24, 1905, Blanche had to withdraw from the performance in the middle of the first act due to "an unfortunate attack of acute hoarseness." She was replaced by her understudy, Ethel De Marcy. (Ethel appears in some Wizard of Oz programs as Helen D' Marcy.)  By the time of the performance the next evening in Chattanooga, Blanche "was excellent as Dorothy."

September 3, 1905, cast announced for No. 2 Co.

The producers seemed to like Blanche, too. The New York Clipper announced on August 12, 1905, that Blanche "has been reengaged for [the 1905-'06 season of] The Wizard of Oz, in the part of Dorothy Gale. She is at present in the Catskills." But was this for company No. 1 or company No. 2?

Blanche was announced as the Dorothy of the No. 2 company on September 3rd (see image at left). But the following item appeared in the (New York) Morning Telegraph of September 14, 1905: "How nice to be sent for and made a fuss over! Blanche Powell Todd, after being transferred from the 'Wizard of Oz' No. 1 company to the No. 2 show was recalled after three performances and reinstated."

It seems likely that the producers had promised to get her into the No. 1 company at some point, and it's possible Blanche performed the role a couple times with the No. 1 company before Blanche launched No. 2's season in Meriden, Connecticut, on September 18, 1905.

The producers were having a Dorothy dilemma in the No. 1 company.

Anna Laughlin, the original Dorothy, had left the No. 1 company at the end of the previous season to star in The Land of Nod. And on September 4, 1905, the No. 1 tour began their new season in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with Katherine Roberts as Dorothy Gale. Yet even before Roberts's first performance, the producers had sent for Mabel Barrison to take over the part. Mabel had created the part of Tryxie Tryfle when The Wizard of Oz premiered in Chicago in 1902 and had gone on to star in Babes in Toyland in 1903.

Mona Desmond as Dorothy in Co. No. 1
Barrison began Wizard rehearsals on September 3, 1905. Company No. 1's season premiered the next night, September 4th, with Roberts still in the role. Indeed, a review from the September 9, 1905, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph states: "Katherine Roberts, as Dorothy Gale, who has a captivating appearance and manners sings well. She will appear to a better advantage when she has become thoroughly acquainted with her new work." Barrison performed the part for the first time on September 11, 1905, at the Majestic Theatre in Brooklyn, New York.

Barrison only played the Wizard engagements in Brooklyn and Manhattan and did not continue with the show to their next stop, the New National Theatre in Washington, DC, (September 25-30) where Dorothy was played by Netta Vesta. But the deluge of Dorothys continued, and the October 5, 1905, issue of the New York Morning Telegraph announced that Mona Desmond would soon be taking over the part, which she did by mid-October.

By late fall 1905, there was Dorothy trouble in company No. 2. Blanche Powell Todd had left the show, and Dorothy was now being played by Ethel De Marcy.

While Blanche's professional life was skyrocketing, her personal life had recently imploded. Her husband, Frank Todd, had begun an affair with Bessie Holbrook, an actress in Miss Dolly Dollars, in the spring of 1905. I've no evidence exactly when Blanche found out, but on October 5, 1905, Frank married Bessie Holbrook, who was already five months pregnant. I have not been able to find any evidence of a divorce between Blanche and Frank, but I haven't found their marriage record either. I assume all of this chaos is why Blanche withdrew from company No. 2 of The Wizard of Oz.

But in December 1905 company No. 1 needed a new Dorothy. Mona Desmond would be leaving the show when they finished their Christmastime run in Chicago, December 24-January 20. Julian Mitchell offered the job to Blanche.

Blanche Powell Todd, October 1904.
Blanche arrived in Chicago from Milwaukee to begin rehearsals and learn the latest routines in The Wizard of Oz. She quickly made friends with the cast and all was proceeding well when Blanche fell suddenly ill. Her condition worsened and the producers sent for her (former) husband, Frank. The day before she was to have debuted in company No. 1 Blanche Powell Todd died at 5:00 in the morning at Mercy Hospital on January 16, 1906, after an operation for gall stones, Frank Todd at her side. The New York Morning Telegraph reported that "she was being treated, it is said, for one malady, and just before her death it was discovered that she was suffering from another." Blanche was only 25.

Blanche's mother was grief-stricken and asked that Blanche be laid to rest where her life began. She was buried in Greenville, Pennsylvania, on January 19, 1906, in the Shenango Valley cemetery. Her husband, Frank Todd, suffering from "inflammatory rheumatism" resulting from a serious injury to his kneecap, was unable to travel back east to the funeral. I suspect Blanche's family would not have welcomed him either.

The Wizard of Oz chorus sent an arrangement of Easter lilies, and two of her "dear girl friends" sent a beautiful wreath of autumn leaves. Most touching was a large floral tribute of white carnations sent by Fred Stone and his wife, Allene Crater, the Scarecrow and Lady Lunatic in the show, bearing a card inscribed "Sleep well, little Dorothy."

The sudden loss of Blanche left an urgent need of a new Dorothy for company No. 1. The producers selected Reina Davies, sister of actress Marion Davies. The show continued on its tour. Blanche's mother fell into a deep depression and never truly recovered. She died three years later, July 27, 1909.

Frank Todd circa 1906.
A few months after Blanche's death, Bessie Holbrook Todd took Frank to court, charging him with non-support and abandonment. The New York Sun, April 13, 1906, reported Bessie testifying that Frank Todd "lived with her only six weeks after their marriage. Then he went West with his company [The Ham Tree], and when he came back to New York recently took a room at 233 West Twenty-fifth street, refusing to see either herself or the baby. . . . Todd told the Court that he didn't even know he had a baby, never having been notified by his wife of the baby's arrival."

