Robert Morrison

Robert Morrison

With a background in science and biophysics, Rob is equally at home in the Performing Arts having performed in over 70 stage productions since 1975, including plays, revues and musicals for a number of amateur theatre companies based in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

As a broadcaster, Rob has been heard on Melbourne community radio 96.5 Inner FM since 1992 contributing to the Local Theatre programme and as the host of the weekly light-music Kaleidoscope and Musical Theatre Melodies programmes. (A selection of Rob’s past interviews from the latter with noted theatre composers and/or lyricists, Leslie Bricusse, Frank Wildhorn and Sheldon Harnick, plus musical theatre historian and author, Miles Kreuger can be accessed on the THA website under Digital Collections – audio.)

Rob has also contributed information and articles to the on-line Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, Gilbert and Sullivan Discography and Edward German Discography websites.

Past articles published in the print editions of On Stage include:-

  • ‘Are There Any More at Home Like You?’ (Summer 2009, p.30)
  • ‘W.S. Gilbert Makes the Music’ (Autumn 2009, p.7)
  • ‘Sir Seymour Remembers Dame Nellie’ (Autumn 2010, p.8)
  • ‘Remembering Nichols Remembering Melba’ (Spring 2011, p.9)

In addition Rob collaborated on the research into the background of local Music Hall singer, ‘Syria Lamonte’ (Summer 2010, p.5), as outlined in ‘The Search for Syria’ (Autumn 2010, p. 17); provided the footnotes to ‘Richard Watson: “a molasses of a bass”’ (Spring 2009, p.35 & Summer 2010, p.40.) and researched the discography for ‘Richard Watson’s Recorded Legacy’ (Spring 2011, p.18.)

Sunday, 15 September 2019 11:52

C.H. Workman in Australia (Part 2)

C.H. Workman in Australia(left) Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, c.1908. Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney, 85/1286-51. (right) Portrait of C.H. Workman, 1913. Courtesy of Chris Webster.

The players made their way to the wings with eager anticipation, butterflies in their stomach, the smell of greasepaint in their nostrils and the faint murmur of the audience on the other side of the plush velvet curtain in whose hands their ultimate fate would rest. Would the show prove to be a “hit”, providing months of employment to come, or a fast and feeble flop? (Certainly, it had been a “hit” in the West End, but the English players had been told that Colonial audiences had their own individual tastes and could be hard to please!)

The last notes of the Overture finally faded away, the footlights faded up and the curtain rose on the Australian premiere of The Girl in the Taxi at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney on the evening of Saturday, 8 August 1914 …

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    Part of the auditorium of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, 1903.

    Mitchell Library, Sydney from Dictionary of the Australian Theatre 1788-1914, Eric Irvin, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1985.

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    Musical Director, Victor Champion. Photo by Burlington Studios.

    State Library of Victoria, https://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/244552

Certainly, the audience loved the show—they had laughed in all the right places, they clapped and cheered and encored the songs and they gave a rousing reception to the company at the curtain calls—but what would the critics think?

It was only a few hours wait to find out the Sunday paper drama critics’ verdict, but a full day’s wait until the respective daily paper’s appointed scribes delivered their opinions in the Monday morning and evening editions.


“GIRL IN THE TAXI.”

A MUSICAL FARCE.

“The Girl in the Taxi”, (who was always out of it!) enjoyed a first night of uproarious laughter at Her Majesty's Theatre on Saturday and may be summed up as a farcical comedy of the old French school, with musical numbers. Jean Gilbert's music is of the lightest character, often piquantly scored, and with at least one captivating valse air, and it presents another vital melody, “Suzanne”, likely to be whistled and hummed all over the town.

However, in the main “the plays the thing.” This is by George Okonkowski, and has been adapted by Frederick Fenn and Arthur Wimperis without much deviation, one may reasonably suppose, from the original. In spite of the author's name, the dramatic scheme is of that essentially French character formerly known as a “Palais Royal" farce, and identified on our stage with such pieces as “Pink Dominoes” and “A Night Out.”

Girl in the TaxiAdvertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 1914.The new J.C. Williamson Company formed for “The Girl In the Taxi” proved strong in comedians, and Mr. C.H. Workman as a frisky scent manufacturer. Mr. W.H. Rawlins as the hypocritical Baron Dauvray, Messrs. Field Fisher (transferred from “Gipsy Love”) and Chris. Wren as waiters, and Messrs. Fred. Maguire and Paul Plunket in juvenile light comedy, were included in a septette of fun makers, amongst whom Miss Maggie Jarvis, a bright soubrette with a small, light soprano voice, was also successfully prominent. Except in the case of Miss Jarvis, the new piece affords few vocal opportunities, and the other imported “English ladles” are not singers, merely moving easily through parts that they fail to stamp with any particular individuality. All the same, the cast was sufficiently well formed for the work in hand, and the crowded house revelled in the nonsensical complications of the plot, laughter and applause being the rule of the evening.

The curtain rose upon the Baroness Dauvray's spacious reception-room in Paris, with sienna-marbled wall paper in black-bordered panels (a mid-Victorian “outrage”, which is possibly coming in again), a view of a garden with its fountain and lawns outside, and a harmonious full chorus confidently rendered under Mr. Victor Champion's baton.

Baron Dauvray is the hero of the moment as a newly-elected Academician, the result of his researches in “Heredity”, and the family circle includes the gentle unsuspecting Baroness, Jacqueline, their daughter, in love with Lieut. Rene, and their son Hubert, whose allowance is five shillings a week, so that, after paying his laundry bills, he has but sixpence left for wine, women, and song!

Rene, a dashing young officer in a grey coat, silver epaulettes, and cherry-coloured trousers, is stigmatised by the faultless Baron as “a girl snatcher”, and the supposed scientist refuses to recognise any engagement, because, under the law of heredity, it would be “like grafting a wild oat upon a Lily of the Valley”, nor does he want a weed in his family garden, nor will he accept Rene's suggestion that a rake might be useful in it! Into this Parisian circle Is suddenly precipitated M. and Mme. (Suzanne) Pomarel. Pomarel, a scent manufacturer from a country centre, where he is also a militia colonel, has arrived on purpose to thank Dauvray for adjudicating the “First Provincial Prize for Virtue” to his pretty Suzanne, noted also as founder of the Rescue Club for Grass Widows. Now, Suzanne was formerly Rene's flame, and immediately coaxes him to take her to the gay Jeunesse Doree restaurant, but he persuades the joyous Hubert to take his place; and he also playfully bullies Dauvray into agreeing that if he can detect him in a single peccadillo he will immediately consent to Jacqueline's marriage. Undeterred by this agreement, old Dauvray flourishes an electric torch after midnight in the dark and empty reception-room en route to the restaurant. Good-night music, with tender strains for oboe and flute and harp, charms the ear, whilst electric lights—like will-o'-the-wisps flash about the darkened room. Soon the flute plays a merry, mischievous, school-boy tune, and the lieutenant with Jacqueline, and Hubert with a family picture he intends to pawn, pass out unconsciously in the steps of the gay old paterfamilias!

An imposing interior, in which a semicircular balcony of white leads down to a grand staircase to the restaurant, with curtained supper alcoves on either side, and everywhere luxurious carpets and draperies of "rose du Barry" tints, represented the splendidly-illuminated “Jeunesse Doree.” Amidst these gay surroundings many well worn, but still laughable, situations were presented, including the comic waiters, the lovers alarmed by recognising their elderly relatives, the tipsy husband in military uniform, who is so ludicrously in the way, the final police raid, and the meeting at breakfast next morning, when the new butler proves to be the head waiter of the previous night!

