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Musical of the Month

Musical of the Month: "Babes in Toyland"


A Guest Blog by Larry Moore

Original cast of "Babes in Toyland"Original cast of "Babes in Toyland"In the NYPL Rare Books Division, among the Townsend Walsh correspondence, there is an undated 1902 letter from director Julian Mitchell to his publicist/business manager, Townsend Walsh, informing Walsh in confidence that he had asked Glen MacDonough to rewrite the libretto for The Wizard of Oz before it opened at New York's Majestic Theatre at Columbus Circle in January 1903. Since MacDonough's copyright libretto for Babes in Toyland was registered with the Library of Congress in January 1903, it's difficult to know which libretto was actually borrowing elements from the other. It's most likely that Mitchell and MacDonough were already in discussion for the project that became Babes In Toyland while The Wizard of Oz was playing its summer run at Chicago's Grand Opera House, and that MacDonough took elements from the Babes libretto.

  Babes in ToylandAct I Finale: Babes in ToylandThe plots of the two "extravaganzas," as the shows were designated, had several things in common:

  1. Nature in Turmoil — A cyclone on Kansas and an elaborate storm at sea for their Prologue
  2. Spectacular Scenic Transformations — The rescue of Dorothy and her companions from the deadly poppy field by a snow storm and a spectacular scenic transformation and ballet led by The Moth Queen to protect the Babes in the Wood
  3. Fantastic geography — The Emerald City and Toyland, and its Wizard the Master Toymaker
  4. Despotic rulers — The Wizard and the Master Toymaker
  5. Act Two divertissements — An all-star "Ball Of All Nations" in Oz and a choreographed "March of the Toys" and "The Military Ball"
  6. Act Three execution — Pastoria, after declaring himself the rightful ruler of Oz, condemns the Wizard and Dorothy to death and the wicked Uncle Barnaby arranges Alan's execution on the gallows for the murder of the Master Toymaker

In July 1903, Alice Riley of Evanston, IL, filed suit against Mitchell, Hamlin, Herbert, and MacDonough for plagiarism, charging that their successful extravaganza had stolen important elements from her libretto for The Toyshop, a children's operetta that she had submitted in 1902 to Fred Hamlin, manager of Chicago's Grand Opera House. During the trial, MacDonough testified that he had never seen her libretto and that his source for the show was a short horror story called "The Wondersmith" by Fitz-James O'Brien. It was Mitchell's suggestion that it be combined with the British pantomime The Babes in the Wood. In September 1903, while Babes in Toyland played its last round of pre-Broadway performances at the National Theatre in Washington D.C., Mitchell said in an interview that his only demand from MacDonough was that the Second Act concluded with an exploding volcano. He told the press, too, that his other stipulation was that Mabel Barrison would play Jane, one of the two babes.

Mabel Barrison in Babes In Toyland, Digital ID 75169 , New York Public LibraryMiss Barrison was a chorus girl in Florodora who worked her way to a leading actress in The Wizard of Oz at the age of 20 through various and sundry methods, the most likely one being that she was by 1902 the mistress of the married Julian Mitchell. Her reviews for her performance of waitress Tryxie Tryfle, following the Chicago opening of The Wizard of Oz, were so negative that Mitchell removed her from the production and sent her back to New York to learn comedy in the chorus of the Weber-Fields comedy troupe by watching stars like Lillian Russell and Fay Templeton,  and to acquire some style and chic.  Barrison's notes to Townsend Walsh imply that though she was involved with Mitchell, her heart and bank account were open to all suitors. Although her reviews in Chicago for Babes in Toyland were not much better than those for Oz, Mitchell believed in her performing abilities.

What Babes in Toyland (the article was later dropped) had over The Wizard of Oz was its composer, and Victor Herbert was then at the height of his compositional powers. Herbert claimed to the press that it was written for his son Clifford, and the volume of music generated for the production was enormous and of a very high quality. Because Herbert was in his last season as principal conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and its subsequent tour, Herbert was not around for any rehearsals of the new show. Musical decisions were left in the hands of the show's musical director Max Hirschfeld and Herbert's amanuensis Otto Langey, who orchestrated more than half of the score. Only a few of the Herbert manuscripts for voice and piano now exist, but they include notes to Langey on what the orchestration should be. Herbert himself orchestrated the 15-minute Prologue and Country Dance and the finales to Acts One and Two.

