OPERA COMIQUE. The Entr'acte and Limelight : Theatrical and Musical Critic and Advertiser 1877 November 24 439: 11 [unsigned review]
The entertainment which is now forthcoming here is
entirely new, and as it has been – in its principal feature – devised by
those masterly craftsmen, Messrs. W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan, it deserves
a more lengthened notice than we can afford to give it.
The idea of a tradesman selling out charms, as he would candles or soap, is an idea which, while being funny initself, readily lends itself to comical treatment; and when Mr. J. Wellington Wells introduces his love-philtres to the good-people of a primitive village, he fortunately does not abide by the canonical card of the ordinary commercial traveller. His "cheap lines" and "choicest things in the trade" are introduced in such a manner as to dispel every notion of business, while his incantation scene would hardly induce a charitable client to look with seriousness on the modus operandi exercised by the representative of this commercial firm. Besides, Mr. Well's [sic] love-philtres work in such a strange way as to bring about many unlooked-for casualties, and it could be hardly possible for a man with his genius for manufacturing cross-purposes to do business one day and not get himself thoroughly execrated by the morrow.
The carefully wrapped-up cynicism pointed at such institutions as the "divine," and the working-man is so entirely to the point, that it cannot on any count miss its aim, while the general pungency of the text raises this work immeasurably above others of a similar class.
In its entirety, the solo singing is of a decidedly
indifferent kind – in fact, looking at the performance throughout, we cannot
call to mind many songs of whose rendering we could speak with unreserved
praise. Miss Alice May vocalises with very good effect, and although she
is known more as a vocalist than as a histrion, her acting seems as good
as her singing. Miss Giula [sic] Warwick
possesses a fresh kind of voice, but her intonation is often very false;
and the same may be said of Mrs. Howard Paul and Mr. Bentham, who, by the
way, seems a great sinner in this respect. Mrs. Paul has very few opportunities
for displaying her special talents; she, however, contrives to set off
to the supremest advantage a very picturesque dress; while her imitation
of the courtly lady who can make a minuet something more than endurable,
is simply perfect. Mr. Bentham sings out of tune and acts like an amateur.
Mr. Barrington's Dr. Daly is a thoroughly consistent performance, managed
with an absence of effort wich is truly enjoyable. Mr. Barrington has one
or two very pretty numbers to sing, to which he does very excellent justice
in spite of his ugly propensity of violently slurring his journeys from
note to note. Mr. Temple's Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre we can praise in an
all-roound fashion, for not only is his acting very considerably above
that average which is generally scored in English comic opera, but Mr.
Temple is one of the few singers of the company whose vocalism fails to
do the ear a violence. Miss Everard's "Widdy" is everything that could
be wished. Her acting is faultless, and though there is no pretentiousness
in her singing, she is another of the very few who manages to warble in
tune. As the Sorcerer, Mr. J. Wellington Wells, Mr. George Grossmith, jun,
makes his first appearance on the stage, and his admirable make-up, his
pointed delivery of racy text, his excellent patter singing, and the grotesque
business which he manages to introduce into the many situations into which
he is thrown, help to infuse a spirit to the performance which it otherwise
would not enjoy. Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan may now feel more than justified
in having specially requested Mr. Grossmith to enact this part.
Mr. Sullivan's music, if not brilliant throughout, is always above the commonplace; while in several instances his power asserts itself unmistakably, and notably in the quintet which occurs in the last act, and which is a number of exceeding beauty, worthy to take high place among the concerted morceaux of such worthies as Pearsall, Stevens, and Bishop. The audience show signs of unmistakable enthusiasm over the rendering of this exquisite "bit" of harmony.
The "Sorcerer" has been very carefully placed on the stage; the scenery is fair, the dresses good, and the chorus-singing above the average.
The lever de rideau is formed of "Dora's Dream," a two-part operetta. The text of this has been provided by Mr. Arthur Cecil, while the music, which is very excellent, has been done bu Mr. Cellier.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 17 November 2001