Monday, January 27, 2020

Opening Prayer - Part VI

CLICK HERE TO READ PART V

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." 

Act III
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.

FIGHTING TREES: (sing)

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.

DOROTHY:
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.

(Dancing.)

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

ALL: Quite merrily!

[ . . . ]

(Dancing)

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

ALL: Quite merrily!

DOROTHY:
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.)

TO BE CONTINUED

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:
http://www.thevarsityshow.com/
https://simpsons.fandom.com/wiki/Homer's_Night_Out
Wikipedia entries [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page] 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.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

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

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

Chorus girl and artists' model Evelyn Nesbit. Her verdict on Mamzelle Champagne: "Putrid."

By summer 1906 the Madison Square Roof Garden had been closed for several years. Its re-opening on June 25 was a notable occasion—though how notable it would become no one knew beforehand. About one thousand people were in attendance to see the Broadway debut of Mamzelle Champagne.

The show’s star, Harry Short, almost had a serious accident during his first entrance. He appeared in an airship—actually a box run on wires from the gallery. The attendant working the ropes gave too much slack and the box slammed into the proscenium arch, nearly throwing Short out into the orchestra. He kept his nerve, however, and climbed down onto the stage, continuing as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.


Actor Harry Short, who played the lead role of Fuller Spice on opening night.

Many accounts claim that Harry Short was onstage performing the number “I Could Love a Million Girls” when the shooting occurred. One account claims that the song had ended and Short had just spoken the line: “I challenge you to a duel, let it be pistols,” while another account claims that one of the Big Six chorus girls sang a line that ran, “I challenge you, I challenge you to a duel, a du-u-el”—either of which might account for the audience’s momentary confusion over whether Thaw’s gun shots were part of the show. Yet another account claims that Arthur Stanford had just finished singing “There Was a Maid” while the six chorus girls of Spice’s Big Six waited for their cue to enter and sing “I Could Love a Million Girls” with him.

The most reasonable version of events seems to be this:

The time was approaching 11:00 PM and Mamzelle Champagne was nearly over when Eddie Fowler, as rich plumber Gustavus Hicks, strode downstage to the footlights and, quoting a catch phrase employed earlier in the action, bellowed: “Here is the spot where the hero slays the villain!”

“We will fight with pistols,” retorted Harry Short as Fuller Spice, in response to the plumber’s challenge. Fowler and Sylvia Starr exited, leaving Short alone on stage to sing “I Could Love a Million Girls.” After the first verse, the Big Six entered to join Short. They were singing the song’s refrain when Thaw, obsessed by the idea that White had “ruined” Thaw’s wife Evelyn, approached White in the fifth row and without warning fired three times.


Spice’s Big Six performing “I Could Love a Million Girls.”

As blood poured from White’s wounds, two of the Big Six women screamed and fled into the wings. “Get back into your line!” Lionel Lawrence, acting as stage manager, shouted loudly enough for the audience to hear. One of the women headed back onstage, but again turned to flee. Two of the remaining four women on stage collapsed. Lawrence ordered the orchestra to continue playing and rang down the curtain on one of the most dramatic endings of a performance in theatre history.

As the audience members realized that the shots hadn’t actually been part of the show, several fainted. Lionel Lawrence, fearing a panic, rushed into the house from the wings, shouting, “Ladies and gentlemen: A serious accident has happened. We shall not be able to go on with the play. I ask you, therefore, to pass out as quietly as you can. There is no need for any alarm, I assure you.” Most of the audience calmed down and filed from the theatre without a dangerous amount of commotion.


Harry Kendall Thaw, millionaire Pittsburgh playboy, whose sanity was in question long before he shot White, in a sketch by Ike Morgan, illustrator of The Wogglebug Book by L. Frank Baum and friend of Wizard of Oz composer Paul Tietjens.

Meanwhile the on-duty fireman Paul Brudi intercepted Thaw, who was heading toward an elevator. Brudi disarmed Thaw and escorted him down to street level in the elevator and into the custody of New York City policeman Anthony L. Debs. Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, who’d been sitting near the rear of the theatre with her husband and two friends during the performance, fled to the apartment of her close friend May McKenzie, a chorus girl who’d played the role of Bardo in The Wizard of Oz during its pre-Broadway run in Chicago in summer 1902.