He agreed to pay his wife $10 a week. Adjusted for inflation that's about $290.00 a week. The newspaper report continued: "As he went out of the court he met his wife, who was waiting for him in the hall. They looked at each other for a moment. then tears came into the wife's eyes, and Todd went over and spoke to her. In another minute they had their arms around each other. They kissed and left court together, both apparently very happy."

I've no idea if the couple reunited beyond their exit from the courthouse.

A little over a year later, Frank Todd entered Massachusetts General Hospital on June 29, 1907. He died on July 3rd of Mesenteric Thrombosis and peritonitis due to a burst appendix. He was 31.

*          *          *

One of my goals with this project is to bring these long forgotten people whose lives were touched by The Wizard of Oz back to life, or at least back to memory, for my readers. Blanche was headed toward stardom. But in only a few short months her personal life imploded and she was struck down by disease. She was soon lost to people's memories. She was only 25.

That is the tale of Blanche Powell Todd.

"Sleep well, little Dorothy."

Blanche Powell Todd's grave in Greenville, PA.

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Milkmaid Song

Toward the end of their first-draft version of the Wizard of Oz musical, L. Frank Baum and Paul Tietjens have made both the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman kings—of the Emerald City and the Country of the Munchkins, respectively.
GLINDA: Well, everything seems to be turning out splendidly. (To Dorothy) You ought to be proud to have two kings with you.

DOROTHY: They're all right to draw to, but I wouldn't bet much on this pair. I'm not proud. I don't want to be a queen.

Dorothy then performs "The Milkmaid Song," an up-beat number about how she would rather spend her life back on the Kansas farm as a dairymaid, "a farm-yard dignitary."

This is the first time Baum has suggested in script or song that the Kansas farm is a dairy farm. The song predates the introduction of Dorothy's pet heifer, Imogene, as well—Dorothy won't get a pet cow until draft three.

I am delighted to share the first presentation of the original 1901 "Milkmaid Song" in well over a hundred years. But before you listen to it I must share some backstory.

Back in the late 1990s, James Patrick Doyle and I were collaborating on a restoration of the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical. We were not trying to restore it to a particularly "authentic" version, but rather a "best of all possible worlds" version that represented Baum's and Tietjens's desires, included all of their surviving music (including the cut Act 2, Scene 1 from Chicago), and a tasty new Finale that truly tied up all of the loose ends.

One song we particularly wanted to restore was "The Milkmaid Song." Baum had obviously liked his lyric, as he included it in his anthology Baum's Juvenile Speaker (1910), later reissued as Baum's Own Book For Children (1912). But we did not have any music for the lyric. We began looking through the score to see if any of Tietjens's music fit Baum's words. We quickly realized we could sing the chorus to the latter half of the "Winter Jubilation" music from the Act I Finale. Then James found that with a subtle change to the value of a note or two, and a shift from waltz time to common time, the "Happy Maidens" melody from the Act II finale fit the verse of the "Milkmaid" quite nicely.

We were so pleased with our efforts we published the song as sheet music and released an mp3 file James had made. James Patrick Doyle died suddenly in January 2002, and our original plans for restoring the show were ended.

But now, to jump nearly two decades forward, when I finally got access to Baum's original 1901 manuscript I found a marvelous note in Baum's own hand next to the typed lyrics for "The Milkmaid Song": "This song put into 1st act scene 3 . . ." This meant James's and my deduction that the chorus of "Milkmaid" scanned to the second half of the "Winter Jubilation" melody had been accurate.

What we had failed to realize back then was that the entire song fit the full "Winter Jubilation" melody. But without Baum's handwritten clue, this fit had been easy to miss. "Winter Jubilation" wants to be played at a fairly quick tempo, and the music was probably slightly tweaked for its reuse as the Sleigh-bell dominated frolic for the snow sprites. But a careful listen reveals the fit—and so we have another of Baum and Tietjens's songs from the 1901 first draft that survives.

Please listen to Baum and Tietjens's original version first [VIDEO ABOVE]. The music is from Tietjens's piano score for the Finale of Act I. There are a few spots where the lyrics sit oddly on the tune, but stilted lyrics seem a specialty of Baum's.

Then listen to James's and my recreation of the song from 2000 [VIDEO BELOW]—in a performance of the song at OzCon 2016. This version contains a singer, too. Note that James Patrick Doyle "improved" Baum's lyrics in a few spots. The singer is singing James's revised lyric—the captions reflect Baum's original text.

I will be discussing the placement of this song, the evolution of the cow, and the introduction of Imogene in future posts.

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Cowardly Lion's Jewel Box

At the matinee performance of The Wizard of Oz on April 15, 1903, the producers of the show presented the audience with souvenirs to commemorate the show's one hundredth Broadway performance.

Newspaper ads would mention the forthcoming souvenir anniversaries a week or more before, driving a demand for tickets to such special occasions. The producers began running advertisements for the 100th performance, and its souvenirs, more than two weeks in advance.

Ad announcing souvenir matinee in New-York Tribune, March 29, 1903.

This anniversary garnered one of the most elaborate of the Wizard of Oz souvenirs— a charming little jewel box featuring the Cowardly Lion standing on the hinged lid. The Cowardly Lion was one of the biggest attractions in the show and a favorite especially of the children in the audience.

