Tickle Me (play)

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L-R William Collier, Sr. and Frank Tinney
American Magazine, 1921 Tickle Me 001.JPG
L-R William Collier, Sr. and Frank Tinney
American Magazine, 1921

Tickle Me was a Broadway musical comedy in two acts with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel and music and musical direction provided by Herbert Stothart. Tickle Me was produced by Arthur Hammerstein and opened at the Selwyn Theater on August 17, 1920 and closed after 207 performances on February 12, 1921. The musical then embarked on a successful road tour with a schedule that extending well into the spring of the following year. [1] [2] [3]

Oscar Hammerstein II American librettist, theatrical producer, and (usually uncredited) theatre director of musicals

Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost 40 years. He won eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Many of his songs are standard repertoire for vocalists and jazz musicians. He co-wrote 850 songs.

Otto Harbach American lyricist

Otto Abels Harbach, born Otto Abels Hauerbach was an American lyricist and librettist of about 50 musical comedies. He was Oscar Hammerstein II's mentor and believed that librettists should integrate songs into the plot. He is considered one of the first great lyricists, and helped raise the status of the lyricist in an age concerned more with music, costumes, and stars. Some of his more famous lyrics are for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Indian Love Call" and "Cuddle up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine".

Herbert P. Stothart was an American songwriter, arranger, conductor, and composer. He was also nominated for twelve Academy Awards, winning Best Original Score for The Wizard of Oz. Stothart was widely acknowledged as a member of the top tier of Hollywood composers during the 1930s and 1940s.


Principal Cast and Crew

Dancer Olga Mishka from Tickle Me, 1921
NYPL Digital Gallery Olga Mishka 01.JPG
Dancer Olga Mishka from Tickle Me, 1921
NYPL Digital Gallery

Allen Kearns was a Canadian-born singer and actor. He was born in Brockville, Ontario, Canada and died in Albany, New York. He played the romantic lead role in several Broadway musicals and is especially remembered for introducing two hit songs by George and Ira Gershwin: "'S Wonderful" and "Embraceable You".

Frank Tinney Comedian and film actor

Frank Aloysius Robert Tinney was an American blackface comedian and actor.

Source:Burns and Mantle, 1921 and IBDB.com [1] [2]


Memphis Russell, a cast member in Tickle Me on Broadway (1920) Memphis Russell - Oct 1920 Tatler.jpg
Memphis Russell, a cast member in Tickle Me on Broadway (1920)

Act I.

Scene 1 — Studio of Poisson Picture Corp., Hollywood.
Scene 2 — Customs House, Calcutta, India.
Scene 3 — Garden of Paradise, Tibet.
Scene 4 — The Veil of Mystery.
Scene 5 — Ceremony of the Sacred Bath.

Act II.

Scene 1 — The Bower of Temptation.
Scene 2 — Anywhere.
Scene 3 — Customs House at Calcutta.
Scene 4 — Aboard S. S. Tickle Me.

Tickle Me, that one writer described as a mélange of girls, jazz, novelties and Frank Tinney, [4] was a musical tale that revolved around a Hollywood studio property man (comedian Frank Tinney) who is sent to remote Tibet for a movie shoot and the love story (Louise Allen) that ensued. [1]



Tinney, Life of Tickle Me.

All together the crowd seemed to like Tickle Me. It has nothing startling in the way of scenes or jokes or singing and at times it does move slowly, but it usually hits a bright spot before it really becomes dull – and, of course, there’s Frank Tinney. The New York Times , August 18, 1920. [5]

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

Frank Tinney in Tickle Me at the Shubert Theatre.

Filled with melodies, life and spiritedly presented by cast and chorus, Arthur Hammerstein’s musigirl piece Tickle Me with Frank Tinney as chief tickler, is holding merry sway at the Shubert Theatre. After the opening scene Frank Tinney washes off the burn cork and appears in white face. His admirers agree he has never been more funny. Boston Globe September 18, 1921 [6]

Munsey's Magazine , 1921

Can you imagine a show in which the star's role gives him everything his heart could wish for, and yet which furnishes its audience with such varied entertainment in other directions that at times the hearers forget that there is a star at all? Such a production is " Tickle Me "—a name quite unworthy of the really meritorious medley of song, dance, comedy, spectacle, and novelty furnished by Arthur Hammerstein in order to blazon Frank Tinney's name in the electrics.

Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Frank Mandel collaborated on the book, the music is credited to a new name among the composers—Herbert Stothart— while the staging was up to William Collier, who during his long run in town last winter found time to place his valuable services at the disposal of more than one manager. There are nine sets in the two acts, and while the story is negligible, the eye is kept so constantly on the alert with worth-while offerings in scenery, costume, and dance that more plot would only seem obtrusive.

The soap-suds episode in the sacred bath ceremony, although introduced by Bert French and Alice Ellis in vaudeville as long ago as when the late Oscar Hammerstein was holding forth at the Victoria, on the site of the present Rialto, still leaves one puzzled as to how it is done. The boat scene in the Garden of Paradise is an exquisite creation of Joseph Physioc. The two dance teams—Olga and Mishka, Frances Grant and Ted Wing—put over some great stuff, and my record would be incomplete without mention of the sacred horse, whose absence at any performance must leave Tinney minus many laughs unless a competent understudy is provided.

Tinney appears as himself—otherwise as the property man of a motion-picture concern that journeys to Tibet to film certain ceremonies, the witnessing of which is forbidden to " foreign devils." Although discarding black face after the opening scene, and permitting the public to see what a really good-looking fellow he is, you may be sure that he's just as funny in " whites." And listen—the famed sextet of "Florodora " must look to its laurels. In the last half-hour of Tickle Me there is an octet of chorus-girls that's a sure-enough novelty, set forth with such clever comedy work by the girls aforesaid as insures them half a dozen encores nightly, and keeps Arthur Hammerstein on the anxious seat lest rival managers should offer them tempting contracts to become principals elsewhere.

As to Tickle Me principals, Louise Allen, niece and namesake of William Collier's first wife, and last year Somebody's Sweetheart, by sheer power of personality makes you cotton to a character you are at first disposed heartily to dislike. Her dances, too, with Allen Kearns are pleasing to a degree. Kearns, who wants to know why critics will persist in comparing him with George Cohan just because he imitated the latter last spring in What's in a Name? has worked his way to the front as juvenile lead from a start in which chance played a peculiar part ten years ago, when he was seventeen. [7]

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  1. 1 2 3 Burns Mantle yearbook, Volume 2, 1921, p. 367 accessed November 7, 2012
  2. 1 2 Tickle Me Internet Broadway Database accessed November 7, 2012
  3. Tickle Me Was a Great Show. Hagerstown Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland), April 14, 1922, p. 6
  4. The Independent, Volumes 102-103, August 28, 1920, p. 229 accessed November 7, 2012
  5. Tinney. The New York Times (New York City), August 18, 1920 accessed November 7, 2012
  6. Frank Tinney. Boston Globe (Boston Massachusetts), September 18, 1921 p. 59
  7. Munsey's Magazine, 1921, p. 318-319 accessed November 8, 2012