May McKenzie, Wizard of Oz actress and staunch chum of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. McKenzie stuck to her friend’s side throughout Harry Thaw’s trial. Though expected to be called as a witness, she was not.

Stanford White had died instantly. His body slid onto the floor and lay in a pool of blood among pieces of glass from a broken bottle. Lionel Lawrence covered White’s ruined face with theatre programs. Some cast members, still in costume and make-up, mingled with the straggling audience, asking for details of the shooting and predicting dire failure for the show. Others fanned those of the Big Six chorus girls that had fainted on stage. The rest of the Big Six huddled in the dressing rooms.
One account of the murder offers the curious information that when skaters enjoying the roller rink inside Madison Square Garden heard that a man had been shot on the roof, they dropped their skates and ran up six flights to the roof to see. Some neglected to take their skates off and tried to climb the stairs on their wheels.

Within hours newspaper headlines screamed reports of the murder. Reviews of Mamzelle Champagne offered details of the shocking event while critical reaction to the show itself was tepid.

A review in the New York Clipper of June 30, 1906, claimed that “there is little to try the brain of the auditor . . . The book can be whipped into better shape, and later performances will probably see an improvement in it. Some changes to the company are advisable too.”

The New York Dramatic Mirror of July 7, 1906, said, “As most of the patrons sit at tables sipping cooling drinks and chatting, it does not matter very much what is going on on the stage, so Mamzelle Champagne will probably fill the bill as well as anything else that might be put on. . . . The music is jingly and more or less catchy . . . The cast is mediocre.”

Some critics proclaimed Mamzelle Champagne a failure—Kenneth Lord of the New York Sun, who left the theatre mere minutes before the shooting, declared it “hopelessly bad”—while others thought it might reach success with judicious revision.


Producer Henry Pincus’s wife, actress Viola De Costa, played the title role of Mamzelle Champagne.

Despite all critical opinion, audiences flocked to subsequent performances of Mamzelle Champagne. Thaw’s murder of White—the “Crime of the Century”—was international headlines. People bought tickets not so much because of what was happening on stage, but because of ghoulish fascination with the scene of the crime. In the Manhattan of 1906 arriving late to a theatrical performance was far from unusual, but audience members each night crowded the Madison Square Roof Garden theatre twenty minutes before the curtain rose. Patrons requested seating as close as possible to the table where Stanford White had been sitting.

A newspaper article noted that random lines of Woolf’s script seemed to comment grotesquely on the notorious event of opening night, lines such as:

“Here’s where I forget my wife and all my other troubles.”

“My little girl, they say old men are the worst.”

“Fare-thee-well, purveyor to degraded tastes.”

“And this is where our hero dies upon the spot.”

To its credit the show didn’t try to trade on the sensational publicity of the murder. Mamzelle Champagne did its best to put the tragedy behind it. But tragedy provided Mamzelle Champagne unexpected fortune. It became the most successful Madison Square Roof Garden show up to that time, extending performances into late August after all other New York roof garden shows had finished their summer runs.


After the shooting, the sales of sheet music for the song “I Could Love a Million Girls” exploded. The publisher had difficulty keeping up with orders.[Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. Crouch Fine Arts Library, Baylor University. Waco, Texas.]

After opening night Mamzelle Champagne went through many changes, as most stage shows did in a time before theatrical previews. Much of Woolf’s dialog, which was easily lost on auditors in the open air of the roof garden, was pruned or simply eliminated. Several new musical numbers filled the empty spots, including a new opening chorus—“Life”—and a new closing—“The Goddess of Liberty.” Harry Lester Mason played a new comedic character, Heinrich Hasenpfeffer, a detective with a thick German accent. John L. Kearney assumed, to critical acclaim, the role of Fuller Spice when Harry Short left the show after the first week. The hit of the show turned out to be future Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter Maude Fulton—in her first Broadway role—as Mabel Chatterton, wearing a red jacket and singing “Could I Fascinate You?” The single interpolated song, “Somewhere” by Charles K. Harris (lyricist of the 1893 smash hit “After the Ball”), regularly received four or five encores each night. Publicity touted the frothy concoction as “the biggest theatrical fad” of the summer season with the claim that it “leaves no bad taste.”