Mr. C.H. Workman, a comedian whose genial humour resembled that of George Giddens in “Are You a Mason?” drew cleverly the portrait of the dapper M. Pomarel, a foolish, doting husband, whose attempted embraces of his elusive little wife always ended in an absurd kiss on the shoulder of her latest costume! A quaint dance, entirely in character, brought forward the comedian with Miss Jarvis in the duet, “The Happy Marriage”, with its buoyant music and trills for flute; and his tipsy solemnity as a colonel in a preposterous uniform, topped by a scarlet feather all awry, kept the audience in convulsions of laughter. Miss Maggie Jarvis, as Suzanne, a plump and smiling English girl with a typical light soprano voice, small, sweet, vibrative, and with little variety of expression, acquitted herself with acceptance both as singer and as a bright and roguish actress. This artist was well placed with a clever light comedian in Mr. Fred Maguire (Hubert), and to whom fell one of the musical trifles which delighted the house, “Not too Fast, and not too Slow.” The “business” of the scene was neatly carried out, and the little melody of the duet was worthy of Offenbach. Miss Jarvis sung also the “Wine Song”, with its high range, harmonious choral entries, and valse refrain, and joined with Messrs. Rawlins, Maguire, and Plunket in the dashing melody of “Suzanne”, which was twice encored.

Mr. W.H. Rawlins played a character of central importance as Baron Dauvray, whose fatuous vanity, pompous hypocrisy, and jolly dog-ism when once “off the chain”, were amusingly shown. Mr. Paul Plunket, though awkward in his uniform, proved a gay and buoyant Rene, and used his light baritone with judgment and effect in the captivating valse-air and chorus, “Lilt that's Lazy, and Dreamy, and Hazy.” His duet with Jacqueline revealed that his partner possessed very little voice, but Miss Gwen Hughes played the girlish role gracefully. Miss Vera Probyn presented on somewhat similar lines the part of Rose Charcot. Rose was the girl in the taxi when Baron Dauvray entered by the other door, and compromised upon the joint exclamation “My Cab, I believe”, with the gallant “Ours, I hope!" Miss Millie Engler, another colourless importation, was in character as the gentle baroness, and D.J. Williams's evident experience enabled him to give passing interest to the character of Charcot.

Mr. Field Fisher made a hit as that melancholy philosopher and world-weary headwaiter, Alexis, and his pose of wounded dignity when recognised at the breakfast table next morning was worthy of a Secretary of State! Mr. Chris. Wren further increased the general hilarity as the second waiter, a sandy-haired little man with his mouth all on one side, wearing a shabby dress-suit, with trousers like a concertina! Mr. Wren has acrobatic tendencies, and unflinchingly endured a marvellous kick-out.

At the close of the evening Mr. Charles A. Wenman (producer) was called before the audience, and Miss Minnie Hooper (ballet mistress) was presented with flowers. Excellent work resulted from orchestra and chorus under Mr. Victor Champion, who opened with the “Marseillaise” and the National Anthem, in which the entire audience, standing throughout, heartily joined. This patriotic demonstration, with the ringing cheers at the end, was neatly carried out as if it had been rehearsed for weeks.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Monday, 10 August 1914, p. 4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15528730

[Review written by Gerald Marr Thompson—music and theatre critic of The Sydney Morning Herald.]

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Suzanne (Miss Jarvis) and Pomparel (Mr Workman).

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Newspaper photo of the Two Waiters of the Jeunesse Doree.

Sun (Sydney), Sunday, 6 September 1914, p. 14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229860758

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Producer, Charles A. Wenman, 1909. Photo by Burlington Studios.

State Library of Victoria, https://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/244552

‘Worshippers at the Shrine of Suzanne’ (Maggie Jarvis with Messrs. Rawlins, Plunket & Maguire).

Extracts from other Sydney newspaper reviews

SPARKLING COMEDY OF THE SUPPER CLASSES

MIRTH AND MELODY AT HER MAJESTY'S.

Girls in taxis and their escorts arrived in great strength to see and hear “The Girl in the Taxi,” which was successfully presented at Her Majesty's Theatre last night by a new J.C. Williamson Company, headed by English principals for the first time in Australia. Instead of the war keeping people away, there seemed to be even more than the usual first-night audience, and a great many had to stand.

The play is exceptionally well furnished on the comedy side. “Does she belong to the upper classes?” is the question asked concerning the principal female character. “Well, no”, is the reply; “rather what you'd call the supper classes.” That certainly describes the persons of the chief part of the play, which passes in a gilded cafe.

… In the restaurant scene, where all the trouble occurred, one of the waiters remarks, most truly: “I suppose you take all these couples for husbands and wives? So they are—other people's.” The girl in the taxi is one of the spouses in question. She is Professor Charcot’s pretty young wife, and she hails the same taxi as Baron Dauvray, a bald-headed old roue, who poses in the bosom of his family as a model of all the virtues. The Baron enters a taxi at one door and the lady at the other. He says: “My cab, I believe.” She says: “Mine, I think.” Then the Baron says: “Ours, I hope.” They go off together to the Restaurant Jeunesse Doree.

… The Baron is well-known at the Jeunesse Doree. He is always accompanied by a niece. And none of them know uncle's name. The waiter says of him that he is in the same box. He generally calls his niece ‘Marie’ with the soup, ‘Fifine’ with the fish, ‘Tu-tu’ with the entree, and ‘Darling’ with the liqueurs.

… Among the new play's many claims to popularity are its musical appeal, its sumptuous staging and dressing, its bevies of gaily-attired pretty girls, and the novelty of a new company. The restaurant scene, with its wide central stairway, semi-circular balcony, and cosy supper-rooms, is a finely-designed set, and the spectacle it presents when crowded with spangled revellers is animated and pleasing to the eye. There are many tuneful musical numbers. Two will be whistled everywhere—the waltz (‘Lilt that's mazy and dreamy and hazy’) and ‘Suzanne, Suzanne, we love you to a man.’ They are the plums. The melodious score is by Jean Gilbert, the production by Charles Wenman, and the ballets by Miss Minnie Hooper. The book abounds in bright play on words.—N.L.

Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p. 4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126761983


 

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    ‘The wife of one of them. But the question is which?’ (C.H. Workman and Fred Maguire).

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    Dance at the Jeunesse Doree Restaurant.

BRIGHT MUSICAL COMEDY

Much Enthusiasm

As regards the principals. Mr. C.H. Workman, as M. Pomarel, claims first mention because of his fine comedy powers, and the possession of a voice which well fits the requirements of such music as he has to sing. In Mr. W.H. Rawlings, who plays the Baron on broad comedy lines, he has a good second. The work of Mr. Maguire as Hubert, the son, is also of right good quality. Miss Maggie Jarvis, a beauty musical comedy actress, looking quite ravishing in her dainty frock of silver grey touched with pale pink, fills the role of Suzanne with outstanding distinction, and vocally gives evidence of a small, sweet voice, which she has the good sense not to force beyond its natural capabilities. Miss Hughes is also entitled to favorable mention for her treatment of the role of Jacqueline. Willie Mr. Plunket is a sufficiently gallant and handsome young lieutenant without making the very best on all occasions of his opportunities. Mr. Fisher, as the head waiter, has capital scope for his sound comedy powers, and in the role of the second waiter, Mr. Chris Wren is discovered as a pocket comedian, the like of whom we have not seen in Sydney for some considerable time; indeed he supplies some of the very finest work of the piece.

Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p. 4, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229852169


 

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    ‘The late Head Waiter of the Jeunesse Dore Restaurant appears in the house of Baron Dauvray and causes consternation’ (standing—Field Fisher and Millie Engler, crouching—Fred Maguire, W.H. Rawlins and Paul Plunket).

Scenic photos from The Australasian (Melbourne), 24 October 1914, p. vi, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page15099242

While the plot of the show came in for some trenchant criticism from the reviewer for the weekly Bulletin, he none-the-less praised most of the principal cast members, including the soubrette and the lead comedian.


SUNDRY SHOWS.

You can take “The Girl in the Taxi” in two ways. One is to approach it as though it were intended to uplift the playgoer in an ethical sense. It doesn’t uplift worth a cent. Everyone in the show is either wicked, or imperceptive to the point of idiocy, or both. Two of the characters want to get married; the chief aim of the others is apparently to get compromised. The heavy father frequents a Paris restaurant, filled with members of the half-world, and there meets his son, his daughter and her admirer, and most of their friends. They all lie vigorously to each other and to the incredibly dull Baroness (wife of the heavy father), who remains virtuously at home. Everyone embraces everyone else's wife, or tries to, and is discovered and is driven, in consequence to lie harder than ever. The erring father finds that his only son has the same dashing temperament as himself, and is the prouder and happier for it. He meets his daughter and the lover whom he had previously barred as a rake, at the Jeunesse Dorèe Restaurant, in the early hours of the morning, and the encounter impels him to agree to their engagement. The lady who had won a “virtue prize” is observed by her inebriated husband having supper with the Baron’s son, and is pursued by him (the husband) sword in hand, twice round the stage. This husband also causes the Baron and his son to be arrested for frivolity—all that the censor has left of the “flagrant délit” scene which probably figured in the original farce. If it were the sort of work that inculcates a Lesson, it would deal Morality a blow which the combined efforts of the Churches could never repair. As it is all palpably nonsensical as a pantomime, it does Morality no earthly harm, and makes those people laugh who have not seen every one of the situations exploited in other plays of the sort a thousand times before. These are the people to whom “The Girl in the Taxi” may appeal, and the right way for them to take it is laughing; for if they cannot laugh they will fume or openly curse, the music being thin, though melodious, and the acting poor, on the whole.

The stars are Miss Maggie Jarvis, who plays Susanne, the Virtue-Prizewinner, and C.H. Workman, who is Susanne's comic husband. She has much charm and grace, and her vibrant little voice is well suited to her numbers. He is a comedian with a personality, and Pomeral, in his hands, is an amusing, and almost human circumstance. W.H. Rawlins (Baron Dauvray) is an indifferent singer, but his unctuous humor has an allurement of its own. Fred Magnus [sic] plays the rôle of the Baron's 20-year-old son with a youthful zest, and Paul Plunkett is a good looking lover with a fine baritone voice. Field Fisher and Chris Wren are a couple of preposterous waiters. Miss Gwen Hughes has nothing much to do but stand round and give an imitation of an affable virgin, which task she performs to perfection, looking perfectly lovely the while. There are several other characters of this sort—nebulous creations which float vaguely into the mind of the onlooker, and a little later vanish forever. The writer almost forgot in his haste (the same thing that David used when be said all men were liars) to mention that the address is Her Majesty’s, Sydney.

The Bulletin, (Sydney, NSW), Vol. 35, No. 1800, 13 August 1914, p. 8, https://nla.gov.au:443/tarkine/nla.obj-656514464

 

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    Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 13 August 1914, p. 8.

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    Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 20 August 1914, p. 8.

  • Caricatures by Harry Julius published in The Bulletin, 20 August 1914, p. 8.


The production successfully launched, public interest in the piece was maintained by the daily newspaper advertisements, the weekly round of “Green Room Gossip”, featured articles and items on the principal players in the weekly periodicals, plus garden parties, fêtes and social gatherings at which the players could mingle with a star-struck public eager to see their latest theatrical idols making such personal appearances. Charles Workman contributed to his fair share of keeping the cogs of the relentless publicity machine turning by providing a few nuggets to the weekly press of his past experiences with the redoubtable Sir W.S. Gilbert.


MEMORIES OF GILBERT

RECALLED BY C.H. WORKMAN.

Mr. C.H. Workman, who has so much of the fun-making to do in “The Girl in the Taxi,” was well acquainted with W.S. Gilbert, and did much of his early work in Gilbert and Sullivan plays. He has a host of Gilbert stories.

When Mr. Workman was playing Jack Point in “The Yeomen of the Guard”, he had to sing the trio with Elsie Maynard and Phoebe Meryll, and he introduced into it the kissing of each of the girls on alternate notes of the vocal shake.

“Don't you think, Mr. Workman”, said Gilbert, “that there is a little too much kissing?” “You'd cut it, then?” “No, I wouldn't, but I must ask you to!”

Mr. Workman produced on his own account one of the latest of the Gilbert pieces, “Fallen Fairies,” based on the same author's earlier “Wicked World.” When he went to visit Sir William and Lady Gilbert, and to make final arrangements about the play, he was telling Lady Gilbert some German stories, while Gilbert was writing at a desk in a corner of the room, and did not appear to be listening. One of the stories concerned the trombonist who found some new and strange symbol on his music, and after making a weird noise said: “I don't know vot it was, but I blayed it.” “As a matter of fact”, continued Mr. Workman, “it was a squashed fly.” Gilbert quietly interjected, “Are you sure, Workman, that it wasn't a bee flat?”

Gilbert was once mistaken by a short-sighted old gentleman at a club for one of the employees. “Call me a cab” he said, peremptorily. “You're a four-wheeler”, said Gilbert. “What do you mean?” demanded the indignant citizen. “Well, I couldn't call you han'some!”

“Gilbert was rightly very strict about the introduction of new business”, says Mr. Workman, “and there can be no doubt that that is one of the main things that keep the plays so alive and enjoyable. He was such a master of all things connected with the stage, that his ideas could not possibly be improved upon once in a hundred times. If you could persuade him, however, that a new piece of business was his own idea, he would generally accept it if it were really good.”

Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p. 15, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126761625

 

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    W.S.G. in 1893.

    Author’s Collection.

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    C.H. Workman, 1914. Photo by Monte Luke.

    Author’s Collection.

  • G.B.S. in 1904.

    Author’s Collection.


While the Sydney Sun published Workman’s recollections of the equally redoubtable George Bernard Shaw and thoughts on the then popular public craze for Ragtime music.


THEORY OF RAGTIME.

CHAT WITH C.H. WORKMAN.

A member of the Garrick Club, C.H. Workman, the distinguished London comedian appearing with The Girl in the Taxi, at Her Majesty's, has met on intimate terms many London celebrities. “I went into management at the Savoy”, he said “and produced three musical plays—Fallen Fairies, The Mountaineers, and Two Merry Monarchs. They left the exchequer £14,000 on the wrong side. Getting a success in London is a costly business. The average is about one in a dozen. That one will bring wealth. Sometimes it is got first pop, but rarely. Faraday hit it with The Girl in the Taxi first crack out of the script box, but it had already scored in Paris and New York, and consequently it cost a large sum of money to secure it. It ran well over the year. I was playing the part I am playing here. I seem to be lucky to other managements (touching wood). In the case of The Chocolate Soldier, in which the name part fell to me, it was a two years’ run. There again the management was lucky in striking success with the first venture. But with the successors it was miss one after the other. Bernard Shaw took only a cynical interest in The Chocolate Soldier's success. Of course it was his arms and the man idea. He asked for the script before the piece was put into rehearsal and carefully deleted every line of his original dialogue. Then he demanded that it be announced, “with apologies to Bernard Shaw.” This was done.

