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British Musical Theatre   Walter Slaughter

Walter Alfred Slaughter was born in London on 17 February 1860. He died in London 2 March 1908. He was a successful Victorian composer of musical comedy, comic opera and children's shows.

Brought up in London, Slaughter studied music under Georges Jacobi, musical director of the Alhambra, and was both organist at St Andrews Church and a cellist and pianist in the music halls prior to becoming a musical director in a series of West End theatres. He spent three years at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, under Sir Augustus Harris (1887-90), and also held engagements at the Prince's, the St James's under George Alexander (1890), the Avenue, the Vaudeville and, in his last days, as the first musical director for Oswald Stoll at the London Coliseum (1904-6).

After composing some ballet music for the South London Theatre and some individual songs, including the popular `The Dear Homeland', he found his first theatre success as a lyric composer with the score for the little all-women operetta An Adamless Eden (1882), played in Britain and America by Lila Clay's ladies' company, and he confirmed with a pretty score for what is, a century and many shows later, still the most successful musical version of Alice in Wonderland to have been produced (1886).

He had some more substantial success with the score to the medieval comic opera Marjorie produced by the Carl Rosa Light Opera Company (1890), and contributed to the Gaiety Theatre's Cinder-Ellen Up-too-Late (1891), but he achieved his greatest success when he paired with Basil Hood to produce the outstanding musical comedy Gentleman Joe as a vehicle for low comic Arthur Roberts. Of his further collaborations with Hood, The French Maid, gave him a second and even longer-lived international success, Dandy Dan the Lifeguardsman proved a second happy vehicle for Roberts and Orlando Dando did similar if less long service for Dan Leno. An English Daisy, written with Seymour Hicks, won a Broadway production (if not a London one), but the most successful of his subsequent works was another children's piece, Bluebell in Fairyland, produced by Charles Frohman and played by Hicks and Ellaline Terriss. Slaughter provided the basic score, subsequently riddled through with interpolations, for what was to turn out to be the most popular Christmas entertainment of its time. One more show written with the visiting American comedian and playwright Richard Carle under the title Little Miss Modesty seems to have remained unproduced.

Slaughter also composed much incidental music, notably for the plays produced at the St James's during his employment there - Walter Frith's Molierè, Quinton and Hamilton's Lord Anerley, Haddon Chambers's The Idler (1891), the original production of Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), Henry James's Guy Domville (1895) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1896).

His wife Luna Lauri (Mlle Luna) was one of the two famous dancing daughters of John Lauri, ballet-master at the Alhambra Theatre, who, as Mlles Stella and Luna, appeared as featured soloists in many of the Alhambra spectaculars. Her brother, George Luari (d 4 January 1909), made himself a fine career in Australia, being for many year's the colony's foremost comic star of musical comedy before cutting his throat when he feared his fame was faltering. Slaughter's daughter Marjorie Slaughter, the composer of a number of songs, also wrote the score for the operetta The Constable and the Pictures (1 act Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne 1907) and supplemented her father's music for a two-act comic opera A Tangerine Tangle, staged for one copyright performance after his death at the age of 48 from dropsy.

1880 Change Partners (`Lewis Clifton', Joseph J Dilley) 1 act tour

1882 An Adamless Eden (Henry Savile Clarke) 1 act Opera Comique 13 December

1882 His Only Coat (J J Dallas) 1 act Gaiety Theatre 22 May

1883 Sly and Shy (A R Phillips) 1 act Princess Theatre, Edinburgh 21 May

1885 The Casting Vote (Walter Helmore) 1 act Prince's Theatre 7 October

1886 Sappho (Harry Lobb) 1 act Opera Comique 10 February

1886 Alice in Wonderland (Savile Clarke) Prince of Wales Theatre 23 December

1889 The New Corsican Brothers (Cecil Raleigh) Royalty Theatre 20 November

1890 Marjorie (Dilley, Clifton) Prince of Wales Theatre 18 January

1890 The Rose and the Ring (Savile Clarke) Prince of Wales Theatre 20 December

1892 Donna Luiza (Basil Hood) 1 act Prince of Wales Theatre 23 March

1893 The Crossing Sweeper (Hood) 1 act Gaiety Theatre 8 April

1893 Peggy's Plot (Somerville Gibney) 1 act St George's Hall 20 December

1894 A Big Bandit (T Malcolm Watson) 1 act St George's Hall 30 April

1894 Melodramania (Watson) 1 act St George's Hall 27 December

1895 Gentleman Joe (Hood) Prince of Wales Theatre 2 March

1896 The French Maid (Hood) Theatre Royal, Bath 4 April; Terry's Theatre 24 April 1897

1896 Belinda (B C Stephenson, Hood) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 5 October

1897 Dandy Dan the Lifeguardsman (Hood) Belfast 23 August, Lyric Theatre, London 4 December

1897 The Duchess of Dijon (Hood) Portsmouth 20 September

1897 Hans Andersen's Fairytales (Hood) Terry's Theatre 23 December

1898 Orlando Dando (Hood) Grand Theatre, Fulham 1 August

1898 Her Royal Highness (Hood) Vaudeville Theatre 3 September

1901 You and I (Aubrey Hopwood/Seymour Hicks) 1 act Vaudeville Theatre 24 April

1901 Bluebell in Fairyland (Hopwood, Charles H Taylor/Hicks) Vaudeville 18 December

1902 An English Daisy (Hicks) Royal County Theatre, Kingston 11 August

1903 Little Hans Andersen (Hood) Adelphi Theatre 23 December

1906 S'Nero, or a Roman Bank Holiday (Roland Carse/Christopher Davis) 1 act London Coliseum January

1907 Lady Tatters (Carse/Herbert Leonard) Shaftesbury Theatre 31 August

1909 A Tangerine Tangle (w Marjorie Slaughter/Norman Slee) Vaudeville Theatre 2 July (copyright performance)

Other titles attributed: Marie's Honeymoon (1885), The King and the Abbot (1904), The Cruise of the Great Britain

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