Amy Ricard, Babes In Toyland, Digital ID 75197, New York Public LibraryHerbert and MacDonough signed their contract with publisher M. Witmark and Sons on March 27, 1903.

Casting began in March 1903. The first person signed was Amy Ricard, a young actress in Mary Mannering's company, who had received raves for her performance in the comedy The Stubbornness of Geraldine. Ricard would play the romantic lead, Contrary Mary, eldest daughter of the Widow Piper. The first thing Ricard did was to announce to the press that she believed the title should be changed to Contrary Mary!

The next person cast was its leading man, diminutive actor William Norris, then 33 years old, who had first appeared on Broadway in 1890 in a farce called Delmonico's At Six, written by Glen MacDonough. Norris had had a huge success in a tour of King Dodo, and he would play Alan, brother of Jane. Casting proceeded at a fast clip: vaudeville performer Charles Barry and his wife Hulda Halvers, for villain Gonzorgo and Hilda, the Widow Piper's maid; the married team of Charles Guyer and Nellie Daly for toymaker apprentice Grumio and Jill, one of the Widow Piper's 14 children; and Gibert & Sullivan mezzo-soprano Hattie Delaro for the Widow Piper.

Casting continued with Wizard of Oz cast members Doris Mitchell, Georgia Baron, and Bessie Wynn for the leading role of Tom-Tom the Piper's son; eccentric comedian Gus Pixley for Inspector Marmaduke; comic opera bass Mark Smith for the Master Toymaker; Nella Webb, a pert comedienne from Julia Marlowe's company, for careless shepherdess Bo-Peep; and George Denham, who was in the production of Our American Cousin on the night that Abraham Lincoln attended the play and encountered John Wilkes Booth, as Uncle Barnaby.

On June 1, 1903, the company left New York for Chicago, and Ricard and Webb joined the company once their contracts with Mary Mannering and Julia Marlowe had ended. In Chicago, the word on the show was good, but it was behind schedule and the opening was moved from June 15 to June 17. A part of the reason may have been the need to get Ricard and Webb up to speed, but the music was arriving late: the piano-vocal manuscript for "The Legend" is dated May 23, 1903, and Herbert's full orchestra score for the Finale Act one is dated June 9, 1903. It's possible the orchestra parts for not ready for shipment to Chicago or rehearsal until after June 14.

During rehearsal, MacDonough had his hands full with libretto revisions: between January and the March, casting the character of Marmaduke had changed from a puppeteer to an inspector for the Toyland Police, and all plot elements involving his puppet show and the Master Toymaker's jealousy were removed. Beyond the copyright libretto and MacDonough's final libretto, which was prepared either for the 1904 second-class tour or for the Witmark Music Library, there is no extant libretto for either the Chicago run or the Broadway production. A German libretto translated by M. Baumfeld and titled Spielland appears to incorporate scenes from the missing libretti, but this is mere speculation.

In Chicago, the June 17 opening night performance ran past midnight and included this musical program:

Prologue and Country Dance
With Downcast Eye (Tom-Tom and Chorus)
Don't Cry, Bo-Peep (Tom-Tom and Piper Children)
Floretta (Alan and Chorus)
Entrance of Contrary Mary (Chorus)
Barney O'Flynn (Contrary Mary and Chorus)
The Health Food Man (Gonzorgo and Rodrigo)
Jane (Jane, Alan, and Piper Children)
Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep (Jane, Alan, Spirit of the Oak, and Chorus)
Birth of the Butterfly