Actress Maude Fulton was said to have been sixteen years old when she made her Broadway debut in Mamzelle Champagne. She was actually twenty-five.

But the public couldn’t forget the murder. Every evening countless audience members asked the ushers to point out “the exact spot” where the tragedy occurred. The head usher grew so tired of these questions that he took to hiding in the shadows during intermission.

On July 15, a distant relative of Harry Thaw, Henry Phipps Hoffstet, and his companion John Lee Hobart attended a performance of Mamzelle Champagne. During the first act they carried on a loud conversation and insulted the actors onstage. Conductor Cassius Freeborn complained to producer Henry Pincus, declaring that the two young men were distracting the orchestra and that the musicians wouldn’t be able to play for the second act if the disturbance continued.

A waiter was sent to tell Hoffstet and Hobart to be quiet. They merely insulted the waiter. Producer Pincus called the police, who arrested the two men for disorderly conduct. At the police station Hoffstet fainted and was sent to New York Hospital. Pincus then withdrew charges and the offending men were released.

Events involving the Mamzelle Champagne company weren’t all so grim. On the afternoon of July 18, the show—with all it actors, musicians, costumes, and scenery—transferred for a single benefit performance to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at Amsterdam Avenue and 137th Street. The company, orchestra, and equipment traveled in a parade of automobiles provided by Richard W. Meade, President of the Metropolitan Transportation Company. The orphans were reportedly delighted by both the show and the souvenirs distributed. Immediately afterward, the company rushed back to Madison Square Garden for the evening performance.


Spice’s Big Six up close and personal.

Morbid curiosity about the show faded, but ticket sales remained robust. Audiences seemed interested in attending Mamzelle Champagne for its own sake. Refinements to the show continued. New features debuted even during its final week, when a blackface toe dance by Madlyn Jane Summers was introduced.


August 1906 newspaper advertisement for Mamzelle Champagne.

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

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

A guest posting by Eric Shanower


Madison Square Garden

Edgar Allan Woolf’s name is known to Oz fans as one of the more than dozen writers who contributed to the script of Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s 1939 motion picture version of The Wizard of Oz. Woolf’s screen credit appears in the opening minutes of the movie, along with those of Noel Langley and Woolf’s scripting partner Florence Ryerson. MGM’s The Wizard of Oz came near the end of Woolf’s career. He died from falling downstairs in 1943, four years after the movie was released. But before The Wizard of Oz, Edgar Allan Woolf had a long career writing for both motion pictures and the stage, a career that started off with a bang.

Three bangs, actually—since Harry Kendall Thaw fired three bullets into Stanford White—two into White’s head, one into his shoulder—during the opening night of Mamzelle Champagne, the first professionally produced stage script written by Edgar Allan Woolf.


Edgar Allan Woolf as a young man.

Before writing scripts and immediately after graduating from Columbia University in 1901, Woolf had tried his hand as an actor with some success.  He appeared in shows such as Miranda of the Balcony starring celebrated actress Minnie Maddern Fiske, The Starbucks by Opie Read, Lady Berinthia’s Secret with Sarah Cowell Le Moyne, a stock company production of The Prisoner of Zenda, and The Sorceress with Mrs. Patrick Campbell.

But it seems to have been a script he wrote for a musical comedy titled The Mischief Maker that set Woolf on his way to a script writing career.

Woolf wrote The Mischief Maker in 1901 in collaboration with fellow Columbia University grads Arthur G. Hays (lyrics) and Clarence J. Penney (music). In April 1903 The Mischief Maker saw the light of day as Columbia’s Varsity Show. The Varsity Show is an annual theatrical production performed by Columbia undergraduates. Established in 1894 initially as a fundraiser for the university’s sports program (thus the “varsity” of the title), it’s the university’s oldest performing arts tradition and is still going strong today.