Souvenir 100th Performance Cowardly Lion Jewel box, April 15, 1903.

The sumptuous little box reflects the quality and effort put into some of the theatrical souvenirs. Made of a gilded metal, the box measures 3-3/8" x 2-3/8" and is 2-1/2" tall to the top of the lion's head. The box and hinged lid are each lined with padded pink satin.

Interior of the Cowardly Lion souvenir jewel box.

The bottom of the jewel box reads: "MAJESTIC THEATRE, 100th Performance, WIZARD OF OZ, JB 827, Wednesday April 15, 1903."

Bottom of the Cowardly Lion souvenir jewel box.

These "souvenir" performances sometimes made national news as seen in the clipping below from the Sioux City [Iowa] Journal.

Sioux City Journal announcement from April 19, 1903.
We'll be discussing other souvenirs from The Wizard of Oz in coming posts—and maybe a few from other shows.

Advertisement from the New-York Tribune April 5, 1903.

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Opening Prayer - Part VII


Scene 3 - "The Ruby Palace of Glinda the Good"

As Dorothy and her friends are carried aloft in the balloon by the winged monkeys the stage fades to black. Baum has suggested a "dark change" to shift the scene from the "Rocky Hill of the Hammerheads" to the "Ruby Palace of Glinda the Good." Baum's request for a more fluid scene change here is quite forward-looking. For once he is actually trying to keep the action moving and the audience in their seats.

W. W. Denslow's depiction of Glinda in his 1912 show-inspired wallpaper frieze.

The lights come up to reveal Glinda, seated on a large ruby throne (center right). Standing beside the throne are Glinda's four white-bearded wisemen: Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles, and Chumpocles. At curtain up, Glinda's all-girl bodyguard is marching and singing:

Although you may not think we're a very military band
We are held in high esteem by the people of this land,
For wherever we are seen, ev'ry body knows at once that we
Will defend our Glinda's person from the least indignity.

We are the body-guard of Glinda, the Good;
We shield her from her enemies as good soldiers should;
For nothing can harm her while we are on duty,
To save her from molestation it is understood
We'd die for her willingly—we really think we would.

Tietjens's music for this march is not known to survive; and as usual Baum's lyrics give mediocrity a bad name. These shapely girls, executing a military drill, will eventually morph into the Wizard's all-girl bodyguard, the Phantom Patrol, in the produced version of the show.

A wiseman from Denslow's 1912 wallpaper.
At the end of the song Glinda notices "a strange whirring noise in the air" and asks her wisemen what it might be.

The four wisemen, each bearing a large book, debate the issue with typical Baumian humor:

SOPHOCLES: One moment, your highness. It is set down here in my book of magic lore that if any people are strangers, it is because they are unknown and if they are unknown, your majesty, how can you expect anyone to know who they are? That's the point.

Irritated at such rationale, Glinda threatens to discharge the whole lot of wisemen next Saturday night.

CHUMPOCLES: Stay, your royal highness, I have just found out from my marvelous book of magic that there is approaching a man of tin, a man of straw, and a girl.

The other three wisemen cry out eagerly, "A girl?"

GLINDA: That will do. You are tiresome. These strangers are at the door. Admit the man of tin.

The Captain of the all-girl body guard ushers in the Tin Woodman, who immediately begins making love to Glinda and offers her his heart: "See, beauteous queen, I kneel, and lay it at your feet." Glinda will have none of it and asks for the man of straw to be admitted. The Scarecrow offers Glinda his brains.

GLINDA: A heart first, and now a lot of brains! These people must think this is a butcher shop.

Finally, Dorothy is admitted to the throne room.

DOROTHY: Please, your highness, I want to get back to my home in Kansas. I was blown away by a cyclone and I've never been able to get on the right road since. . . . there are too many strange and terrible things here for a simple country girl like me to ever get used to it. I might get used to the cyclones in Kansas but the Fighting Trees and the Hammerheads worry me.

GLINDA: You shall have your wish, child, I will send you home to Kansas. . . . As for this Scarecrow—

SCARECROW: Here's where I get it again! If no one is going to appreciate my brains they will be as useless to me as was the pie to the hungry traveler.

GLINDA: What was that?

The Scarecrow has just cued in "The Traveller and the Pie," a song Baum and Tietjens had written for the "Tramp Chorus" in The Octopus a few months earlier. Despite being rather forced into the plot like this, the song will become a permanent part of the score. This original version of the lyrics from The Octopus has a much stronger narrative through-line than the song will eventually have when it becomes more of a nonsense song than the fable it is here:

SCARECROW: One day a weary traveller walked down a country road—


SCARECROW: I think he did.

SCARECROW: His circumstances were reduced, and his appearance showed—


SCARECROW: I think it did.

SCARECROW: With hunger he was suffering; it was an old complaint. He'd tramped upon the highway till he felt used up and faint, and he uttered words that couldn't be endorsed by any saint—


SCARECROW: I think he did.

Oh the weary, weary traveller!
The weary, weary trav-el-ler!
The weary, weary, weary, traveler,
The weary, weary, weary, trav-el-ler!

The song continues with the traveler approaching a house. He asks the young wife for something to eat. She offers him her freshly baked pie, which gives the traveler food poisoning. The traveler flees the young wife, in worse shape than he was before. [A sound file with lyrics will be posted soon.]

During the song the Tin Woodman has been carrying on, flirting with the chorus, trying to kiss girls, etc., when he suddenly turns around at the end of the song, having misplaced his heart.