Hail to Christmas (Chorus)
Toyland (Max, Piper Children)
The Song of the Poet (Alan, Chorus)
The Men (Contrary Mary)
Toy March & Military Ball
Mignonette (Tom-Tom)
If I Were a Man Like That (Widow Piper, Gonzorgo, Rodrigo)
The Toymakers (Men's Chorus)
The Legend (Getrude, Chorus)
Finale Act Two

Hang March
Before and After (Contrary Mary, Alan)
The Moon Will Help You Out (Bo-Peep, Widows)
Evaline McCook (Jane, Gonzorgo, Rodrigo, Chorus)

The next day, "The Health Food Man," "Toyland," "The Men," If I Were a Man Like That," "The Toymakers," and "Evaline McCook" were cut from the score. "Toyland" was to be sung by the Master Toymaker, but Mark Smith's poor health meant the invention of an apprentice Max, played by Margaret Sutherland, to do the number. Smith shortly left the show, replaced by Chicago actor Wilson Melrose. He returned to New York, and died from dropsy in late August.

Nellie Daly, Babes In Toyland, Digital ID 75218, New York Public LibraryA surprise success for the eccentric Gavotte danced by Grumio and Jill in the Toyshop led to its being titled "My Rag Doll Girl" and getting a credit in the program. At the same time a replacement was sought for Elmer Tenley, who played Rodrigo. While the production had hoped that Charles Barry and Elmer Tenley would become the next comic equivalent of Montgomery & Stone, the bad notices for their singing, dancing,  and comedy meant the team's days were numbered. By the end of the Chicago run, Tenley was replaced by Frank Hayes.

The first week of July 1903, Victor Herbert came to Chicago and saw the production. During his visit, he conducted several performances and orchestrated a new score for "Toyland" in a higher key for Bessie Wynn to sing in Act Two with the Men's Chorus. By the middle of July, "Toyland" and "The Toymakers" were back in Act Two, "With Downcast Eye" was cut, and "Mignonette" moved to the opening of Act Three.

Other low points for the Chicago run were the lawsuit from Riley and some tax problems for nine young ladies of the chorus and Mabel Barrison, who were asked to give an account of their income and taxable possessions, such as jewelry and automobiles, to the Chicago Board of Review. This inquiry caused great mirth in the newspapers with many jabs at the speculative morals of the ladies of the chorus with not one mention of the word prostitution, which would have been disastrous for the production. Grace Fields, who was most likely making a weekly salary of about $20 a week, claimed that her $9,000 worth of jewelry were heirlooms. She also threw a fit over no place to park her car near the courthouse. Virginia Foltz claimed her automobile and jewelry were costly birthday gifts. Helen Hilton said her only notes were her beautiful contralto ones. Gladys Erlcott, waving hands holding many rings with turquoise, emeralds, and rubies, told the judge she owned no diamonds and her only notes were mash notes. It was a circus. And at its conclusion, Barrison and eight of the ladies who claimed to be New Yorkers and not subject to Chicago taxes were dismissed. Fields was forced to pay taxes on $9,900 worth of property.

The Alice Riley trial, after initial testimony in July, was not settled in favor of Mitchell, Hamlin, Herbert, and MacDonough until March 1904. The postponement gave the defendants time to open the show on Broadway and plan its future while preparing their defense.

With Dore Davidson taking over the role of the Master Toymaker and Frank Hayes replacing Elmer Tenley as Rodrigo, the production left Chicago for Pittsburgh. The first stop of the tour to New York. Subsequent stops were Baltimore and Washing, D.C.

The Wizard of Oz left Broadway's Majestic Theater on October 3, 1903, about the time that Babes in Toyland was finishing its tour in Washington, D.C. During the tour, Margaret Sutherland, who had already lost her solo of "Toyland" to Bessie Wynn, lost her solo appearance in "Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep" when she was replaced as the Spirit of the Oak by soprano Mae Naudain, who changed her first name to May and ended her theater career as the star of Rudolf Friml's 1915 operetta Katinka.