Eminent theatre critic Burns Mantle later claimed to have a letter from Woolf explaining that The Mischief Maker evolved into Woolf’s first professional show, the musical farce Mamzelle Champagne. What “evolved” means in this context is unclear; The Mischief Maker was set on the planet Venus and Mamzelle Champagne was set at Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, so the two shows evidently bear little resemblance. The primary continuity between them seems to have been the impetus provided by the Varsity Show production to propel Woolf into professional scripting.


A scene from Mamzelle Champagne. Viola De Costa in the title role is fourth from left.

Mamzelle Champagne premiered on June 18, 1906, at the Savoy Theatre in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Woolf wrote the script and lyrics. Cassius M. Freeborn, recently musical conductor for the actress Edna May (whose first stage appearance was in an 1884 production of Charles Reade's Dora with L. Frank Baum), supplied the music and conducted the orchestra. Henry Pincus produced and Lionel E. Lawrence directed. The cast was as follows:

Fuller Spice – Ned Nye, replaced by Harry Short
Gustavus Hicks, a rich plumber – Edwin “Eddie” Fowler
Jack McAllister – Arthur Stanford
Henri La Tour – Alfred Hudson, Jr.
Mamzelle Champagne (La Folaire) – Viola De Costa
Violet Stuyvesant – Maude Earle
Diana Hicks – Sylvia Starr
Bessie Lonely – Ida Crispi
Mabel Chatterton – Maude Fulton
Siebelle – Alberta Davis
Percy Yale, an art student – Harry Hudson
Walter Harvard, an art student – Frank McCullough
Phillip Cornell, an art student – Fred J. Ozab
Martin Brown, an art student – Fred Woodward
Prince Towne, an art student – Walter Lehmann
George Carlisle, an art student – Walter Pascal
Head Waiter at Maxim’s – Edward Giles
Burglar – Fred J. Ozab
Gendarme – James E. Ludwig
Pansy Lovejoy, one of the Big Six – Alice Chase
Diana Armour, one of the Big Six – Jennie Andrietta
Myrtle Granger, one of the Big Six – Edna Hixon
Winnie Darling, one of the Big Six – Alice Robinson
Mazie Royler, one of the Big Six – May Rollins
Dolly Lakefront, one of the Big Six – Elfia White
Iona Lott – Sadie Etherton
Tiny Timmyon – Inez Marcelle

Mamzelle Champagne also had a chorus claimed to number fifty people, mostly girls—including chorus girl Grace LaRue—but that number is suspect. Publicity for musicals routinely inflated chorus sizes. Nevertheless, Mamzelle Champagne’s chorus was likely a large one. Outside the regular September-to-May theatrical season, many chorus girls would have been looking for employment in a summer show.


Maude Earle, in the role of Violet Stuyvesant. The better-known musical comedy actress Virginia Earle was her sister.

Like the show’s writer Edgar Allan Woolf, the actor Fred Woodward also had an Oz connection. Woodward had spent the previous 1905-06 theatrical season in the second touring company of the smash musical extravaganza The Wizard of Oz, produced for the stage by Fred Hamlin. Woodward initially held minor roles in Wizard—a Kansas farmhand and one of the Wizard’s wisemen—but eventually took over the principal part of the Cowardly Lion. He then joined the cast of Mamzelle Champagne for the 1906 summer season, playing one of the art students named for an Ivy League university, Martin Brown.



Fred Woodward (born Frederick James Warrington) with his costume for his most celebrated role, Hank the Mule. In the fall of 1906 when the regular theatrical season resumed, Woodward joined the number one Wizard company (featuring superstars David Montgomery and Fred Stone) and spent that season playing Imogene the Frolicsome Heifer to favorable reviews. After The Wizard of Oz Woodward continued his career as an animal actor. He played Hank the Mule in the entire 1913-14 run of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a role he played internationally (with short interruptions, such as his appearances as the Woozy and a human in L. Frank Baum’s Oz Film Manufacturing Co. productions) for the rest of his career into the 1950s.

