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, including small parts in the Judy Garland movies Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls and as Jonesy in Sunset Boulevard.

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 theatre-goers still recognized her name.

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 proved a disaster. The audience found The Day Before laughable, and the press found it tasteless, outrageous, and disgraceful. Director Lionel Lawrence, widely expected as 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 appearing in the show had nothing good to say about it, 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, Mabel Barrison, 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; Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY; and Waukegan Daily Sun, Waukegan IL.

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.

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 proved a notable occasion—though how notable it would become no one knew beforehand. About one thousand people filled the roof garden that night to see the Broadway debut of Mamzelle Champagne.

The show’s star, Harry Short, almost suffered 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.

Mabel Barrison, Wizard of Oz actress and friend of Evelyn Nesbit since their days in the hit musical Florodora. Barrison created the role of Tryxie Tryfle during Wizard's original 1902 Chicago summer run and played Dorothy Gale for several weeks in New York in September 1905.

Mamzelle Champagne failed to favorably impress many audience members. Some of them left before the show ended, including actress Mabel Barrison, who had created the role of Tryxie Tryfle in The Wizard of Oz during its pre-Broadway run in Chicago in summer 1902. Mamzelle Champagne was well under way when Stanford White entered the roof garden and claimed Mabel's vacant seat, little suspecting it to be the last place he would ever sit.

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

Many accounts claim that Harry Short stood 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 approached 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. As they sang the song’s refrain, 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.

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 original 1902 Chicago cast of The Wizard of Oz.

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 who 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”—made international headlines. People bought tickets not so much because of the performance on stage, but because of ghoulish fascination with the scene of the crime. In the Manhattan of 1906, late arrivals to theatrical performances were 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 sat.

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 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 its 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 Madlyn Jane Summers introduced a blackface toe dance.

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 a script he wrote for a musical comedy titled The Mischief Maker seemingly 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 (who first appeared on stage 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 likely boasted a large chorus. Outside the regular September-to-May theatrical season, many chorus girls would have looked 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, actor Fred Woodward also had an Oz connection. Woodward had spent the previous three theatrical seasons 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 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 in 1882) 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 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 consisted of 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. 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. High atop the tower revolved a 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 neared 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"
"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"
"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. In November of 1903, when Tietjens was in New York City preparing to sail for Europe, he visited W. W. Denslow and his wife in their new NYC home. Also attending the dinner were Grace Duffie Boylan and Denslow's old friend Charles W. Waldron, who later wrote of that evening 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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Opening Prayer - Part V

The following in an excerpt from my forthcoming book. Please note, this early draft does not reflect corrections, changes, and more recent discoveries. There may be substantial differences between the following text and that to be included in the final work.  —David Maxine


“But tell us,” asks the Tin Woodman, “how you handed out the hot air to these Emerald City folks, and held your job so long when we got onto you the first rattle out of the box.” 

The Wizard sings his reply:

When you want to fool the public you will
Find that all you need to do
Is just to blink your eyes
And look extremely wise
And tell ’em you are quite a few!
For everybody loves to feed a fake
They love to cry “Gee Whiz!”
“How wonderful it is!”
No matter how absurd your schemes;
That’s right,
It’s a sight
To watch the ninnies bite!

Just humbug the people well
If ever you wish to excel;
Their future foretell or work ’em a spell—
They’ll never get on to the fact that it’s a sell.
It’s a cinch you never let any of the Emerald City people hear you sing or you’d be looking for a new job long ago.

“Hold on a minute,” says Oz. “I’m not a wizard, but it may be I can fix you up with what you want. “ Oz goes to a cupboard [somewhere on stage] to retrieve a “book of recipes”  left behind by the previous wizard.

Let’s see.—brains—brains—calves’ brains—

That won’t do. I draw the line right there. I’m willing to stand for any old kind of brains you’ve got left over, shop-worn goods, marked down, from the bargain basement or any other kind except calves’ brains.

Oz continues flipping through the recipe. “Here we are—“brains for scarecrows.” Oz returns to the cupboard, to fetch a bowl, a box of bran, and needles and pins. Dorothy asks why Oz is adding the latter ingredients.

To make him sharp, of course.
(to Scarecrow) You’re stuck.

Oz rips open the Scarecrow’s head, inserts the brains, and sews it back up—much like he does in the book. Oz is now ready for the Tin Woodman, offering a heart that was left behind by a young fellow who had committed suicide.

Baum seems unable to make up his mind who his audience is. The tone of this script shifts wildly from the child-friendly and overly-cute Munchkins, forced to box each other’s ears, to this gruesome origin for the Tin Woodman’s heart. Horrors aside, the scene is long and over complicated. The Tin Woodman and Oz discuss the suicide victim’s former girlfriend, if the Tin Woodman will take the heart with him or have it sent, finally enacting some awkward stage business where the Wizard cuts open the Woodman’s chest and then patches it after installing the heart. 

