Daly's Theatre

Last updated

Coordinates: 51°30′40″N0°7′46″W / 51.51111°N 0.12944°W / 51.51111; -0.12944

Contents

Daly's Theatre and Leicester Square, c. 1905 Daly's Theatre and Leicester Square, London.jpg
Daly's Theatre and Leicester Square, c. 1905

Daly's Theatre was a theatre in the City of Westminster. It was located at 2 Cranbourn Street, just off Leicester Square. It opened on 27 June 1893, and was demolished in 1937.

The theatre was built for and named after the American impresario Augustin Daly, but he failed to make a success of it, and between 1895 and 1915 the British producer George Edwardes ran the house, where he presented a series of long-running musical comedies, including The Geisha (1896), and English adaptations of operettas, including The Merry Widow (1907). After Edwardes died in 1915 Daly's had one more great hit, The Maid of the Mountains (1917), which ran for 1,352 productions, but after that the fortunes of the theatre declined; Noël Coward's play Sirocco (1927) was a notable failure. By the mid-1930s Leicester Square had become better known for cinemas. Daly's was sold to Warner Brothers who demolished it and erected a large cinema on the site.

History

Architects' plan of the theatre Daly's Theatre London architect's plan.jpg
Architects' plan of the theatre

Background and early years

In 1884 the American producer Augustin Daly brought his company to London – the first time an entire American company had performed in the West End. [1] The company, which included Ada Rehan, Otis Skinner, Mrs G. H. Gilbert and James Lewis, presented a season of comedies, old and new. [1] The season was well received, and Daly brought his company to London again four times between 1885 and 1891. [2] They played at the Lyceum, Gaiety and other theatres, but the enthusiasm of the press and public suggested that Daly should have a permanent London base. [2] The London impresario George Edwardes secured a lease of a site owned by Lord Salisbury, bounded by Lisle Street, Ryder's Court and Cranbourne Street, [2] and raised the money – a little under £40,000 – to build a theatre. [3] The architect was Spencer Chadwick, who was assisted by C. J. Phipps. The theatre was one of the first in London to be built using the cantilever system, and the Italian Renaissance and neo-classical facade was more elaborate than that of most London theatres. Likewise, the entrance hall and foyer were elaborately executed and decorated. The auditorium had a seating capacity of over 1,200 in three tiers. [2]

The theatre opened with The Taming of the Shrew , starring Rehan as Katharina. This was followed by Sheridan Knowles's The Hunchback, with Violet Vanbrugh, and in 1894 by Twelfth Night and As You Like It . [4] After the conclusion of Daly's season the theatre presented the British premiere of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Foresters , which was not well received and closed after three weeks. [5]

After this the theatre was occupied by two visiting European companies, those of Eleonora Duse, playing La Dame aux camélias in Italian, and Sarah Bernhardt in a French season. [6] In September 1894 Edwardes presented A Gaiety Girl , transferring from the Prince of Wales Theatre, and in December the Carl Rosa Opera Company gave the British premiere of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel . [7]

George Edwardes takes over the running of the theatre from the departing Augustin Daly Daly's Theatre.PNG
George Edwardes takes over the running of the theatre from the departing Augustin Daly

In February 1895 Edwardes presented another musical comedy, An Artist's Model , which was a considerable success, and had to be transferred to the Lyric Theatre in May to make way for another Bernhardt season at Daly's, [8] followed by Augustin Daly's next – and as it proved last – season with his company. Daly's comedy The Railroad of Love (an adaptation of a German play) was followed by Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona . [9] The latter had not been professionally staged in London since 1841, and despite respectful reviews and a starry cast including Rehan, Lewis, Tyrone Power, Frank Worthing and Maxine Elliott, it did not attract the public. [10] The production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that followed did better, [11] but as the theatre historians Mander and Mitchenson put it, "London had not responded to the Americanised classics as Daly had hoped." [4] Although the theatre retained his name for the remaining forty-three years of its existence, his company never returned, and for the next twenty years Daly's Theatre was run by Edwardes. [4]