SCARECROW: Why didn't you keep your chest buttoned?

Everyone begins searching for the missing heart. The Scarecrow finds it after stepping on it.

TIN WOODMAN: Well, that's a fine looking heart, isn't it? Who will ever accept it now?

CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD: I might be induced to accept it.

TIN WOODMAN: What, you here, Beatrice Fairfax?

"Dear Beatrice Farifax" was the first-ever advice column. Begun in July 1898, it was essentially the "Dear Abby" of the early 1900s, written by Marie Manning [1872-1945]. The column was further lampooned in Babes in Toyland in the song "Beatrice Barefacts."

CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD: Don't you remember me? I am the little Munchkin girl you once loved.

TIN WOODMAN: And are you my own little itsy bitsy popsy wopsy?

The Tin Woodman sings the chorus of "When You Love, Love, Love." The chorus softly repeats the refrain while the Captain of the Guard explains:

Give me the heart and I'll try to take better care of it than you did. And now for a surprise. When the Wicked Witch died I was made Queen of the Munchkins, and when we are married we will return and rule over our people.

SCARECROW: That puts you in the king row. (Enter Guardian of the Gate) Hallo, here comes the boy with the green fringe on his picture. What train did you come in on?

GUARDIAN OF THE GATE: I come from the Emerald City, your majesty.

SCARECROW: Your—what's that? No, nix. Don't hand me any of that conversation off the top shelf. There's the majesty over there. He's the only face card in the deck around here. 

This exchange is the first example of Baum using a "playing cards" motif in the show. Baum will greatly expand this conceit below and in the forthcoming script revisions and lyrics. It will even be played up in the costume designs of the produced show.

GUARDIAN OF THE GATE: (To Scarecrow) No, your majesty, I mean you. The Wonderful Wizard has run away. When he went away in the balloon, he left a letter saying we should make you our king. The people have sent me to bring you back to your throne.

SCARECROW: (Strutting up and down, etc.) Oh, I guess I'm pretty bad, eh? Why, everybody seems to draw a king here. Your majesty (to Tin Woodman), shake hands with my majesty. Us kings will have to stick together. We seem to take everything on the table.

TIN WOODMAN: Yes, we have such a taking way.

Here the Tin Woodman and chorus sing the song "He Had Such a Taking Way." The music and lyrics are not known to survive.

GLINDA: Well, everything seems to be turning out splendidly. (To Dorothy) You ought to be proud to have two kings with you.

DOROTHY: They're all right to draw to, but I wouldn't bet much on this pair. I'm not proud. I don't want to be a queen.

Dorothy sings "The Milkmaid Song."

Oh, the maid that minds the dairy
Is the farm-yard dignitary
And her rule is arbitrary
Where the meek-eyed heifers browse;
All the day she has to putter
Skimming cream and churning butter,
And at twilight out she'll flutter
With her pail to milk the cows.

So, boss! so, boss! so boss!—so!
Don't be cross or make a fuss
But let the sweet milk flow!
Never kick or mind the flies,
Switch your tail or blink your eyes—
You'll be good if you are wise—
So, boss!—so!

Baum's Own Book for Children (1912).
Baum must have been fond of this lyric as he included it (with a few subtle changes) in his 1910 anthology Baum's Juvenile Speaker, reprinted in 1912 as Baum's Own Book for Children. At least some of the music for the song will be reused by Tietjens in the finale of Act I in the show as it is eventually produced.

DOROTHY: I'm anxious to get home as soon as possible, for I'm sure everyone will be worried about me. Will you tell me how I'm to get back to Kansas?

GLINDA: The Silver Shoes will carry you. You have but to knock their heels together three times and they will transport you in a jiffy to wherever you wish to be.

DOROTHY: That's splendid! I'll start at once.

GLINDA: Then allow us to bid you adieu and to speed you with our best wishes. And when you are home again do not forget us.

DOROTHY: No, indeed! The friends I have met in this country of witches and wonderful wizards I shall always bear in loving remembrance.

The entire cast then performs a "Grand Finale" consisting of several of the catchiest airs sung by principals and chorus. After the finale, Dorothy knocks the heels of her shoes together three times and disappears. Then follows a "Transformation Scene" showing Dorothy on the Kansas Prairie, clasped in the arms of her Aunt.


*               *               *

Julian Mitchell tossed the overwritten and unstageable script aside. The beautiful and colorful children's book sparkled with possibilities, but could L. Frank Baum turn it into a viable work for the stage?


Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Opening Prayer - Part VI


After the tedious and talk-heavy second act, Baum seems reengaged for Act III, loading it with action, and multiple scene changes, as well as some daring special effects. But would an audience still be in their seats after two hours of boring dialogue and bad puns? Baum's spirited Act III seems a case of "too much, too late." 

Scene 1 - "The Forest of Fighting Trees"

The curtain rises on a "row of trees" stretching across the stage in the in-one position, "with movable branches, operated by men concealed behind the trunks." A forest backdrop hangs behind the animated trees, and "at extreme right the outline cabin of the Forest Witch, with practical door."

"Chorus of Fighting Trees"

We are here to guard the forest from intrusion
And to overwhelm our foes with dire confusion,
Let the stranger well beware
Ere he penetrate our lair,
Or our mighty limbs will meet him in conclusion;

Back! Back! For we attack
Our foes without the slightest hesitation.
Back! Back! The power you lack
To fight the fiercest trees in all creation.