The show’s tagline, “a musical bubble in two bottles,” humorously signaled its status as ephemeral summer entertainment, too light for the main theatrical season. It was divided into two acts, called the “first pop” and the “second pop.” The thin plot of Mamzelle Champagne follows Fuller Spice, an American theatrical agent, in his search for a theatrical novelty with which to startle New York. Attended by his six faithful show girls, Spice’s Big Six, he arrives by airship at Maxim’s in Paris, where he encounters a wide variety of people who play tricks upon him.


Spice’s Big Six.

Having failed in his quest, he decides to return to New York. But when he purchases a giant bottle of champagne to take back, the bottle explodes.  Fuller Spice finds his novelty emerging from it: Mamzelle Champagne. The love interest in the show centers on an affair between two young Americans, Jack McAllister and Mabel Chatterton, who give vent to their passion in frequent bursts of song.

The eighteen musical numbers included “I’m Searching for a Novelty,” “Moonlight, You and I,” “Could I Fascinate You?” “The Land of Golden Dreams,” “Lovers’ Lane,” “Gloriana,” “The Tale of the Tadpole and the Frog,” “Peter Pan,” “Never Again,” “Atmosphere,” “A Cottage to Let, Down Lovers’ Lane,” and “I Could Love a Million Girls.”


A popular ensemble in Mamzelle Champagne.

After a week in Atlantic City, where the Atlantic City Review called it “bright,” Mamzelle Champagne next moved to New York City, where it opened on the evening of Monday, June 25, 1906, on the Madison Square Garden roof. Publicity heralded the show as “the latest musical success” and the “best, brightest, breeziest show in town.”


Newspaper advertisement for opening night of Mamzelle Champagne on the Madison Square Garden roof.

Madison Square Garden, where Mamzelle Champagne made its Broadway debut, was the second structure of that name. It opened in 1890, taking up the complete block northeast of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street in Manhattan. J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, P. T. Barnum, Darius Mills, James Stillman and W. W. Astor financed the three million dollar construction. Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White, the preeminent architectural firm of the day, designed the structure in a Beaux Arts style with Moorish details. It contained the largest exhibition hall in the world at the time, a 1200-seat theatre, a 1500-seat concert hall, New York City’s largest restaurant, and a roof garden theatre open to the sky.


Madison Square Garden overlooking Madison Square Park.

In the days before widespread air conditioning, hot summer weather could make sitting through a stage production intolerable. Late night productions in roof garden theatres open to the breezes were a solution to providing summer entertainment after the regular theatre season had closed. New York City boasted several roof garden theatres. The one on Madison Square Garden was the largest and most elaborate of them. It occupied the roof’s front corner at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, overlooking Madison Square. Flowers, shrubs, ornamental arches, and colored electric lights decorated the open-air space large enough to seat 800 comfortably and more if necessary.


The Roof Garden theatre on Madison Square Garden.

Above the roof garden a tower rose thirty-two stories high, the city’s second tallest building in 1906. The tower was topped with a revolving nude statue of the goddess Diana—scandalous at the time—by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Stanford White, the master designer of Madison Square Garden, maintained an apartment high in the tower.


Stanford White, eminent architect and lover of under-age chorus girls, circa 1905.

White also had another Manhattan residence, an opulent retreat where in November 1902 the 48-year-old architect deflowered the 17-year-old artists’ model and Florodora chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit. Later the discovery of this incident so enraged Harry Thaw, who’d married Evelyn Nesbit on April 4, 1905, that Thaw shot Stanford White on the roof garden one hot summer night as the first New York City performance of Mamzelle Champagne was nearing its closing strains.


To be continued
To read Part II click here
 
Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower. All rights reserved. 
Originally published in the OzCon International 2019 Program Book.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Der Zauberer von Oz

In addition to my passion for the 1903 Broadway musical version of The Wizard of Oz I also collect foreign translations of the Oz books. Recently I acquired a little book that fits into both categories.