The Edwardes years

Edwardes, nicknamed "the Guv'nor", ran Daly's in a lavish manner. He employed an orchestra of 40 players, and about 160 other staff in addition to the principals, supporting actors and chorus. [12] The theatre cost him more than £3,000 a week to run. He liked to joke that he made all his money in the provinces, with touring productions of his West End hits. [13] His chorus was celebrated, particularly the female members. In his history of Daly's (1944) D. Forbes-Winslow lists ten future stars who were in the chorus at Daly's at the start of their careers, including Gladys Cooper, Isobel Elsom and Mabel Russell. [14] Of Edwardes's management Forbes-Winslow writes:

A performance at Daly's was a cross section of the era. Here was taste, here was artistry, here was the best of everything. And in Victorian and Edwardian days the best only was good enough. Quality mattered more than quantity. Here, under the selective power of the Guv'nor, were the best artists, the best composers, the best scenery, the best clothes, the prettiest girls, that could be found. [15]
The Geisha Cover of the Vocal Score of Sidney Jones' The Geisha.jpg
The Geisha

Edwardes engaged Sidney Jones as the resident composer and musical director, and Daly's became well known for a string of highly successful musical comedies. A second edition of An Artist's Model opened in September 1895 and was followed by The Geisha (1896), which ran for 760 performances, A Greek Slave (1898) and San Toy (1899), which ran for 768 performances. Forbes-Winslow rates Edwardes as a perceptive picker of composers: Jones wrote well-received scores for all four of these shows. [4] In the first decade of the 20th century Edwardes's first new production at Daly's was A Country Girl (1902), with music by Lionel Monckton and Paul Rubens and words by Adrian Ross, Percy Greenbank and James T. Tanner, which ran for 729 performances. The same five contributors wrote The Cingalee (1904), which ran for 365 performances. [16]

In 1905 Edwardes turned to continental Europe for the first time, presenting the British premiere of André Messager's The Little Michus (1905), which ran for 400 performances. [17] The Merveilleuses (1906), with music by Hugo Felix and words by Basil Hood and Ross had a shorter run (196 performances) but The Merry Widow (1907) by Franz Lehár with English words by Hood and Ross, ran for 778 performances from June 1907 until July 1909. [4] Mander and Michenson comment that it marked the introduction of Viennese operetta to London, albeit adapted into musical comedy. [4]

Between the end of the run of The Merry Widow and the First World War Edwardes staged four more new shows, all English adaptations of continental operettas: Leo Fall's The Dollar Princess (1909), Lehár's The Count of Luxembourg (1911), and Gipsy Love (1912) – all with English words by Hood and Ross, and in 1913 Victor Jacobi's The Marriage Market in an adaptation by Gladys Unger, Arthur Anderson and Ross. Edwardes's last show for Daly's was Betty, with music by Rubens and Ernest Steffan and words by Frederick Lonsdale, Unger and Ross. [4]

After Edwardes

The Maid of the Mountains Jose Collins Maid.jpg
The Maid of the Mountains

Edwardes died in October 1915. He left £49,780 but also substantial liabilities. The tenor Robert Evett and Edwardes's daughter, Dorothy Sherbrook, became co-directors of Edwardes's company with Evett as managing director. [4] The first production under the new regime was The Happy Day (1916), which ran for 241 performances. The following year the company's finances were put back on a secure footing with the enormous success of The Maid of the Mountains , which ran for 1,352 performances. This show, which introduced José Collins, daughter of Lottie Collins, was an all-British creation, with a book by Lonsdale and music by Harold Fraser-Simpson. [4] It was followed by A Southern Maid (1920) with music by Fraser-Simpson and Ivor Novello, which ran for 306 performances, and then Sybil, by Jacobi and Harry Graham, which had a similar run. [18]

In 1922 the trustees of the Edwardes estate sold the theatre for £200,000 to James White, a property developer and speculator with ambitions to be an impresario. The Lady of the Rose (Jean Gilbert, 1922), Madame Pompadour (Fall, 1923) and Cleopatra (Oscar Straus, 1925), all starring Evelyn Laye, were well reviewed. [19] In 1927 the theatre's policy of presenting musicals was briefly and disastrously abandoned in favour of Noël Coward's play Sirocco , which according to Mander and Mitchenson was a failure so abject as to have passed into stage history. [20] White, overwhelmed with debts, killed himself in 1927 and the following year the theatre was bought by Isidore W. Schlesinger. [21] Within a year he had sold on to British Amalgamated Theatres Limited. [4]