It's nice to finally read a decent lyric from Baum. Did the novelty of this imaginative setting and non-traditional characters inspire him to do better work than the formulaic drivel he's been producing for so much of the score until now?

Dorothy and the Tin Woodman enter, the Scarecrow is not with them.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh Dorothy, have you no heart?

DOROTHY: Of course I have. I can feel it beating.

TIN WOODMAN: If mine could beat you could hear it and it would sound like a trolly [sic] car gong. But since I've had this new heart, Dorothy, I've discovered that I can't live without you. Oh Dorothy, come with me to my forest home and I will chop all the wood, if you'll get up and make the fires.

DOROTHY: Oh don't be silly. You said you wanted a heart so you could love your little Munchkin girl and now you come around offering it to me. You're a fickle man.

Baum's choice to make the Tin Woodman a horndog feels unsettling in comparison to the Tin Woodman of the book. Baum's willingness to sacrifice his beloved characters to obtain giggles for an adult audience belies the idea that it was the script doctors that warped his fairy tale into a vaudevillian romp. As creepy as it feels, the idea is clever, providing an adult's view of the Tin Woodman's sexual awakening—much like leprechaun Og's in Finian's Rainbow half a century later.
But watching the Tin Woodman get his "heart on" with every female character in the rest of Act III rather rubs one the wrong way.

DOROTHY:  I wouldn't have you or your heart if it was the last heart in the world and I was trying to fill a flush. Where is the Scarecrow?

The Tin Woodman says the last time he saw the Scarecrow, he was "trying to make a democrat believe that the trusts could not be controlled by law. He think he knows everything since he got his new set of brains . . ."  Dorothy exits to go find the Scarecrow. The Tin Woodman, alone, pines for female affection:

TIN WOODMAN: Ah, what is the use of being fitted out with a large pulsing heart, overflowing with affection, when there is no one to lavish it on? [. . .] if only I could get a little advice from Ella Wheeler Wilcox!

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I have yet to discover the specific joke in why the Tin Woodman wanted advice from American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox [1850-1919] but perhaps the joke is in reference to her book Poems of Passion (1883).  But without such advice, the Tin Woodman's own passion has only grown stronger.

When the Forest Witch emerges from her cabin, the Tin Woodman seizes another chance for love. He pleads, kneels down, and offers his heart to the Forest Witch.

FOREST WITCH: Keep your love. I've no use for it.

The Tin Woodman attempts to woo the witch further, but she explains she's too wicked to love anyone and sings her song "I'm Freakishly Wicked" to prove it.

I'm freakishly wicked,
I'm sneakishly wicked,
No one is so wicked as me
I'm charmingly wicked
Alarmingly wicked
No person more wicked could be.

You may stand in fearful attitudes before a bandit chief,
Or chirp in silly platitudes about a callous thief
The pirates and the franchise-grabbers seem as black as pitch
But there isn't one can hold a candle to this Wicked Witch.

After another verse and chorus the frustrated Tin Woodman asks: "Then you scorn my young love?"

FOREST WITCH: I scorn it with a deep and lasting scorn that would sear your heart if I could reach it.

Hit song from Florodora (1901).
The Witch grabs at the Tin Woodman's chest but he dodges from her clutch, just in time to make a topical joke on the hit song from the hit musical Florodora.

TIN WOODMAN: Ugh! But tell me pretty maiden, are there any more at home like you?

FOREST WITCH: Why don't you sing it?

TIN WOODMAN: I would, but the copyright hasn't expired yet. Isn't there anything around here that wears skirts that I can spring this trusting heart of mine on?

The Forest Witch retires into her cabin and we never see her again. This character seems to be inspired by the Wicked Witch of the West, but she plays no part in the plot or action other than being a romantic foil for the Tin Woodman.

Dorothy and the Scarecrow enter. Alas, the Scarecrow's new brains have made him "the grandest little wiseacre in the party" and almost as insufferable with his brains as the Tin Woodman is regarding his heart..

TIN WOODMAN: You ought to go down and see President Roosevelt. He's in your class.

This joke comparing the Scarecrow's brains to Teddy Roosevelt's has always been credited to Baum's script doctors, but it was clearly Baum's own. That said, Baum may have worried the reference was uncomfortable, as Roosevelt had only been president a matter of weeks, having attained the office upon the assassination of President McKinley. Baum has scribbled out the typewritten Roosevelt reference and inked in the name "Mark Hanna," the United States Senator from Ohio.

Baum's original "Teddy Roosevelt" joke from the 1901 script. CLICK TO ENLARGE
DOROTHY: Come, come, we're wasting time and we'll never get to Glinda the Good if we don't start. Which way do you think we ought to go?

TIN WOODMAN: Ask the Scarecrow. He's the official thinker of the bunch.

SCARECROW: Follow me and you can't go wrong. (Advances to trees, one of which strikes him with a branch and sends him tumbling back.)

FIGHTING TREES: Back! Back! (All wave branches.)

DOROTHY: Good gracious; what's that?

Deciding the Scarecrow's "thought waves" aren't going to solve the problem, the Tin  Woodman declares he can, "Get through without a ticket." He advances on the trees with upraised axe.


Back! Back! For we attack
Our foes without the slightest hesitation.
Back! Back! The power you lack
To fight the fiercest trees in all creation.

The Tin Woodman chops a limb from the center tree at which all the trees utter moans of pain. The Fighting Trees slide offstage right and left, disappearing into the wings. The Forest drop rises to reveal Scene 2 - "The Rocky Hill of the Hammerheads." Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman have remained onstage during the scene change. The Scarecrow asks, "But where are we?"