“There has been a lot of talk”, said Mr. Workman, changing the topic, “of the origin of ragtime. I developed a theory on the voyage to Australia. On board the piano was not what it might have been. Some of the notes when struck took the count, so to speak. They didn't get up again, consequently, when playing, you had to get them back into position to the dislocation of the tempo.

Thus a waltz became syncopated in the act of knocking the keys up with the backs of the finger tips. Now, my theory is that composers in America—composers are always hard up until they write their successes—had pianos with similarly defective keys. The halting tune thus originated playing over their compositions. Don't you think it rather likely?”

Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 9 August 1914, p. 14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229852145

[N.B. £14,000 in 1911 would be the equivalent to around £1.6m today = $A 2.9m = $US 2.1m]


Later that week, the daily newspapers reported the establishment of the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund, which, by common agreement of the respective Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, would be a united Australian fund to be used primarily for the benefit of widows, orphans, and others who might be dependent upon Australians who might fall or be wounded in action. (Ref: Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, 11 August 1914, p. 8, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15529004 )

The combined theatrical managements were quick to respond to the “call for alms.”


A MONSTER BENEFIT.

Thursday, September 3. has been fixed for the effort of the theatrical profession designed to swell the Lord Mayor's Patriotic Fund. On that day a matinee on a monster scale will be given, every management in Sydney placing the whole of their resources into the undertaking. The organiser is Mr. Hugh J. Ward who will be assisted by a committee that comprises Mr. George Musgrove, Mr. George Willoughby (Adelphi), Messrs. Ed. Covell and Clifton Clarke (Tivoli), Mr. Ben. J. Fuller (National Amphitheatre), Mr. E.J. Carroll (Palace), and Mr. E.J. Tait (general manager for J.C. Williamson, Ltd.).

It is estimated that nearly 1000 people connected with the various theatres will immediately be working for the success of the entertainment. These include, besides the artists of the various companies, the stage staffs of all the managements. The scope of the programme is designed on the grand spectacular scale. Sudden big stage effects will take the audience by surprise. At times 500 people will be grouped in a stage picture. The talent available to be drawn upon is unusually plentiful. There will, for instance, be more than thirty comedians, from the musical comedy, drama, and vaudeville organisations. On September 3 the “Gipsy Love” Company will be in Sydney, en route from Brisbane to Melbourne. This popular combination of artists will accordingly take part. The children of the stage are to be utilised in the big ensembles, and at present the ballet mistresses and producers are already drilling them. Mr. Ward states that the Williamson management is giving a matinee with every company now under its control throughout Australasia and South Africa in aid of patriotic funds.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Thursday, 20 August 1914, p. 8, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15531035


Further details of the planned event were released to the press over the ensuing days.


THEATRICAL MANAGERS COMBINE.

A HUGE PROGRAMME.

The combined theatrical managers of Sydney are shaping the programme for the monster matinee to swell the patriotic fund. Everything points to an entertainment of unique magnitude and attraction. The numbers of artists available exceed those ever before available for a matinee. Seven organisations will be drawn upon. These are “The Girl In the Taxi”, the company headed by Miss Muriel Starr, the “Gipsy Love” company, Miss Nellie Stewart and her “Du Barry” company, Mr. George Willoughby's Adelphi dramatic company, the Tivoli and National Amphitheatre stars, and Bosco, Talma, and Le Roy, now at the Palace.

Mr. Hugh J, Ward, who is organising the entertainment, estimates that nearly 1000 theatrical workers will be enlisted. Of these many popular dramatic stars are available and no fewer than 30 comedians.

The scope of the matinee allows for big spectacular effects, upon which the producing staff of the various theatres are now busily engaged.

Miss Maud Allan has volunteered to appear, and her offer has naturally been readily accepted.

Many popular favourites not at present appearing before the public will also take part.

The aim of the theatrical managers is to present so huge a theatrical programme that a new record for Her Majesty's, where the matinee will be held, will be established. The existing record for a public fund is £2000 at this theatre.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday, 22 August 1914, p. 14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15531740

[N.B. £2,000 in 1914 would be equivalent to around $A 236,267 today]


 

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    The Managing Directors of J.C. Williamson Ltd in 1914: Clyde Meynell, George Tallis and Hugh J. Ward.

    Author’s Collection.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday, 26 August 1914, that: “Mr. Hugh J. Ward has brought Mr. Wybert Stamford, one of the Williamson producers, specially from Brisbane to devote his entire attention to the stage details of the monster theatrical gala at Her Majesty's on Thursday week.” (p. 10, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article239081403), and The Sunday Times subsequently elaborated on the mammoth task that Stamford had taken on by publishing full details of the afternoon’s projected programme.


SUPREME THEATRE EFFORT

GIANT PATRIOTIC MATINEE

That the aim of the organisers of the actors’ patriotic gala will succeed in submitting to the Sydney public the greatest programme Australia has known is no idle boast. Particulars of the entertainment announced for Her Majesty's next Thursday leave no doubt about it.

As is fitting, the patriotic appeal will be stirringly made. Mr. Hugh J. Ward has designed a stage pageant on the grand scale, and has secured for the occasion some notable names. Miss Essie Jenyns will represent Britannia; Miss Nellie Stewart, Australia; Miss Muriel Starr, Canada (her native land); Miss Gwen. Burroughs, India; Miss Olive Godwin, New Zealand; and Miss Celia Ghiloni, Africa. The spectacle, which at its climax will have an ensemble of over 500 people, will dramatically depict Britannia's call to the Empire. Britannia will be shown alone in the midst of a raging storm, the clashing of arms symbolising war and its terrors. She places the trumpet to her lips and sounds the alarm, which will be echoed, as it were, round the British world. Then one by one the Dominions will make offering of their blood and their treasure, until the might of Empire is realised in a pulse-quickening scene. Dramatic verses for Britannia and the representatives of the Dominions have been written by Mr. Adam McCay, and music specially composed by Mr. Victor Champion. In the pageant the military are assisting. Guns captured by the Australians in South Africa and presented to “our boys” by Lord Roberts will be swung into action when the picture realises its most stirring moment.

The rise of the curtain on the matinee will disclose the quarter-deck of a British Dreadnought, the orchestra playing “Rule, Britannia.” An admiral will here receive officers of the French and Russian armies. This will offer an appropriate setting for the singing of “The Marseillaise” by Mr. Derek Hudson. The chorus of “Pinafore” will be given in this portion of the programme by the full company.

For the first-part finale the prize National Anthem has been chosen. The words, as is known, are by Arthur Adams, and the music by Theodore Tourrier. This will be the first time in Sydney that the song has been rendered in public. Mr. Derek Hudson will sing it—he sang it with great success in Brisbane last week—and the chorus will be given by the combined “Gipsy Love” and “Girl in the Taxi” Companies. (The Australian National Song, ref: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-165025145/view?partId=nla.obj-165025159 )

The scheme of the first part of the matinee is the old-time minstrel show. Mr. Lincoln Plumer; of “The Chorus Lady” Company, will be interlocutor, and the corner-men are announced as follows:—Bones: Messrs. Jack Cannot, Johnny Osborne, Phil Smith, Claude Bantock. Tambos: W.H. Rawlins, C.H. Workman, Field Fisher, Chris Wren. In addition to amusing interludes in the way of conundrums and interruption, these popular comedians will appear in individual specialties. Mr. Jack Cannot will give imitations of Paul Dufault, Talleur Andrews, Caruso, and other tenors not in this country, and so unable to effectively protest.

