Musical of the Month
Musical of the Month: A History of The Pink Lady
A guest blog by project co-director, Professor William Everett
The Pink Lady (1911) is one of those delightful gems from a century ago with a title that suggests something eminently enjoyable. This is indeed the case for the English-language musical version of the French farce Le Satyre by Georges Berr and Marcel Guillemaud. The Pink Lady's creative team included several significant names of the era, as did the original cast. The music and plot were closely intertwined, with musical numbers advancing the storyline and dramaturgical aspects being emphasized through musical style.
Many members of the musical comedy's creative team and stars had known one another in either London or New York. Ivan Caryll (1861-1921, born Felix Marie Henri Tilkin), the show's Belgian-born composer, arrived in London in 1882 and eventually became musical director at the Gaiety and Lyric Theatres, both of which were managed by impresario George Edwardes (1855-1915). Edwardes was the primary creative impetus behind a new style of musical comedy that fused aspects of burlesque and music hall with the idea of narrative storytelling. Many of the musical comedies that played at the Gaiety Theatre had the word "girl" in their titles and often were Cinderella-type rags-to-riches tales. Examples include The Shop Girl (1894), Caryll's first big success as a composer for the Gaiety, The Circus Girl (1896), and A Runaway Girl (1898). The Pink Lady could be seen as a maturation of these shows, for the title character is no longer merely a girl but has become a lady.
The librettist and lyricist for The Pink Lady, C.M.S. (Charles Morton Stewart) McLellan (1865-1916) previously wrote the book and lyrics for The Belle of New York (1897, music by Gustave Kerker) under the pseudonym Hugh Morton. After Belle played in New York, it transferred to London, where it was immensely popular. Just before The Pink Lady graced the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 13, 1911, Caryll and Stewart collaborated on the short-lived Broadway musical comedy Marriage a la Carte (January 2, 1911, Casino Theatre).
Klaw & Erlanger, the business partnership of attorney Marcus Klaw (1858-1936) and entrepreneur A. L. Erlanger (1859-1930), was a major force in late nineteenth century American theater. In 1896, they joined with others to form the "Theatrical Syndicate," a system of booking networks with theaters throughout the country. Klaw & Erlanger produced over 200 Broadway shows, including revivals of Humpty-Dumpty, one of the musicals featured previously as a Musical of the Month.
Readers of this blog have also encountered two musicals on which Julian Mitchell (1954-1926), who staged The Pink Lady's musical numbers, worked: The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Toyland. Mitchell's fast, fluid pacing was an absolute necessity in staging a farce such as The Pink Lady.
The show's star, Hazel Tout (1891-1988), was born in Ogden, Utah and went with her family to Wales during her father's time there as a Mormon missionary. She met Ivan Caryll at a party in London, and he advised her to change her name from the "impossible" Hazel Tout to Hazel Dawn. She made her London debut in Dear Little Denmark (1909) and her Broadway debut in The Pink Lady. Trained as a violinist, Dawn played a violin solo during the waltz "My Beautiful Lady" in The Pink Lady and later reprised this talent in The Debutante (1914). (John Doyle was certainly not the first to have instrument-playing singers on stage!) Dawn also appeared in several silent films.
Three of the male principals in The Pink Lady had significant musical theater careers. William Elliott (ca. 1879-1931), soon after his appearance as Lucien Garidel, became a producer; his credits included Oh, Boy! (1917), Leave It to Jane (1917), and Oh, Lady! Lady!! (1918). Frank Lalor (1869-1932), who created the role of the Parisian antiques dealer-turned-Satyr Philippe Dondidier, had previously played Dionysius Fly in The Show Girl (1902) and went on to appear as Gideon Gay in Irving Berlin's Stop! Look! Listen! (1915) and Friar Tuck in the 1932 revival of Reginald de Koven's Robin Hood. Finally, Fred Wright Jr. (1865-1928), who played the media-mad detective Benevol, had previously appeared in several Ivan Caryll shows at the Gaiety Theatre in London, including A Runaway Girl, The Messenger Boy (1900), The Toreador (1901), and The Orchid (1903).
The combination of talent in the creative team and on stage was central to the show's success. This was an ensemble show, and the creative team and cast were keenly aware of each other's talents and abilities.
The musical represented a succession of sorts to George Edwardes' variety of musical comedy at the Gaiety Theatre. Light-hearted entertainment was the key element, but a good bit of "class," as exemplified by the Pink Lady herself in addition to the assortment of aristocratic characters who surround her, was likewise integral. Ivan Caryll's delightful score most certainly endorsed this approach, for The Pink Lady is filled with musical bon-bons. Effervescent individual numbers provide tremendous delight for audiences and performers alike. The score as a whole remains closely tied to the story, exemplifying the principles that later would become known as the "integrated" musical.
The opening number, "Here's a Lady," sets up, through music and text, the basic premise of the show: a mysterious man, the Satyr, seizes and kisses women when they are gathering mushrooms. The fast-paced tempo, almost like a collective patter song, captures the sense of giddy excitement surrounding the Satyr and his happy victims.