Babes In Toyland 1 of 3, Digital ID 75133, New York Public LibraryBy the Broadway opening, the musical program underwent several changes: Herbert's lovely "Mignonette" was replaced by an interpolation "An Old Fashioned Rose," and Mabel Barrison got a new Act One number, "I Can't Do the Sum," which she and the ladies playing the Piper Children sang in baby voices. After the opening night, two things were certain: "I Can't Do the Sum," which Julian Mitchell did not like, was the hit from the score, and Mabel was a star. She remained one for nine years until her death from tuberculosis on October 29, 1912, at the age of 30.

The opening night musical program was as follows:

Prologue and Country Dance
Don't Cry, Bo-Peep (Tom-Tom and Piper Children)
Floretta (Alan and Chorus)
Entrance of Contrary Mary (Chorus)
Barney O'Flynn (Contrary Mary and Chorus)
I Can't Do The Sum (Jane and Piper Children)
Go To Sleep, Slumber Deep (Jane, Alan, Spirit of the Oak, and Chorus)
Birth Of The Butterfly

Hail To Christmas (Chorus)
The Legend (Getrude, Chorus)
The Song Of The Poet (Alan, Chorus)
The Men (Contrary Mary)
Toy March & Military Ball
The Toymakers (Men's Chorus)
Toyland (Max, Piper Children)

My Rag Doll Girl (Geumio and Jill)
Finale Act Two

Hang March
An Old Fashioned Rose (Tom-Tom)
Before And After (Contrary Mary, Alan)
Jane (Jane, Grumio, Gonzorgo, and Chorus)
The Moon Will Help You Out (Bo-Peep, Widows)

By January 1904, "Jane" was replaced with a new song "He Won't Be Happy Till He Gets It," and when the contracts expired for Francis Marié as Gertrude and Nella Webb as Bo-Peep, their numbers "The Legend" and "The Moon Will Help You Out" were dropped. When the show closed at the Majestic Theatre in March 1904, Marguerite Clarke replaced Amy Ricard as Contrary Mary for the show's eastern tour through New England to Boston. She and Gus Pixley were given a new duet, "Beatrice Barefacts."

Over the summer of 1904, plans were settled for two tours, a huge first-class one with as much of the original cast as possible and a smaller second-class tour which went out with a 20-piece orchestra. The second company, for easier loading in and out of theaters, lost its elaborate Prologue with three scene changes and stereopticon projections. It's possible the projections were removed from the Act One Finale along with a chunk of transition music. The star of the tour as Alan was "Little" Sam Chip, who later starred in the Herbert-MacDonough extravaganza Wonderland as the Mad Hatter. His vaudeville partner Mary Marble played his sister Jane.

During the same period, MacDonough worked on a children's book adaptation of the musical with Anna Alice Chapin and the German libretto for Spielland. For both tours a new song, "Our Castle In Spain," with a chorus of gypsy ladies, was given to Tom-Tom for his Act Three serenade. William Norris did not stay with the show. He was replaced by Ignacio Martinetti. Mabel Barrison stayed with the show and demanded Contrary Mary's half of the new duet "Beatrice Barefacts." She got it; May de Souza, the new Contrary Mary, had no clout.

In January 1905, when the first-class tour returned to the Majestic Theatre, Mitchell added "Don't Be A Villain," a new comedy number for Gonzorgo and Rodrigo, now played by James Rome and George Stone. Herbert composed the music, and the lyrics were by Vincent Bryan, who had written the Montgomery & Stone success "Hurrah For Baffin's Bay." Lightning did not strike twice; the song was never published, but it did remain with Babes In Toyland until the first-class tour closed on May 1906. At the same time the second-class ended its run.

Between 1929 and 1939 there were several revivals on Broadway, conducted once again by Max Hirschfield, and directed by Milton Aborn. The last revival featured the Singer Midgets who played the Munchkins in the classic 1939 MGM film of The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland. Because these revivals utilized the stock-amateur rental package with its reduced orchestrations, the long-lost Prologue in three scenes was omitted. Both revivals added new characters and interpolated popular musical numbers.