TIN WOODMAN: What's the matter—are those brains of yours off watch? I thought you were going to tell us all about it.
DOROTHY Here is a pathway up the rocks. Let's see where it leads to.
TIN WOODMAN: It looks like the rocky road to Dublin. (Starts to mount rocks when the HAMMERHEADS appear from behind rocks, darting here and there and changing places with one another during Chorus.)

"Song of the Hammerheads"

1st HALF: Well here's a lark
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: We should remark!
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: These ninnies think that they can pass our rocky hill.
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: But we're intent
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: To circumvent
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: All trespassing and we'll resent it with will.
ALL: We will . . .

The Hammerheads sing and dance two more rounds of their song and their number comes to a close. With a strong male chorus, this "Song of the Hammerheads" could have been a rousing number.

SCARECROW: Yes, they seem to be a bunch of knockers. But I think I can fix them.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh your thinker is in working order again, is it? You were about half out of your thoughts after the tree landed on you.

SCARECROW: I remember hearing that if you approach a wild animal and look it straight in the eye, you win.

TIN WOODMAN: How are you going to look anything straight in the eye? One of your eyes is upside down and the other one has a kink in it.

[ . . . ]

SCARECROW: Watch me! (Advances to the rocks and is knocked down by a shooting hand, rolling back to the others, who pick him up.)

TIN WOODMAN: If you get knocked out a few more times you will have to go to England to get a fight. Which eye did you try him with?

Unfortunately, Baum provides no description of the Hammerheads, but unlike those in the book, these seem to have shooting hands instead of shooting heads which belies the name of the characters. After his tumble, the Scarecrow wants to call it quits and return to the Emerald City.

DOROTHY: Oh, no, we must go on to Glinda the Good or I will never get back to Kansas. I wish I knew the charm of these silver shoes.

SCARECROW: What charm?

What charm, indeed! Dorothy has never told the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman about her shoes and has not mentioned them since she put them on early in the first act. The Scarecrow asks if the charm might be inside them so Dorothy takes them off.

TIN WOODMAN: There isn't so much charm about them now as there was when you had them on. Maybe you would call a bellboy by rubbing them like Alladin's [sic] wonderful lamp.

(She rubs them)

[ . . . ]

DOROTHY: Oh, dear, why can't I find that charm? Here I am, a thousand miles from home, standing around in my stocking feet looking for a hateful old charm that won't appear. 
Dorothy and the Silver Shoes from the original book (1900).

Dorothy, holding one shoe in each hand, sings and dances "The Stocking Song." The music for this number is not known to survive, but the verse fits the melody of the verse to Baum and Tietjens's "Love is Love" from their unproduced comic opera, The Octopus, though the last note of each stanza needs to be made a triplet for reasons you'll see below.

Oh, it's really quite provoking
While the charm we are invoking,
That my little tootsie-wootsies must go bare, bare, bare.

Though each foot has still a stocking,
Such a sight is very shocking,
And I hope no naughty man will dare to stare, stare, stare.


'Tis a horrid sight,
Yet my feet so light,
Go tripping and slipping quite merrily.

ALL: Quite merrily!

[ . . . ]


Yet I'll be discreet
While my stocking'd feet
Go tripping and skipping quite merrily!

ALL: Quite merrily!

Do not be dismayed
If you feel afraid
Why you need not look up, necessarily.

ALL: No, verily.

Dorothy knocks the heels of the shoes together three times as a little fillip to end the song, echoing the "dance, dance, dance" motif, accidentally discovering the charm of the silver shoes. Baum has combined the Silver Shoes and the Golden Cap—clicking the shoes together three times has called the Winged Monkeys.

WINGED MONKEYS: (heard without) Here—we—come.

The Winged Monkeys descend from the flies. This would be a major scenic effect, flying in multiple actors in Winged Monkey costumes. Only the Monkey Leader speaks, so perhaps the other monkeys would have been two dimensional?

MONKEY LEADER: (to Dorothy) We are the slaves of the silver shoes and whoever wears them can command us.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh, if I could only get those shoes on! I know a place where they have steins that high. (indicating.)

The Scarecrow asks if the monkeys could make him a cheese sandwich, but Dorothy stays focused on her goal.

DOROTHY: We want to go at once to the palace of Glinda the Good. How can you get us there?

MONKEY LEADER: We cannot carry you because the forest is too dense, but we can transport you in a balloon.

TIN WOODMAN: Where did you get the balloon?

MONKEY LEADER: It sailed down out of the sky and we captured it.

DOROTHY: Oh, it must be the balloon of the poor wizard, Oz. He is lost.

SCARECROW: He's as well off as he would be if he stayed in the Emerald City. They were getting ready to give him twelve hours to leave town.

Baum has provided an unfortunate demise for the poor wizard. Is the wizard wandering the Quadling Country, or a prisoner or plaything for the monkeys? Dorothy's matter-of-fact "He is lost" seems to indicate the wizard is dead.

Scientifically, such a demise for the wizard seems logical—how far can one really go in a hot-air balloon with no on-board heating source? But why would Baum choose to kill off the title character, and to do it "off-stage," at that? Couldn't the Wizard have rescued the trio from the Hammerheads? It would have given the actor another scene and a more important part. Never mind how disturbing the suggested "death by monkey" might seem to a child in the audience. But Dorothy and her friends accept the story with no further questioning.

TIN WOODMAN: Well, let's be on our way. Bring out your balloon.