Caryll knew Fred Wright's tremendous gifts as a comedic character actor and incorporated them in the second song in the show, "Bring Along the Camera (one of the selections recorded for expressly for this blog). Caryll evokes the ethos of music hall in the number, which could easily function as an independent song about anyone who craves media attention. In The Pink Lady, though, it has a dramatic function in that it illuminates a central aspect of Benevol's character and is reprised in the act 1 finale.
Lucien Garidel wants one more fling before he marries Angele de Verrier in six weeks and confesses his desire in the swirling waltz "I'm Single for Six Weeks More." (In the vocal score, this number appears as an addendum, and is recorded here.) He mentions his fiancée Angele and his "old friend" Claudine ("The Pink Lady," whom he has known for one year) in the lyric, thus tying the song directly into the plot.
Angele and Maurice, a real ladies' man, discuss the nature of love in ""Love Is Divine" (recorded here), Angele's idealistic view contrasting with Maurice's cynical one. Angele's waltz refrain links her musically to Lucien, who just sang a waltz, indicating to the audience that despite all the deceptions, disguises, identity confusions, and convoluted plot twists (including Lucien's poor behavior), Angele and Lucien are true musical soul mates and will indeed be together at the final curtain.
Bebe Guingolph, Angele's cousin, and Desiree, who is quite interested in Bebe, sing one of the score's most delightful numbers, "By the Saskatchewan." Bebe tells Desiree that he will remain faithful to a girl in Saskatchewan while she implores him to take "a rest from your fidelity." The jaunty refrain with its oom-pah accompaniment opens and closes the Victor Light Opera Selections. The song was later interpolated into The Night Boat (1920, music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Anne Caldwell).
The title character's first number, "Oh, So Gently" (recorded here), displays Claudine's perkiness and slightly naughty nature. The uncredited words that appear in the libretto differ from those in the published vocal score and playbill, which are by the eminent English actor and songwriter George Grossmith, Jr. (1874-1935). The libretto's words are a bit racier than those in the vocal score and include a final stanza concerning Suffragettes. The recurring "Oh, so gently" motif, with its gently rising repetitions, creates a increasing sense of expectation that is resolved in the final line of each stanza.
Caryll showcases his admirable vocal scoring abilities in act 2's brilliant ensemble, "Donny Did, Donny Didn't, " during which the Countess of Montavert accuses Dondidier of kissing her, something he vehemently denies. Dondidier's wife and Lucien join in the proceedings, as do the Parisian dilettantes who are in Dondidier's shop. Dance-like rhythms, lightening-fast exchanges between characters, and unison patter all contribute to the innate jocularity of the number, which is featured in the Victor Light Opera Selections (1'16'' to 2'04'').
Later in act 2, Angele and Dondidier play a game of "hide and seek" to the song of the same name (recorded here). Dondidier, who had been a respectable antiques dealer, is rapidly changing his ways, thanks to Lucien's influence. He is delighted that Angele, Lucien's fiancée, finds him wicked as he is discovering, in Doug Reside's immortal words, his "inner Satyr."
In act 3, Dondidier confesses that he enjoys his new life as the Satyr in the spirited "I Like It!" (recorded here). In the verses, he recounts his experiences since Lucien, whom he calls the "bold buffoon," entered his shop earlier that afternoon and the subsequent arrival of the lady dressed in pink. He is thrilled that "the cyclone came and it whirled me 'round."
Caryll delivers a fine march, complete with fanfare motifs, in "The Right to Love," a quartet for Claudine (The Pink Lady), Angele, Lucien, and Maurice. After taking turns in the verse, the quartet sings the refrain in unison, "For love, and the right to love,/In France, you must fight for love." It is a jovial number in which the quartet decides to set things right.
One of the most famous numbers in The Pink Lady, and the one that often appears on anthologies of music from the period, is its splendid waltz. Claudine first sings it in act 2, where it is titled "The Kiss Waltz." During the evocative song, with its gentle chromatic inflections, she instructs Dondidier on how to kiss in various ways. Of course, Dondidier's wife enters at the end of the song and spies what appears to be Claudine making overt romantic advances toward her husband.
The waltz is reprised near the end of the show as "My Beautiful Lady," this time with different words. Claudine is again instructing Dondidier, but now encourages him to no longer be the wild "Satyr of the Tornado" but instead the charming "Satyr of the Waltz." She sings him words that any woman would love to hear: "To you, beautiful lady, I raise my eyes." In the libretto, the song is a solo for Claudine, while in the published vocal score, Claudine sings the first verse and Angele, whose purity of love matches her name, sings the second.
In addition to the fine individual numbers, the first and second acts both conclude with extensive, multi-sectional finales that advance the plot. The first act includes a graceful waltz in which Claudine reminds the men, especially Benevol, that they are only men and therefore must be pitied. The second act finale includes a splendid policeman's march, "Readily, steadily, tramp, tramp, tramp!," that cannot help but make one recall "When a felon's not engaged in his employment" from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.
A lighthearted farce, The Pink Lady boasts a finely crafted musical score that complements, enhances, and advances the story. The team that created the show and the cast that brought it to life may now be largely forgotten, but for 312 performances in 1911 and a return engagement of 24 more in 1912, audiences at the New Amsterdam Theatre reveled in her delights.