Songs in this section of the programme will include “Here's to Love and Laughter” (Miss Olive Godwin), “A Regular Army Man” (Mr. Julius Roscius), “Meet Me To-night in Dreamland” (Miss Celia Ghiloni), Mr. Phil Smith and Miss Dorothy Brunton (duet, “Carnival for Two”), “Susanne” (Miss Maggie Jarvis and corner-men), and numbers by Miss Elsie Spain and Mr. John Ralston.

The second part of the programme will present the greatest selection of vaudeville stars ever seen on one bill in Australia. The Tivoli are sending Paul Cinquevalli, Beth Tate, Baroness D'Astreel, Marco and Fanchon, and Wolff; the National Amphitheatre, Miss Fanny Rice, Cunningham and Ross, and the Bodini Bros.; Mr. E.J. Carroll, Warner and White, eccentric dancers with Bosco, Talma, and Le Roy; and Santo Santucci. Miss Minnie Hooper, ballet mistress of the Williamson management, is bringing forward the clever pony ballet that made so marked a success in “Come Over Here.”

Those attending the matinee—and who will not be there who has the price?—will be delighted to see the names of Miss Florence Young (to sing the big aria from “The Climax”), Miss Grace Palotta (to give her old hit, “Soldiers in the Park”), and Mr. Reginald Roberts, who is to sing, in the programme.

The Cherniavskys, artistic Russian violinists, are also appearing.

The sale of tickets is indicating the tremendous interest the occasion has already created. Yesterday morning Miss Maggie Jarvis and Miss Muriel Starr sold 50 guinea seats in the vestibule of Her Majesty's. Tickets are also being eagerly sought at Paling's, where they are on sale. The plan will open on Tuesday.

Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 30 August 1914, p. 6, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126763803


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    A packed auditorium at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, c.1903. Photograph by Talma & Co., Sydney.

    State Library of New South Wales, SPF/3194.


The combined proceeds of the afternoon’s entertainment, preceded by a grand theatrical motorcade through the streets of Sydney and impromptu vaudeville performances given in Railway Square and in front of the Town Hall, were duly reported in the Sydney press as having broken all previous records established for such charity matinees.


MATINEE BRINGS £2100 TO PATRIOTIC FUND

£250 FOR THE UNION JACK—£330 COLLECTED IN THE STREETS.

The huge actors’ matinee in aid of the Patriotic Fund at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, on Thursday last was a record success—about £2100 being realised. The theatre was packed as it had never before been packed. During the morning an actors’ motor car street raid was carried out, and gathered in £330 in about two hours. The sale of seats and photographs brought in £90. The auction sale of the Union Jack presented by Mr. Hugh J. Ward was a big success and highly amusing. Miss Nellie Stewart held the flag, and Mr. Jack Cannot and Mr. Lincoln Plumer figured successfully as the auctioneers.

Referee (Sydney, NSW), Wednesday, 9 September 1914, p. 15 [extract], https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120279698

[N.B. £2,100 in 1914 would be the equivalent to around $A 248,081 today; £250 = $A 29,533; £330 = $A 38,984 and £90 = $A 10,632]


  • IMG 0139

    Pictorial advertisement for The Girl in the Taxi.

    From The Silent Showman, Michael & Joan Tallis, Wakefield Press, 1999.

  • The soubrette—Maggie Jarvis. Photo by Monte Luke.

    State Library of New South Wales, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/262596885

The New English Musical Comedy Company continued to delight its audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre, with an added feature introduced into the action of the play commencing at the evening performance on Saturday, 19 September.


THE CABARET CUDDLE.

HOW IT WAS EVOLVED.

The Restaurant Rag is the title of a dance number introduced into “The Girl in the Taxi” last night at Her Majesty's. It is known to the members of the company, however, as The Cabaret Cuddle.

As about 50,000 people have seen “The Girl in the Taxi” since it was produced in Sydney, that number at least are aware that the second act is a cabaret set. It is the Jeunesse Doree, the speed limit in smart and discreet resorts.

Everything takes place there so far as the musical play is concerned, but a novelty dance. The fact of this omission seems to have upset the peace of mind of Jack Hooker and Chris Wren, and goaded them into invention. Between them they evolved the Cabaret Cuddle.

Jack Hooker was on the payroll, but not in the piece. He was last giving a step dance in “Come Over Here” to celebrate the leaving of the midnight choo-choo for Alabam. He considers that, all things considered, he has more justification for dancing in a cabaret in “The Girl in the Taxi” than there was for dancing on a railway platform in “Come Over Here”.

Chris Wren, the diminutive waiter in “The Girl in the Taxi” , has practically no lines to speak. His chief job at the Jeunesse Doree is being kicked out of private rooms when he enters without knocking. This explains in a measure how he and Jack Hooker got together on an idea.

It is an understood thing in stage creative work that any one—or two—with an idea is given full scope in the choice of assistance required. Consequently Mr. Hooker and Mr. Wren had the pick of the chorus, ballet, and show girls to help them. Obviously two men wouldn't rag together in a cabaret. Both Mr. Wren and Mr. Hooker were actually besought by all the ambitious young ladies in the company. After the hesitation of a week or two they finally lost their comprehensive popularity through having to make a definite selection. These were Violet Hooper and Helen Devlin. Miss Devlin is one of the most imposing show girls in the world. She is six feet in silk stockings. Miss Hooper is also Amazonian, but not quite as much so as Miss Devlin. For this reason Mr. Wren, being, like his feathered namesake, diminutive, chose Miss Devlin as his partner. In his Cabaret Cuddle he has become expert in making flying leaps at the statuesque Miss Devlin, who can now catch him, and swing him about to the music of the orchestra. The contrast in heights provides half the fun of the new feature.

Sun (Sydney, NSW), Sunday, 20 September 1914, p. 14, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229851367


For Australian audiences, (fearful of the unfolding events in Europe and with concerns of how it would effect a young nation loyal to the mother country and the British Empire), The Girl in the Taxi was “just the ticket” to provide good escapist entertainment and make them forget the troubles of a work-a-day world for a good three hours of farcical comedy. Consequently the taxi remained on the rank at Her Majesty’s in Sydney for a good 10 week run, closing on the 16th October and then preparing to head southwards to continue spreading its message of happy times and good cheer to the awaiting masses; (while the ominous storm clouds of war continued to gather apace in Europe.)

 

To be continued …

 


Endnotes

The Girl in the Taxi is the English-language adaptation by Frederick Fenn and Arthur Wimperis of the operetta Die keusche Susanne, after the farce Fils à Papa by Antony Mars and Maurice Desvallières. (First produced at the Wilhelm Theater, Magdeburg on 26 February 1910), with music by Jean Gilbert. The German original had a libretto by Georg Okonkowski. It opened at the Lyric Theatre, London on 5 September 1912 where it ran for 385 performances.


The Girl in the Taxi midi files, featuring the full score of the musical, may be heard on-line at: https://www.gsarchive.net/british/girlintaxi/index.html


Filmography

The Girl in the Taxi (1937)—A British Unity Production released through Ealing Distribution Ltd.