Der Zauberer von Oz, published by Anaconda, 2012.
This attractive German translation of Baum's original children's book, The Wizard of of Oz, was published by Anaconda Verlag of K├Âln in 2012. The story is translated by Felix Mayer and the book is illustrated with a few of W. W. Denslow's color plates printed quite small and as black and white halftones. What makes the book so appealing is the use of a poster from the original stage show on the cover—the first time imagery from the show has been used on the cover of  Baum's children's book, though a photograph and illustration of Montgomery and Stone, as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, were featured in Baum's second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

The poster, titled "Under the Spell of the Poppies," is one of the most beautiful of the original stage show's posters. Pastoria and the Lion are asleep at left, Tryxie and Imogene asleep at right; the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman attempt to rescue Dorothy, who softly murmurs "Locasta, Locasta ..." summoning the Witch of the North to save them from the poppies.



The beautiful Poppy Queen hovers above the poppy field, looking down on her sleeping victims. Interestingly, one of the victims is missing. Brigadier General Riskitt should also be shown asleep near Pastoria and the Lion.

Regrettably, the German edition places the "z" in Oz directly over the Poppy Queen's face. Still, it's a fun new foreign edition for my collection.


Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Tale of a Monkey

Today's music video is "The Tale of a Monkey," featuring music by Leo Edwards and lyrics by Vincent Bryan. It was one of a series of "animal fable" songs performed by Cynthia Cynch, the Lady Lunatic.


When Aileen Crater joined the cast toward the end of the Broadway run, the show had a solid and talented Cynthia Cynch—and Crater soon became Mrs. Fred Stone, too.

Sheet Music cover for "The Tale of a Monkey" (1905).

When Julian Mitchell updated the show for its "Edition de Luxe," which premiered in spring 1904, he gave Cynthia a second number in the first act, "The Tale of a Cassowary." It was eventually replaced by "The Tale of a Monkey," which was not in the show very long. It in turn was replaced by "The Bullfrog and the Coon," which proved to be quite popular.

"The Tale of a Monkey" was probably written specifically for Aileen Crater. Vincent Bryan, the lyricist of the song, was a good friend of the Stone family.

"The Tale of a Monkey" might have been planned as a duet for Crater and Fred Stone. The chorus of the song states: "It was quite plain, he had no brain," which easily describes the Scarecrow; and Fred Stone had done a "monkey act" in his vaudeville days in which Stone played a monkey, but there is no evidence the song was ever performed with Stone's assistance.

Vincent Bryan wrote lyrics for many of the most enduring songs in The Wizard of Oz:
"Hurrah for Baffin's Bay"
"Football"
"T'was Enough to Make a Perfect Lady Mad"
"Down on the Brandywine"
"Under a Panama"
"Sitting Bull"
"The Nightmare"
"Budweiser's a Friend of Mine"
"Pocahontas"
"Pepita Maguire
If you would like a PDF of the sheet music for "The Tale of a Monkey" you may download the sheet music by clicking here.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Putting it Together - Minuet Chorus


Today's post provides a rich backstory on my latest YouTube video, the "Minuet Chorus" from L. Frank Baum and Paul Tietjens's 1901 first draft version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This video recording marks the first time anyone has paired these lyrics to this music since 1901.


I am quite proud of this discovery, reuniting Baum's lyrics of the "Minuet Chorus" from  Act II of the 1901 first draft Wizard of Oz script with the original Tietjens music, though it took me awhile to fit the puzzle pieces together. While the "Minuet Chorus" was cut from the show by the next draft, Baum and Tietjens liked the music well enough that Baum wrote new lyrics for it, turning it into the "Poppy Song."

When I first obtained a copy of Baum's 1901 libretto I did not immediately make a connection between Baum's "Minuet chorus" lyrics and Tietjens's "Poppy" music, in part because Baum's lyrics seldom sit on the melody well, so the relationship of the "Minuet" lyrics to the published "Poppy Song" sheet music was not particularly evident. But the performance version of the "Poppy Song" in Witmark's stock-rental package contains a much longer version of the "Poppy Song," including a "B" section not in the sheet music version. The B section is part of the Poppy ballet in the produced show. This B section perfectly fits Baum's lines "Glide—with proud and stately stride!" I sang the "Minuet" lyrics to the full length Poppy arrangement and the rest of the words fell right into place.