(Balloon and basket swing in from the wings, guided by the winged monkey. All clamber in.)

DOROTHY: Now for Glinda and Kansas!

TIN WOODMAN: If we ever get to Glinda I'll try to worry along without Kansas.

(Balloon rises into flies. Dark change to scene 3.)

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Musical Bubble in Two Bottles: The History of Mamzelle Champagne - Part III

A guest posting by Eric Shanower
To read Part II click here

In late August 1906 the newspapers announced that Mamzelle Champagne with cast intact would go on a tour of the cities within a hundred miles’ radius of New York. Doubtless such a tour seemed a good bet for so popular and successful a show. But after Mamzelle Champagne closed its summer season on September 2, 1906, no road tour seems to have materialized.

Instead, after a short break, Mamzelle Champagne appeared again in New York City during the regular theatre season. Theatre manager George A. Blumenthal had remodeled the Berkeley Lyceum on 44th Street near Fifth Avenue, renamed it the Berkeley Theatre, and booked Mamzelle Champagne for the season’s opening attraction. Woolf entirely rewrote his script. Cass Freeborn was again musical director and conducted F. F. Pinto’s Boys Symphony Orchestra. Lionel Lawrence again directed with Al. M. De Lisser as company manager.

The Boys Symphony Orchestra, circa 1904. They are reported to have played for Mamzelle Champagne’s Berkeley Theatre run.

The cast was primarily new, although Harry Lester Mason as the German detective, along with Alice Chase and Alberta Davis, remained from the original roof garden. W. H. Fitzgerald, as Fuller Spice, was a principal comedian. Other performers included Emmet Lennon as Jack McAllister, W. L. Romaine as Gustavus Hicks, Florence L. Smith as Bessie Lonely, Hattie F. Nefflin, and Ernest Robinson. Girlie Curtis and Dollie Fontaine were among the chorus. The Spanish dancer Ybarri performed “picturesque gyrations” in a new feature of the show.

One of the more attractive elements of the Berkeley Theatre run was the performance of Ybarri the Spanish dancer.

Isabel D’Armond took over Maude Fulton’s role of Mabel Chatterton. D’Armond had been in The Wizard of Oz, playing Kansas waitress Tryxie Tryfle on Broadway for a few weeks in summer 1903 and then Dorothy Gale for the 1903-04 season with the second touring company.

Isabel D’Armond, the second actress (not counting understudies) to play the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz on stage, survived Mamzelle Champagne to continue her career in musical comedy and as a popular vaudeville headliner.

Also new to the Mamzelle Champagne cast was Robert Emmett O’Connor, a Wizard of Oz veteran like D’Armond. O’Connor had filled the role of the anarchist Sir Wylie Gyle in The Wizard’s second touring company during the 1903-04 season.

Robert Emmett O’Connor, former Wizard of Oz actor, later went on to numerous roles in motion pictures, often as a policeman or a detective.

The most widely known new Mamzelle Champagne cast member was May Yohe in the title role. In the 1890s she’d been a reigning queen of the theatrical world on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and had gained entree to aristocratic London society. Yohe was as famous for adulterous affairs and extravagant behavior as she was for her stage performances.

May Yohe, circa 1899, at that time still a popular actress.

One of her long string of husbands was Lord Francis Hope, whom she married in 1894. By 1901 Yohe had frittered away Hope’s fortune so that he had to sell the Hope Diamond to pay his debts, and they divorced in 1902. More husbands as well as more stage roles followed. By 1906 Yohe’s career was in steep decline. Her singing voice was as tarnished as her reputation. But her name was still recognizable to theatre-goers.

Newspaper advertisement for the Berkeley Theatre run of Mamzelle Champagne.

Rehearsals began in September. The October 20 opening was postponed. On October 24, 1906, Mamzelle Champagne began its open-ended Berkeley Theatre run as the second part of a double bill. The curtain raiser was a one-act, three-character play by company manager Al. M. De Lisser titled The Day Before, or, the Thaw-White Tragedy. De Lisser himself played Stanford White. William D. Corbett played Harry Kendall Thaw and Ethel Hunt played Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. Mamzelle Champagne had previously downplayed its connection to White’s murder. Now it seemed to be exploiting that connection to the fullest.

It didn’t work. The entire production was a disaster. The audience found The Day Before laughable, and the press found it tasteless, outrageous, and disgraceful. Director Lionel Lawrence, who was expected to be a witness in Harry Thaw’s upcoming murder trial, reported that he’d received a letter from Robert Turnbull of the New York District Attorney’s office. The letter purportedly threatened to serve Lawrence with an injunction to stop any performance of The Day Before, claiming that it was designed to stir up sentiment for Thaw.

The Day Before was evidently both offensive in its subject matter and ridiculous in its execution.

As intolerant as was the reaction to The Day Before, the reaction to the revived Mamzelle Champagne was even worse. The few reviews that even took notice of the show were far from kind. The reviewer for Brooklyn Life declared it a “hash of nonsense.”  The New York Tribune ridiculed it thus:

Words are weak to describe the evening. . . . If The Day Before had been funny, the morning after, or Mamzelle Champagne, was funnier. . . . Every move was a picture, nay, a cartoon! Every note was a musical burlesque. There was only one feature of the show funnier than the chorus; that was the principals. . . . the audience burst into finally uncontrollable mirth and held its aching sides.