Starring Frances Day, Henri Garat, Lawrence Grossmith, Jean Gillie and Mackenzie Ward with Helen Haye, Ben Field, Joan Kemp-Welch, John Deverell and Albert Whelan.

Screenplay by Austin Melford, after a screen story by Fritz Gottfurcht, after the operetta by Georg Okonowski

Music by Jean Gilbert, lyrics by Arthur Wimperis and Frank Eyton

Produced by Eugene Tuscherer, directed by Berthomieu

Available on DVD on “The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection—Volume 3” from www.networkonair.com

 

  • IMG 0139

    A scene from the 1937 film with Melbourne-born Albert Whelan as ‘Alexis’ and Lawrence Grossmith as ‘Baron Dauvray’.

    Author’s Collection.

 

Monday, 03 June 2019 16:22

C.H. Workman in Australia (Part 1)

CH WorkmanAdvertising card for Utopia Limited, c.1894. Author’s collection.

Singer, comedian and Savoyard C.H. Workman arrived in Australia in 1914 as a member of The Girl in the Taxi company. He spent a total of nine years performing in various stage musicals, operettas and variety ‘turns’ for J.C. Williamson Ltd and on the Tivoli circuit, including tours to New Zealand, India and the Far East, before his premature death in 1923. In this article, the first in a new series, Rob Morrison draws on original interviews, anecdotes and newspaper reports to present a pictorial overview of C.H. Workman's life and career.


  • IMG 0139

    C.H. Workman in his favourite role of Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard.

    Photo by Elliott & Fry, London. Author’s collection.

  • IMG 0125

    Portrait of C.H. Workman, c.1907.

    Photo by Dover Street Studios, London. Courtesy of Elisabeth Kumm.


Listen

In addition to his recordings from the G&S repertoire in 1910 and 1912, Charles H. Workman featured in the following duets and concerted numbers from the score of Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier recorded by the Odeon Company in June of 1911.

The Letter Song

That Would be Lovely

Finale of Act II

The renowned British singer, actor and comedian, Charles Herbert Workman was born at 5 Richmond Terrace, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Lancashire on 5 May 1872, the youngest son (of four children), of Sarah and Charles Workman. From his early years he was keenly devoted to musical art in its operatic and comedy forms and his favourite amusement as a youngster was the production of home-made versions of plays he had seen. After schooling at Waterloo College in Liverpool, followed by a stint in ‘commercial life’ as a clerk in a merchant’s office in that city, which he could not stick at, Workman’s early ambitions to tread the boards achieved fruition when his older brother and singing teacher, Albert E. Workman overcame their father’s objections and arranged to have ‘Bert’ placed with a touring provincial D’Oyly Carte Opera Company staging Gilbert and Sullivan’s penultimate comic opera, Utopia, Limited at Torquay, where he made his debut as a chorister in October 1894, before graduating to the roles of Calynx/Captain Corcoran in Stratford-on-Avon in November.

It was through the D’Oyly Carte that he also met his fellow performer and wife-to-be, the Belfast-born Totie Adams,1. around 1897 and following a whirlwind romance and courtship, they were wed in her hometown in 1898 during the opera company’s tour of Ireland in December of that year. Their son, Roy was also born in Belfast in 1902. By this time Workman had worked his way through the ranks to achieve the position of principal comedian of the company and a prime exponent of the perennially-popular patter-songs. Under W.S. Gilbert’s personal direction, Workman achieved fame at the Savoy Theatre, London appearing in the respective repertory season revivals of the evergreen Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas between December 1906 to August 1907 and April 1908 to March 1909, earning particular praise for his portrayal of the tragi-comic jester Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard, of which Gilbert himself expressed his opinion in a public speech: ‘In Mr Workman we have a Jack Point of the finest and most delicate finish, and I feel sure that no one will more readily acknowledge the triumph he has achieved in their old parts than his distinguished protagonists, Mr George Grossmith, and his immediate predecessor, Mr Passmore.’2.

With such praise ringing in his ears, Charles Workman then took on the role of an actor-manager leasing the Savoy Theatre between September 1909 to May 1910 in a venture that proved to be less-than-successful and of which, more anon.

  • IMG 0125

    Bessel Adams (Mrs C.H. Workman) as Fiametta in The Gondoliers, The Theatre Magazine, ‘Savoy Number’, vol. II, no. 7, Feb 1907.

    Photo by Dover Street Studios, London. Courtesy of David Stone.

  • IMG 0139

    Postcard of C.H. Workman and his son James Roy Workman. Published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, T1045.

    Courtesy of David Stone.

Turning his attention now to the burgeoning craze for Musical Comedy (which had first been fostered by ‘The Guv’nor’ George Edwardes at London’s Gaiety Theatre in the 1890s), Workman achieved considerable success in principal and featured comedy roles in such shows as The Chocolate Soldier, Nightbirds [Die Fledermaus], The Girl in the Taxi and The Girl Who Didn’t, of which the penultimate provided his passport to further adventures in the land of the Southern Cross. When approached by J.C. Williamson’s London representative, Pat Malone, to recreate his role of Pomarel in the subsequent Antipodean production scheduled for early-August 1914, Workman readily accepted (with the added impetus of his doctor’s advice to seek sunnier climes to assist with his recovery from throat problems).

  • IMG 0125

    C.H. Workman as Monsieur Pomeral, with George Carroll as Emile, in The Girl in the Taxi, London, 1912.

    Private collection.

  • IMG 0139

    Poster for The Girl in the Taxi, Lyric Theatre, London, 1912.

    Wikimedia.

Packing his trunks and accompanied by Totie and 12-year-old, Roy, Workman joined with his fellow principal players of the Lyric Theatre, London (who had also been engaged for the Australian tour of The Girl in the Taxi by Malone), aboard the RMS Orontes, which set sail from the London docks on 19 June 1914 travelling to Australia via Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said and Colombo.3.

J.C. Williamson’s efficient publicity department, under the direction of Claude McKay, having already primed the local press with ‘copy’ concerning the imminent arrival of a new Musical Comedy company of English principal players as far back as late March,4. now swung into full action and ensured that there were reporters on hand to greet the ship at its first Australian port of call in Freemantle, Western Australia on 21 July.


FOR SYDNEY TOWN.
Theatricals En Bloc.
ARRIVAL OF MUSICAL COMEDY COMPANY.

Quite a large contingent of theatricals arrived at Fremantle to-day on board the R.M.S. Orontes. They are bound for Sydney where they will open a lengthy Australian season in the musical comedy, “The Girl in the Taxi.” The members of the Orontes company are as follows :—Messrs. C.H. Workman, W.H. Rawlins, Fred. Mcguire [sic] Paul Plunket, D.J. Williams, Chris. Wren, Hugh Huntly [sic]; Misses Maggie Jarvis, G. Hughes, Milly Engler [sic], Beda Probyn [sic], and Helen Hobson. In fact, the Orontes carries a complete musical comedy company, which is billed to open in Sydney on August 8, and which is engaged to stay 18 months in Australia.

Daily News (Perth, WA), Tuesday, 21 July 1914, p. 10, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79954247

[The article continued with a profile on the background and career of the company’s soubrette, Maggie Jarvis.]


The Orontes continued its voyage to Adelaide, where further press coverage and interviews followed on board ship following its arrival on there on Saturday 25 July.5.

By the time the ship had docked at Port Melbourne en-route to Sydney, a press photographer was on hand to capture for posterity the assembled company’s first visit to Antipodean shores, with a photo that was published in the Melbourne Australasian on Saturday, 1 August 1914.6.