Babes in Toyland was a summer stock specialty for years or an excuse for a Christmas spectacular because of its Act Two setting, the Christmas Tree Grove, and it's opening chorus "Hail To Christmas." Most of these revivals interpolated non-Herbert music, usually popular songs of the time. The Light Opera Of Manhattan performed Babes In Toyland for years in an adaptation by Alice Hammerstein, there was a disco version produced by Fran and Barry Weissler in the late 1970s, Theatreworks has toured a version several times, and this writer worked on an adaptation for the Houston Grand Opera in 1991.

Anne Caldwell, who worked as lyricist and book writer with Victor Herbert on The Lady Of The Slipper, began a 1931 screen adaptation to star Bert Wheeler, Robert Wolsey, and Dorothy Lee, but only several scenes and a description of the storm at sea exist. There have been two film versions, the 1934 Hal Roach adaptation for Laurel and Hardy, which Herbert's daughter and executor Ella Herbert Bartlett detested, and a 1961 Disney adaptation, which based its comic villains on Laurel and Hardy, for Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ray Bolger and Ed Wynn. The music and lyrics for the 1961 Disney film were freely adapted and rewritten by Mel Levin and George Bruns, and this became the standard practice for the next 40 years of Babes in Toyland. Max Liebman produced an adaptation by Neil Smon twice for television in the 1950s. Shirley Temple played Floretta the Faun of the Forest in an adaptation for "Shirley Temple's Storybook," and Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves starred in a broadcast from the 1980's that removed all Herbert music except for "Toyland" and "The March Of The Toys."

Beginning with the Laurel and Hardy version, all adaptations of this show have altered the original plot, taking it further from its sources in Fitz James O'Brien's horror stories and British pantomime, softening its cruelty and its gothic edge, and removing the bite behind the sugar.

About Larry Moore: Since his arrival in New York in 1979, Moore's work has encompassed the theater, choral, opera, concert, and recording industries. Originally from Middletown, Ohio, he was a staff arranger for the New York City Gay Men's Chorus from 1981 to 1999. His restoration of Cole Porter's lost musical JUBILEE has been performed by The New Amsterdam Theatre Company in New York, the 42nd Street Moon Company of San Francisco, the Indiana University Opera Theatre as part of the Cole Porter Centennial Celebration, and by BBC Radio 3 as a 1999 holiday broadcast. Praised by the New York Daily News as "one of the most ingenious practitioners in his profession," his choral arrangements are published by Yelton Rhodes Music and Boosey and Hawkes. As an orchestrator, his work has been heard in concert and productions by Goodspeed Opera, the New York State Theatre Institute, the New Amsterdam Theatre company, Houston Grand Opera, and Broadway. His latest project is a projected series of musical theater recordings for New World Records.

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Musical of the month

Great background on a wonderful show. Thanks.

trouble in Chicago!

Thanks Larry, I love your article, no wonder photographs of Wizard and Babes are confused for each other. My favorite part is the drama in Chicago. I don't care what anybody says, I still love my Mabel.


"The Wizard of Oz" was in production a year before "Babes in Toyland." The 1902 letter mentioned above from Mitchell to Macdonough was written long before "Babes in Toyland" was conceived. All early publicity for this show mentioned that it was the successor to "The Wizard of Oz." The scrapbooks in the Townsend Walsh Collection at The New York Public Library at Lincoln Center clarify the step-by-step evolution of each show.

a rebuttal?

Since you hide behind Anonymous, I have no idea to whom I'm addressing this comment, but I do believe that your first sentence about its being written "long before" is completely inaccurate. "The Wizard Of Oz" opened in Chicago in June 1902, played there until September, toured the midwest, and then went to New York in January 1903. Mitchell's 1902 note to Walsh is undated, but I believe it accounts for the changes in the show's book between June 1902 and January 1903, and that these revisions were being made at the same time that Michell and MacDonough were planning the future of "Oz" and the following summer extravaganza at the Chicago Grand Opera House. You are correct that "The Wizard of Oz" was first; it opened a year before, after much conflict between Baum, the original author, and Mitchell and Hamilin, but I've been through the Walsh scrapbooks, too, and you exaggerate the "step-by-step" evidence given to much of the backstage history.