In 1929 Harry Welchman took over the management of the theatre. Daly's returned to musical comedies but found little further success. Seymour Hicks succeeded Welchman in 1933, and under his management That's a Pretty Thing played in 1933, Charley's Aunt was revived in 1934, and Young England was transferred there in 1935. [22] By the mid-1930s Daly's was the last surviving theatre in Leicester Square, which had been taken over by large cinemas. [21] It eventually closed in 1937 after the last performance of The First Legion on 25 September 1937 [23] and was sold to Warner Bros. who demolished it. [22]

Warners built a large cinema designed by Thomas Somerford and E. A. Stone with a marble facade sculpted by Bainbridge Copnall, featuring a large relief panel in two corners depicting the spirits of sight and sound. [22] This building was demolished, but the marble frontage was retained, and the site was redeveloped as the Warner Village cinema complex. It changed hands again, and as of 2022 is the Vue West End . [24]

Notes

  1. 1 2 "The London Theatres", The Era, 21 June 1884, p. 6
  2. 1 2 3 4 Mander and Mitchenson, 1976, p. 26
  3. "The Last Night of Daly's Theatre", The Times 23 September 1937, p. 8
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Mander and Mitchenson, 1976, p. 28
  5. Eden, David and William Parry (2004). Notes to Hyperion CD CDA67486 OCLC   57719734
  6. "Eleonora Duse in London", The Era, 27 May 1893, p. 9; and "Daly's Theatre", The Morning Post, 19 June 1894, p. 6
  7. "The Christmas Novelties", The Era, 29 December 1894, p. 6
  8. "French Plays at Daly's Theatre", The Standard, 18 June 1895, p. 3
  9. "Daly's Theatre", The Morning Post, 26 June 1895, p. 5
  10. "Daly's Theatre", The Morning Post, 3 July 1895, p. 5; and "The London Theatres", The Era, 6 July 1895, p. 7
  11. "Daly's Theatre", The Standard, 10 July 1895, p. 5
  12. Forbes-Winslow, pp. 34 and 42
  13. Forbes-Winslow, p. 34
  14. Forbes-Winslow, p. 42
  15. Forbes-Winslow, p. 206
  16. Wearing, p. 176
  17. Wearing, p. 230
  18. "New Songs For 'Sybil'", The Times, 3 November 1921, p. 8
  19. "The Lady of the Rose," The Times, 22 February 1922, p.10; "Madame Pompadour", The Times, 21 December 1923, p. 8; and "Cleopatra", The Times, 3 June 1925, p. 10
  20. Mander and Mitchenson, 1957, p. 28
  21. 1 2 The End of Daly's Theatre", The Times, 1 July 1937, p. 14
  22. 1 2 3 Mander and Mitchenson, 1976, p. 29
  23. "Warner West End 1938", Screen International , 1 October 1993, p. 22
  24. Vue West End, cinematreasures. Retrieved 29 March 2019

Sources

Related Research Articles

<i>Tonight at 8.30</i>

Tonight at 8.30 is a cycle of ten one-act plays by Noël Coward, presented in London in 1936 and in New York in 1936–1937, with the author and Gertrude Lawrence in the leading roles. The plays are mostly comedies, but three, The Astonished Heart, Shadow Play and Still Life, are serious. Four of the comedies include songs, with words and music by Coward.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Noël Coward Theatre</span> West End theatre in St. Martins Lane in London, formerly the Albery Theatre

The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre in St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster, London. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by the architect W. G. R. Sprague with an exterior in the classical style and an interior in the Rococo style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St James's Theatre</span> Former theatre in City of Westminster, London, England

The St James's Theatre was in King Street, St James's, London. It opened in 1835 and was demolished in 1957. The theatre was conceived by and built for a popular singer, John Braham; it lost money and after three seasons he retired. A succession of managements over the next forty years also failed to make it a commercial success, and the St James's acquired a reputation as an unlucky theatre. It was not until 1879–1888, under the management of the actors John Hare and Madge and W. H. Kendal that the theatre began to prosper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Opera Comique</span> 19th-century theatre in London

The Opera Comique was a 19th-century theatre constructed in Westminster, London, between Wych Street, Holywell Street and the Strand. It opened in 1870 and was demolished in 1902, to make way for the construction of the Aldwych and Kingsway.