(To Dorothy) And now it’s your turn. Is there anything in the book that will help you out?

Is there a first-class ticket to Kansas there, including a lower berth in the sleeper?

I’m afraid not. The old wizard who got up this book never heard of Kansas and did all his riding on a broomstick.

Then must I stay forever in this awful country?

You ought to be able to stand it. You have lived in Kansas.

The Wizard suggests Dorothy travel to Glinda the Good, who lives in the South. “She is not a humbug and therefore has never become as powerful with the people as I am.” The wizard lets the trio in on a secret, too. 

I’m going away myself just as soon as I can. [. . .] I’ve got a big balloon here ready to make my escape [. . .] I’m afraid there is something doing right now and I’m going to have the airship ready to sail at a moment’s notice.

He asks Dorothy if she would like to accompany him in the balloon.

Could we reach Glinda’s country?

That depends on how the wind blows. We’ll see this afternoon.

This curious bit of information means that all of Act II up to this point has been happening before noon.

In the meantime I will have some of my people do a few stunts so you can see how it feels to be a real potentate.

Oz announces, “Let the revels begin,” and invites Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman to join him on the throne to watch the entertainment—much like Clara watches the Russian, Chinese, and Arabian dances in the ballet of The Nutcracker. These Emerald City “revels” will be developed into the “Ball of All Nations” celebration the Wizard calls for in the produced show. And the script doctors will have the sense to allow the stars to perform, not just sit and watch the chorus.

The Wizard’s attendants enter (sixteen men and women) dressed in court costumes trimmed with mystic emblems. They sing and dance a Minuet. The music is that of the “minuet” from the fancy-dress ball in Act II of The Octopus. This same music will eventually become the “Poppy Song” in the produced version of the show.

“Minuet Chorus”
Sung and danced by eight men and eight women

In the throne room of Oz,
the Mighty one,
We daintily tread,
Who so graceful and so fascinating?
Who so coy and captivating?
All the mazes of courtly minuets
We skillfully tread,
We are glowing with delight while
Into the dance we are led.

While the strains of soft music float
Our very souls to ensnare,
We can never, never, tire of dancing—
Every motion is entrancing!
[Line missing here]
Ev’ry heart free from care;
There’s an ecstasy in each step
That’s far beyond all compare!

Glide—with proud and stately stride!
And then with spirits gay
We slowly whirl away.
Bow—to ev’ry partner now!
And then with perfect grace
We chassez to our place.

Oz introduces Dorothy and her friends to his Courtiers, presenting the trio as fellow wizards come to learn a few new tricks before traveling on to visit Glinda the Good.

The Guardian of the Gates enters and warns they will never reach Glinda. “The road is beset with dangers. The woods are full of terrible monsters.”

You are the worst man I ever saw for trying to stir up trouble.

The Guardian also warns Oz that the people of the Emerald City think the Wizard’s powers may be waning. Oz decides it’s time to depart.

“Finale Act II”
OZ: A man may circumnavigate the globe—
CHORUS: In sixty days

OZ: Or fly through the air, the birds to emulate—
CHORUS: In many ways!

OZ: The secrets of the planets he may probe—
CHORUS: With microscopes!

OZ: But no one yet has ever conquered fate!
CHORUS: Or ever hopes—
To conquer fate—
To conquer fate!

Though your strength be great,
Though of wisdom you may prate
Though you bluster like an eastern potentate;
Though you early work and late,
Though you’re strictly up-to-date—
’Tis beyond your power to ever conquer fate!

TIN WOODMAN: A man may win the love of any maid—
CHORUS: If he can last!

SCARECROW: Or in his head a pot of brains locate—
CHORUS: Of knowledge vast!

DOROTHY: Or face an awful danger undismayed
CHORUS: By any fear!

DOROTHY: But trembles when he’s face to face with fate—
CHORUS: And that is queer!

No man is great
Enough for fate!
Though his strength be great,
Though of wisdom he may prate
Though he blusters like an umpire at the plate
Though to knuckle he may hate,
Though he’s not a cowardly skate—
’Tis beyond your power to ever conquer fate!

Then let us bow to fate’s most stern decree,
Since from her thrall, we never are free;
Men are but puppets, buffeted through life,
Helpless to stem the tide of woe and strife.
Yet there’s a Fate that kindly seems to be,
Granting us pleasures, as you’ll agree;
Courage will often coax a smile from Fate,
So let us courage cultivate!

Baum's Act II finale does little to advance the plot, but perhaps the last couple lines were Baum's attempt at working the "courage" theme back into the show after cutting the Cowardly Lion at the end of Act I.

The "Finale Act II" is followed by a “Transformation scene showing outside of palace with Oz ascending in balloon, others waving goodbye to him."

Baum's own description of the "Transformation" at the end of Act II.

There is no indication of any action or point when Oz leaves to prepare the balloon. And no further discussion of his taking Dorothy to Glinda. We must assume the winds were blowing the other way.


Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. Allrights reserved.