|Review from John Bull
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John Bull, no. 2,664, December 30, 1871, p. 905
…After the pantomime Mr. Gilbert’s contribution at the GAIETY to our Christmas amusement must receive, as it deserves, the first notice. Mr. Gilbert has hit upon a quaint and unconventional them[e]. His piece is called “an operatic extravaganza,” and is named Thespis. The scene is laid on Mount Olympus, where the gods of heathen mythology—old in years and in decayed circumstances—are lingering out a weary existence rendered precarious through the decline of their influence upon mankind. Even the ruined temple they inhabit on the sacred mountain is invaded by mortals. Thespis has selected it as the place to give his company a pic-nic. In the absence of the gods the actors and actresses carry on their revels, and when their presence is discovered and protested against a convention is entered into between Jupiter and Thespis for the gods to descend to earth, leaving the theatrical troupe to assume their characters and perform their duties during the period of one year. In the second act it is shown how the rash mortals have failed; everything has got into confusion; the gods return in disguise to see what is the matter; and in the end command Thespis and his troupe back to earth to become “eminent tragedians whom no one will go to see.” [sic] Such is the subject most happily treated by the author; the dialogue abounds with lively phrases and happy allusions, heightened with touches of broad humour. Further than this, the music by Mr. A. Sullivan is sparkling, appropriate, and written in a good style of composition; in the true vein of coarse opera, but in sound musical form, every passage admirably phrased and instrumented. A comic ballad, with a railroad accompaniment by the chorus, and a lively song by Miss Farren as Mercury, a quarreling trio by Misses Loseby and Behrend and Mdlle. Clary, may be pointed out as having proved particularly acceptable to the audience. The whole entertainment, aided as it is by the artists we have mentioned, together with Mr. Toole, who appears as Thespis, Mr. Maclean, who makes a capital Jupiter, the two Paynes, and others, is one of the most agreeable as well as original that has been produced for some time.
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