  • IMG 0125

    Left – The Girl in the Taxi Company on board the Orontes, July 1914. Right – Workman on board the Orontes, July 1914.

    Photos by H. Neville S. Skeffington. Published in The Australasian (Melbourne), 1 August 1914, p. 67. State Library of Victoria.

When the Orontes had at last arrived at Circular Quay in Sydney harbour on Thursday, 30 July, the Australia-wide theatre-going public’s interest and appetite had been thoroughly whetted in eager anticipation of the delights to come from the latest Musical Comedy production to arrive Downunder from the fabled West End theatres, of which its weekly exploits, fads and fashions continued to receive wide newspaper coverage and readership around the nation. Of the new arrivals to the Sydney shores, the company’s chief comedian was spotlighted for a couple of puff pieces in the press; the first making front page news in a few paragraphs in the evening editions, while a more detailed profile appeared on Sydney-side breakfast tables the following morning.


GIRL IN THE TAXI.
LEADING MAN ARRIVES.
SURFEIT OF REVUES.

Mr. C.H. Workman, the leading man of The Girl In the Taxi Company, who arrived on the Orontes this morning, says he endeavors to live up to his name. He hurried through his breakfast, supervised the packing of his luggage, said dozens of good-byes, and within an hour of the time of arrival he had rushed off the boat and was on his way to rehearsal.

“You can never tell how the public will take a play,” he said, “but London enjoyed it for thirteen months and declared it to be the best thing of its type they had seen for many years. Personally, I think it grand. I created the part I will play here. It is funny, it's full of interesting situations, and it carries a story. In fact, it's more like a French farce set to music than the ordinary run of comic operas. The first act is good. The second is better, and the third, which the public expects to weaken, is the best of all.”

Mr. Workman was for many years with Gilbert and Sullivan's Opera Company, and he thinks that comic opera is coming back to its own. Revues have been so numerous that the public wants a change.

The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Thursday, 30 July 1914, p. 1, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229855143


WORKMAN’S ARRIVAL.
A DISTINGUISHED COMEDIAN.

Mr. C.H. Workman, whose position as a comedian in musical pieces on the English stage approximates to that of his English predecessors on this side of the world, William Elton and G.P. Huntley, arrived here yesterday from London by the Orontes. The newcomer will head the company formed by J.C. Williamson, Ltd., for the production of “The Girl in the Taxi” at Her Majesty's Theatre on August 8. In this piece he will play his original London character. Miss Maggie Jarvis, Mr. W.H. Rawlins. Mr. D.J. Williams, and the other artists of the combination, arrived here two or three days ago, and complete "finishing" rehearsals will begin to-morrow.

Mr. Workman, unlike most comedians, was primarily a singer. As a boy he was soloist at the Emanuel Congregational Church, Liverpool, and later he studied as a baritone under his brother, A.E. Workman, a voice producer of reputation in that great city.

His first appearance on any stage was as Captain Corcoran in “Utopia Limited,” that character from “Pinafore” having been reintroduced by W.S. Gilbert as one of the Flowers of Progress imported as examples of manners and morals in the imaginary kingdom. This was at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, so that the new career was taken up under romantic conditions. After some months Mr. Workman applied to D'Oyley Carte [sic] in London, who sent him on tour, and it was whilst appearing in “Patience” as Bunthorne's solicitor that he won promotion in a part whom he had "nothing to say and still less to sing."

However, the audacious young artist invented an exit. When heartily cursed by the other characters, he executed a whimsical pirouette of horror, contrived so as to bring him within range of a vicious boot with a kick in it, and this kick landed him, after a lofty aerial flight, in the wings. It happened that Mr. D'Oyley Carte [sic] visited the show unexpectedly, observed the innovation, soundly rated the young artist for thus tampering with the traditional "business"—and at once promoted him to the Savoy Theatre! Mr. Workman was placed in the chief character in a curtain-raiser, “After All,” in which he appeared 500 nights, and a little later he replaced George Grossmith in “His Majesty,” playing the name part. After a Scottish tour, which opened at Dunfermline on Christmas Day, when he played Jack Point in the afternoon, and Ko-Ko at night, Mr. Workman was appointed principal comedian to the No. 1 company on tour and during ten years he played all the central Gilbert-Sullivan characters (except “Ruddigore”), and made a big reputation in the great provincial centres. In 1906 he toured South Africa with success, and then he played all the Gilbert-Sullivan characters at the Savoy Theatre. Mr. Workman briefly describes his subsequent London career in the words:–

“I then became lessee of the Savoy for a starring season, and produced ‘The Mountaineers,’ Gilbert's last piece, ‘Fallen Fairies’ (to Edward German's music), and Reginald Somerville's ‘Two Merry Monarchs.’ The first two pieces did not catch on, but the last pleased the public, and would have put me on my feet as an actor-manager but for the lamented death of King Edward. However, without loss of time I accepted the role of Bumerli, which I created at the Lyric Theatre during the immense run of ‘The Chocolate Soldier.’ Constance Drever was the Nadina, and the cast included two Australians, Roland Cunningham, (Alexis) and Lempriere Pringle, as well as Elsie Spain, now in Sydney. We played 12 times a week, then ten times, and never less than eight times. I stood the work splendidly, having a good natural, ‘forward’ production for a light baritone singing role, ranging up to the high A flat. The prima donnas were knocked out right and left, and, in all, I sang with 13 of them in 18 months! My next engagement was also at the Lyric, as Max Cliquot in ‘Night Birds,’ and I was also the chief comedian as the scent manufacturer in ‘The Girl in the Taxi,’ and, before leaving for Australia, I appeared in Jean Gilbert's ‘The Girl Who Didn't.’ ‘The Girl in the Taxi’ is a wonderfully bright and taking production, and I feel sure that Australian playgoers will be pleased with it.”

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Friday, 31 July 1914, p. 7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15526435

Constance Drever and C.H. Workman in The Chocolate Soldier, 1910.

Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. The Play Pictorial, vol. XVI, no. 98, 1910. Courtesy of Dominic Combe.

IMG 0125

Constance Drever, C.H. Workman and Australian actor, Claude Flemming, in Nightbirds, London, from The Play Pictorial, no. 115, vol. XIX, 1911.

Courtesy of Andrew Lamb.

IMG 0139

C.H. Workman as Count Max Cliquot in Nightbirds, London, from The Play Pictorial, no. 115, vol. XIX, 1911.

Courtesy of Andrew Lamb.

Elsie Spain as Mascha in The Chocolate Soldier, 1910.

Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. From The Play Pictorial, vol. XVI, no. 98, 1910. Courtesy of Dominic Combe.


Under the practised hands of J.C. Williamson producer, Charles A. Wenman and the experienced guidance of its Sydney-based ballet mistress, Miss Minnie Hooper, the imported English players joined their Australian counterparts (who had already begun rehearsals some weeks earlier), and the production continued to take shape and achieve its final polish in readiness for its scheduled opening night a mere week-and-a-half away.

Some months prior to this in the Melbourne-based workshops of ‘The Firm’ located at the rear of the southern capital’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, carpenters, scenic artists, dressmakers and all other artisans and craftsmen attendant to the staging of a major musical production had been hard at work reproducing in fine detail the costume and scenic designs that had so enthralled and enchanted London audiences at the Lyric Theatre during the show’s initial West End run of 385 performance some two years earlier, and the fruits of their collective labours were freighted to the northern capital via train to be ‘bumped in’ at Sydney’s regal counterpart.

