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From The Times Saturday, February 17, 1883.
The pleasant custom originated by Signor Salvini a few years ago of inviting the members of the theatrical profession in a body to a special matineé was followed with much success at the Savoy Theatre on Thursday afternoon. A large and representative company of actors and actresses attended, on the invitation of the management, to witness a special performance of Iolanthe, nearly every prominent member of the profession in London being present.
To the majority of the house Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan’s whimsical association of the fairy world with the House of Peers was entirely fresh, and the humour and odd conceits with which the dialogue abounds evoked, from what may be supposed to be a blasé audience the same laughter and applause as they nightly do from the public.
The piece, it must be confessed, has the advantage of being placed upon the stage with rare intelligence and good taste. Mr. Grossmith’s impersonation of the Lord Chancellor has been improved by successive touches until it has become an exquisitely refined satire, the force of which is revealed rather than increased when that grave personage joins with two other noble lords in an eccentric dance under the Clock Tower. The tripping dances of the fairies also have attained to a degree of precision and prettiness which, combined with the simplicity of the costumes, raises them far above the ordinary ballet.
Mr. Sullivan conducted the first act of the opera in person. A novel feature of the performance was the appearance of about 30 of the fairies with electric stars in their hair. Hitherto only a few have been so adorned. The experiment was made in the moonlight scene, in which the fairies dance with the peers in Palace Yard, and was entirely successful, the flowing drapery of the ladies effectually concealing the small accumulators which they carry on their backs charged with the electricity required to maintain the incandescence of the tiny lamps on their foreheads.
At a benefit performance on Wednesday afternoon Mr. Grossmith played a new musical sketch of his own, entitled The Drama on Crutches, in which, viewing the drama from the standpoint of the year 1923, when all plays are to be written and performed by the aristocracy exclusively, he not only satirizes the present tendency of fashionable amateurs to join the stage, but also parodies, as from recollections extending back 40 years, the manner of Mr. Irving and other actors of the present day, including himself. The sketch created great amusement, though of course, it depends entirely for its success upon the actor’s powers of mimicry.
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