Paul Tietjens was very proud of this piece of music. On February 15, 1903, Tietjens was in New York City, preparing to sail for Europe. That evening, Tietjens visited W. W. Denslow and his wife in their new NYC home. The Wizard of Oz had opened at the Majestic Theatre less than a month earlier. Also attending the dinner were Grace Duffie Boylan and Denslow's old friend Charles W. Waldron, who wrote in the Lewiston [ME] Journal on Feb 17:
After dinner we listened to some of the finest music it has ever been my luck to hear, as Paul Tietjens treated us to selections from The Wizard of Oz. Some of the music was grand. A minuet from the opera was one of the sweetest numbers, full of melody and well balanced. It was a regret to the composer that more was not made of it in the opera. Denslow suggested that it could come in during a snow storm after the poppy field scene and should be stepped out by eight maidens dressed in spotless white and arrayed in furs. It was a happy thought and may be arranged in the future. This minuet should be as popular as the lullaby in Erminie. It was to my ear much prettier.
But Baum and Tietjens had been fond of this music even before it was introduced into the early draft of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Tietjens originally wrote the music for his first collaboration with Baum, the now-abandoned comic opera The Octopus.

Through Tietjens's journal we can follow the writing process of the song.

On the morning of April 18, 1901, Paul Tietjens arose and went for a morning walk. He'd had a quarrel with his friend Ike Morgan the night before and the two were not speaking to each other. After the walk Tietjens spent all morning working on his piano technique, took a break for lunch, and returned to the piano to continue his exercises. But during his afternoon exercises he developed "the nucleus of a Minuet. I think it promises to be a real good one." The next morning Tietjens and Morgan made up their differences at breakfast.

Ten days later, Tietjens again mentions that "the Minuet is in the nucleus," but makes it clear he intends to use it in Act II of The Octopus.

On May 4 Tietjens recorded, "I worked at the Minuet this morning and have now all of the material for it, but have not decided how to put it in the opera."

That evening Tietjens walked to the Studebaker Theatre to see The Pirates of Penzance, which Tietjens liked very much indeed.

The Pirates of Penzance at the Studebaker Theatre, Spring 1901.
[The Pirates of Penzance] is not the style of opera we are writing. The second act consisted of nothing but music, and the comic element was subordinated to it. While it has very little music in it that can be remembered or whistled by the average operagoer, it is replete with beautiful music that is not above the heads of the audience.
Tietjens also jotted down . . .
. . . a remark that was made by a young lady sitting behind me. She spoke of it not being funny in a dissatisfied sort of way. The people want to be amused after all, and that is the reason our opera ought to be a success, for it certainly is funny enough . . .
Tietjens continued his work on The Octopus, seemingly jumping from number to number, each in a different state of completion. On May 6, he noted, "Have made some alterations in the Minuet and have now gotten it almost the way I want it." Tietjens finished arranging "The Minuet" on May 9, 1901.

Years later, in the July 7, 1909, issue of the San Francisco Call, Baum told a fanciful story about how the Wizard of Oz stage show came to be written. Baum has compressed the history and deleted any mention of The Octopus, but he ends the story stating that Tietjens used the "Minuet" as an audition piece to entice Baum into adapting The Wizard of Oz for the stage.
[Tietjens] sat down at the piano and began to play. It was a minuet, a delicate, dreamy morceau, so dainty in conception, so rippling with melody that I drew a long breath when the last sweet notes died away. It was afterward the famous "Poppy chorus" in The Wizard of Oz.
While Baum's chronology is out of order, his fondness for Tietjens's melody seems authentic. The music began as a number in the Fancy-Dress Ball in The Octopus, it became a "Minuet Chorus" for the Attendants of the Wizard in the earliest draft of The Wizard of Oz, and finally found its home in the deadly Poppy Field.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.