The Indianapolis Star, in criticizing May Yohe’s career as a whole, described Mamzelle Champagne in this way:

There was a small, but curious audience. It went to see and it remained to chuckle.
May Yohe, who had so long defied public opinion, was pilloried upon it at last.
For six dreary nights the exhibition of mediocre ability, threadbare charms and moral obliquity continued. May Yohe’s three good notes, thick and husky now, echoed back from empty benches and resounding walls. Each night there were fewer and fewer persons in the bandbox of a theater, and on the seventh night the ushers had no duties to perform.

May Yohe, looking out from the stage upon the emptied house, thought the laughter and jeers of the first night preferable to this horrible silence, the blackness undotted by white faces and wide eyes. The curtain was rung down and she who had been Lady Hope, and later Mrs. Putnam Bradlee Strong, wept aloud in her dressing room.

May Yohe, circa 1905, when her career was waning.

The only aspect of Mamzelle Champagne that critics mentioned with any favor was Isabel D’Armond. Even the chorus girls had nothing good to say about the show, calling it “the bummest show of all the bum shows that have played here” and declaring “this show’s a lemon.”

Audiences stayed away in droves. On November 1 Mamzelle Champagne closed. Lionel Lawrence announced that the show would immediately go on the road with Isabel D’Armond taking over May Yohe’s role. But nothing of the sort occurred.

Mamzelle Champagne
had effervesced bright and strong for a while. But now it was flat, stale. Everyone associated with it moved on, many to better things. Edgar Allan Woolf became a celebrated writer for the stage, known primarily as a prolific and successful author of vaudeville sketches. In 1914 his income was reported as $1000 a week and he had twenty-five hits running in vaudeville. Eventually he moved on to writing motion pictures.

Edgar Allan Woolf in later years.

Today few traces of Mamzelle Champagne remain. The US Library of Congress holds a version of the script. Published sheet music surfaces here and there. Every history of the murder of Stanford White mentions the show, as does E. L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel Ragtime. The 1981 motion picture version of Ragtime features a reconstructed scene from Mamzelle Champagne with Donald O’Connor as Harry Short singing a revision by Randy Newman of “I Could Love a Million Girls” while Robert Joy as Harry Thaw shoots Norman Mailer as Stanford White. In the 1955 motion picture The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, Farley Granger as Harry Thaw shoots Ray Milland as Stanford White while, with less fidelity to reality, the Mamzelle Champagne chorus parries with foils and sings “I Challenge You to Love,” a song evidently written by Leigh Harline for the movie. An even more tenuous trace of Mamzelle Champagne is in the March 15, 1990, episode of The Simpsons television show, which includes the animated character Homer Simpson singing yet another rendition of “I Could Love a Million Girls.”

On The Simpsons television show Homer Simpson joins lounge singer Gulliver Dark in singing “I Could Love a Million Girls” from Mamzelle Champagne.

And of course—through Edgar Allan Woolf, Fred Woodward, Isabel D’Armond, Robert O’Connor, and May McKenzie—Mamzelle Champagne is also a small part of Oz history.

Primary Sources

More than a hundred newspaper articles were consulted, including articles from these newspapers: Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY; New York Sun, New York, NY; Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, KS; Altoona Times, Altoona, PA; Windsor Star, Windsor, ON; Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY; Evening World, New York, NY; Morning Telegraph, New York, NY; Marion Star, Marion, OH; Buffalo Courier, Buffalo, NY; New-York Tribune, New York, NY; Pittston Gazette, Pittston, PA; Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, NJ; New York Clipper, New York, NY; Butte Miner, Butte, MT; New York Times, New York, NY; Topeka Capital, Topeka, KS; Evansville Press, Evansville, IN; Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, NY; New York Herald, New York, NY; Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA; Washington Times, Washington, DC; Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo, NY; Jersey City News, Jersey City, NJ; Evening Times-Republican, Marshalltown, IA; Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE; Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT; Huntington Herald, Huntington, IN; New York Press, New York, NY; Deseret Evening News, Salt Lake City, UT; Brooklyn Life, Brooklyn, NY; Billboard, New York, NY; Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN; Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, AR; Bernardsville News, Bernardsville, NJ; New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, NY; Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN; Courier-News, Bridgewater, NJ; Leavenworth Post, Leavenworth, KS; Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, OR; Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA; Times-Union, Albany, NY; Boston Post, Boston, MA; Daily News, New York, NY; Nassau Daily Review-Star, Nassau, New York; and Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY.

Magazines consulted include:
Putman’s Monthly Magazine, January 1907.
Daily Attractions in New York, Oct. 29 – Nov. 4, 1906.

Secondary sources

Books consulted include:
Baatz, Simon. The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018.
Mooney, Michael Macdonald. Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White: Love and Death in the Gilded Age. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1976.
Uruburu, Paula. American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the “It” Girl, and the Crime of the Century. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.

Websites consulted include:'s_Night_Out
Wikipedia entries [] consulted include: Mamzelle Champagne, Edgar Allan Woolf, Madison Square Garden (1890), Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Kendall Thaw, Stanford White, Maude Fulton, Robert Emmett O’Connor, May Yohe, Ragtime (novel), and Ragtime (film).
Also consulted were websites devoted to Madison Square Garden, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Thaw, Stanford White, and May Yohe.

Three motion pictures consulted, which reconstruct scenes from Mamzelle Champagne:
The Unwritten Law: A Thrilling Drama Based on the Thaw-White Case.
Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1907.

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. Directed by Richard Fleischer. Twentieth Century Fox, 1955.
Ragtime. Directed by Milos Forman. Paramount Pictures, 1981.

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower. All rights reserved.