Babes libretto

Thanks for the great article! I downloaded the attached libretto. I don't know what the source is, but I'd wager it's from some production in the 1940s, since Gypsy Rose Lee is mentioned! Also, there are many changes in jokes from the one I have, which is supposedly a transcript of the 1903 director's prompt book. Carl S

Babes Libretto

Carl S. : Where did you obtain your copy of the supposed 1903 libretto. I am interested in comparison of originals with some of the changes. This is for preparation of several segments on American composers and masterworks on a local non-profit radio station. Herbert-- and the development of the "Wizard of Oz" are near the top of my list of possibilities.

Original Babes In Toyland Libretto

We at VHSource have known since 1993 that the NYLPA did NOT have an original. It is why we first went to the Library of Congress. We really wish they would remove the 1903 reference from the binding. You can pick up a downloadable Babes at that is performance ready. Simply register as a user so you can see all samples. However, the error is a contributing source to our 22 year devotion to the performance music of Victor Herbert.

1903 prompt book

I believe the libretto published with this blog is from a Montreal or Toronto production. Its source is the Witmark Music Library stock-amateur libretto (now Tams-Witmark). There is no 1903 prompt script. The only two primary sources in existence are the 1902 copyright libretto, which includes the character of Marmaduke as a puppeteer and a puppet show. This was written out by march 1903. The only other libretto, which is in the Herbert Collection of the Library of Congress, is a post-Broadway libretto, still containing portions of cut scenes and including handwritten notes by MacDonough on possible alternatives, including a mention of the Spielland libretto and the Berlin Act Two Finale.

McGlinn studio recording of BABES IN TOYLAND

This unreleased recording is available via the website. Just search for BABES IN TOYLAND and look for the 3 cd set. The recording is spectacular. I cannot remember when a recording so outstripped my expectations. The casting, beautiful singing, technical excellence and depth of emotion of the conducting and orchestral playing, Herbert's original orchestrations, the quality of the orchestral writing for the pantomimes and transformation scenes...all add up to a recording that actually captures the sense of enchantment that this lost, but now recovered, work must have cast over the original audiences.

Babes in Toyland 3 CD-Set

Hallo Mr. Sturgulewski, I thoroughly appreciate your input regarding the 3 CD-Set sound recording of "Babes in Toyland." And I shall follow through on seeking it out, (as per your suggestion) as soon as possible. Best regards, Alexander Klaark McNeill

I am stunned by the beauty of

I am stunned by the beauty of this recording. It is wonderful. I'm so glad I bought this!

McGlinn 3 CD

Whenever something really magnificent comes into my life, it is usually because I've stumbled over it. I'd known about the McGlinn recording since I began to see complaints from different quarters about the delay in it's release. Then nothing. Then Mr. McGlinn died. Then nothing. Then some nameless person made the 1993 concert radio broadcast available as a bootleg. Not complete but it gave a lot of satisfaction until a few weeks ago when I was innocently trolling on youtube for some recently uploaded Herbert. And what do I find? Someone going by the name of SirParsifal has posted a collection of pieces from "Babes." Clearly from the McGlinn recording! Further trolling brought me here to this delicious blog, entry, article, whatever. The rest is history. I shall be in musical theater nirvana for quite some time to come. Thanks for posting!

Gladys Earlcott (Flower Girl)

Thanks for this article! My great grandmother was sporting rubies and emeralds??? Ha ha! They never made it to her daughter or granddaughters!! I appreciate all your work on this show. A couple years ago I saw an article about the chorus girl scandal in Chicago and only this year found out that she had minor parts in THE WIZARD OF OZ and BABES IN TOYLAND. (The ibdb database does not list her in either show but Overtur does.) Research writer Eric Shandower contacted me via Goodreads and filled in several years of the timeline I've been piecing together for her. Sadly we have no photos of her from any of her stage or silent film performances. If you can confirm which players are Flower Girls it would be wonder to look for her and show them to her grandson who is turning 93 in a couple weeks.

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