The Girl in the Taxi, Acts 1 & 3 – Reception room in Baron Dauvray’s house in Paris. The scenery was painted by JCW’s scenic art department based on original designs by Baruch & Co.

JCW Scene Books, Theatre Heritage Australia, Book 08-0075.

IMG 0125

The Girl in the Taxi, Act 2 – Restaurant Jeunesse Dorée.

JCW Scene Books, Theatre Heritage Australia, Book 08-0075.

Meanwhile half-a-world away, on 28 June 1914 an assassin’s bullets put paid to the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, whilst on a tour of Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shots that would reverberate around the world and would leave lasting scars that would take many generations to heal.

On 5 August at the Spring Street Parliament House of the nation’s then temporary capital in Melbourne, the Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Cook announced that: ‘Australia is now at war. Our duty is quite clear—to gird up our loins and remember that we are Britons’, pledging full support to the mother country following his British counterpart, Mr Herbert Asquith’s declaration of war against Germany in the House of Commons the previous day. German troops had invaded Belgium hours earlier breaking the terms of its 1839 agreement with Britain and France to respect Belgium neutrality. Following Asquith’s announcement, huge cheering crowds surged through London to gather outside Buckingham Palace, to sing the national anthem. Similar patriotic demonstrations followed suit throughout Australia once the news had been cabled to Antipodean shores.

But the theatrical profession pays little heed to the world of politics for ‘The Play’s the Thing!’ and ‘The Show Must Go On!’

Opening night approached, preceded by sitzprobes with the theatre’s orchestra under the baton of Victor Champion, plus the refinement of the lighting plots and technical rehearsals for the benefit of the back-stage crew under the direction of the Stage Manger, Redge Carey, followed by dress rehearsals with the cast becoming fully comfortable with their costumes and the scenery on the stage of the theatre itself.

Time passed until the big day finally arrived, with its attendant opening night nerves and backstage cries of ‘Break a leg!’ and that curious Australian theatrical expression—‘Chookahs!’ The call-boy made his appointed rounds of the theatres’ dressing rooms, starting with a knock on the respective doors of the principal players located at stage level and ending with those of the communal chorus boys and girls located off the first floor galleries in the ‘flies’ above— ‘Overture and Act one beginners please!’

To be continued...

 

Special thanks to: Dominic Combe, Scott Farrell, Elisabeth Kumm, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Lee Hart, George Lowe, Chris Webster & David Stone; also State Library of Victoria & Victoria and Albert Museum (London).

 

Mountaineers 001 2

Workman as Pierre in The Mountaineers, London, 1909.

Photo by Dover Street Studios. Courtesy of Scott Farrell.

FallenFairies 001

Workman as Lutin in Fallen Fairies, London, 1909. From The Sketch, 29 December 1909, p. 361.

Courtesy of Scott Farrell.

SavoyLondon 001

Savoy Theatre, London, 1881. Drawing by Charles J. Phipps.

H. Beard Print Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, S.1121-2011.

TwoMerryMonarchs 001

Robert Whyte Jr, Lennox Pawle and C.H. Workman in Two Merry Monarchs, London, 1910.

Photo by Foulsham & Banfield. Courtesy of Scott Farrell.

TwoMerryMonarchs 002 2

Programme for Two Merry Monarchs, Savoy Theatre, 10 March 1910.

Courtesy of Scott Farrell.

HerMajestysSyd 002

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, c.1908.

Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney, 85/1286-51.

WorkmanCH 005

Portrait of C.H. Workman, c.1914.

Photo by Monte Luke. Author’s collection.

HooperWenman 001

Minnie Hooper and Charles A. Wenman discussing a ballet.

Photo by Monte Luke. Punch (Melbourne), 5 December 1912, p. 28. Trove, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/20511862.

ChampionVictor 001

‘Victor Champion conducting’, from Theatrical Caricatures by Harry Julius, with marginal anecdotes by Claude McKay, Bookstall Co. Ltd., Sydney, NSW, 1912, p. 52.

Author’s collection.

WorkmanCH 004

A post-WW2 aerial photo of C.H. Workman’s birthplace at Richmond Terrace, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Lancashire, England (now demolished).

Courtesy of Chris Webster.

TwoMerryMonarchs 003

Poster for Two Merry Monarchs, London, 1910. Printed by David Allen & Sons.

Victoria & Albert Museum, London, S.2019-1995.

 

Endnotes

  1. Totie Adams (Mrs. C.H. Workman) was born Caroline Josephine Bessel Adams in Belfast on 18 July 1870, the daughter of Caroline (née Valentine) and James Adams. She performed under the stage name of Totie Adams when she first appeared in the programs of D’Oyly Carte’s ‘C’ Company in 1899 playing featured soprano roles. As Bessel Adams, she later appeared in smaller soprano roles with D’Oyly Carte’s ‘C’ (later Repertory) Company from 1902 through November 1906. She also appeared with her husband in the First London Repertory Season of the G&S operas at the Savoy from December 1906 through August 1907, after which she retired from the stage. See also: gsarchive.net/whowaswho/A/AdamsBessel.htm
  2. Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte by François Cellier & Cunningham V. Bridgeman, p. 408.
  3. The Times (London), shipping adverts of 1914.
  4. Daily Herald (Adelaide), 24 March 1914, p. 3, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/105625712
  5. The Register (Adelaide), 27 July 1914, p. 7, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56703680
  6. The Australasian (Melbourne), 1 August 1914, p. 67, https://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143284655

Discography

C.H. Workman featured in the following duets and concerted numbers from the score of Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier recorded by the Odeon Company in June of 1911.

  1. ‘Sympathy’ – Miss Evelyn D’Alroy & Mr. Charles Herbert Workman (Odeon 0703 or 66841)
  2. ‘The Tale of a Coat’ (Sextett) – Members of the Lyric Theatre cast (including Miss Evelyn D’Alroy, Miss Elsie Spain, Miss Amy Augarde, Mr Roland Cunningham, Mr Charles Herbert Workman & Mr Tom Shale) (Odeon 0705 or 66826)
  3. ‘That Would be Lovely’ – Miss Evelyn D’Alroy & Charles Herbert Workman (Odeon 0704 or 66833)
  4. Finale of Act II – Members of the Lyric Theatre cast, (including Miss Evelyn D’Alroy, Miss Elsie Spain, Miss Amy Augarde, Mr Roland Cunningham, Mr Charles Herbert Workman, Mr Tom Shale, Mr Lempriere Pringle & Chorus) (Odeon 0703 or 66827)
  5. ‘The Letter Song – duet’ – Miss Evelyn D’Alroy & Mr Charles Herbert Workman (Odeon 0704 or 66846)

Recordings courtesy of Dominic Combe [Palaeophonics 135], https://castalbums.org/releases/browse/?in=Labels&order=Label&limit=500&search=Palaeophonics

Sources

François Cellier & Cunningham V. Bridgeman, Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte: reminiscences of the Savoy and the Savoyards, Isaac Pitman and Sons, London, 1914

Scott Farrell, The Final Savoy Operas: a centenary review, e-book, 21 March 2013

Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchensen, Musical Comedy: a story in pictures, Peter Davies, London, 1969

Viola Tait, A Family of Brothers, Heinemann, Melbourne, 1971

Various newspapers & journals including: The Australasian (Melbourne), The Bootle Times (Bootle), Daily News (Perth, WA), The Play Pictorial (London), The Register (Adelaide), The Sun (Sydney, NSW), The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Table Talk (Melbourne), The Times (London)