Harry Greenbank was an English author and dramatist best known for contributing lyrics to the successful series of musicals produced at Daly's Theatre by George Edwardes in the 1890s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adrian Ross</span>

Arthur Reed Ropes, better known under the pseudonym Adrian Ross, was a prolific writer of lyrics, contributing songs to more than sixty British musical comedies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was the most important lyricist of the British stage during a career that spanned five decades. At a time when few shows had long runs, nineteen of his West End shows ran for over 400 performances.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ada Rehan</span> 19th/20th-century American actress

Ada Rehan was an American actress and comedian who typified the "personality" style of acting in the nineteenth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Edwardes</span> English theatre manager and producer

George Joseph Edwardes was an English theatre manager and producer of Irish ancestry who brought a new era in musical theatre to the British stage and beyond.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lyric Theatre, London</span> Theatre in the West End of London, England

The Lyric Theatre is a West End theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster. It was built for the producer Henry Leslie, who financed it from the profits of the light opera hit, Dorothy, which he transferred from its original venue to open the new theatre on 17 December 1888.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basil Hood</span> British dramatist and army officer (1864–1917)

Basil Willett Charles Hood was a British dramatist and lyricist, perhaps best known for writing the libretti of half a dozen Savoy Operas and for his English adaptations of operettas, including The Merry Widow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Evett</span>

Robert Evett was an English singer, actor, theatre manager and producer. He was best known as a leading man in Edwardian musical comedies and later managed the George Edwardes theatrical empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street)</span>

The Globe was a Victorian theatre built in 1868 and demolished in 1902. It was the third of five London theatres to bear the name, following Shakespeare’s Bankside house, which closed in 1642, and the former Rotunda Theatre in Blackfriars Road, which for a few years from 1833 was renamed the Globe. The new theatre was also known at various times as the Royal Globe Theatre or Globe Theatre Royal. Its repertoire consisted mainly of comedies and musical shows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edwardian musical comedy</span> Form of British musical theatre

Edwardian musical comedy was a form of British musical theatre that extended beyond the reign of King Edward VII in both directions, beginning in the early 1890s, when the Gilbert and Sullivan operas' dominance had ended, until the rise of the American musicals by Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, George Gershwin and Cole Porter following the First World War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toole's Theatre</span>

Toole's Theatre, was a 19th-century West End building in William IV Street, near Charing Cross, in the City of Westminster. A succession of auditoria had occupied the site since 1832, serving a variety of functions, including religious and leisure activities. The theatre at its largest, after reconstruction in 1881–82, had a capacity of between 650 and 700.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Noël Coward</span> English playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer (1899–1973)

Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harold Pinter Theatre</span> West End theatre in London, England

The Harold Pinter Theatre, known as the Comedy Theatre until 2011, is a West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster, on 15 October 1881, as the Royal Comedy Theatre. It was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted (stucco) stone and brick. By 1884 it was known as simply the Comedy Theatre. In the mid-1950s the theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955; the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adrienne Augarde</span> English actress and singer

Adrienne Adele Augarde was an English actress and singer popular for nearly a decade on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, primarily for her roles in Edwardian musical comedy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mander and Mitchenson</span>

Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson were theatre historians and joint founders of a large collection of theatrical memorabilia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Winifred Barnes</span> British musical comedy actress and singer (1892–1935)

Winifred "Betty" Barnes was an English actress and singer known for roles in Edwardian musical comedy and operetta, creating the title role in Betty, among others. After 15 years on the stage, she retired upon her marriage in 1924.

<i>Ill Leave It to You</i> Play by Noël Coward

I'll Leave It to You is a play by Noël Coward. He wrote it in 1919, when he was aged 19, and it was produced in Manchester and then the West End of London in 1920.