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The First Repertory Season at the Savoy
from The Times, Monday, December 10, 1906.

“THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD”

The news that the ancient glories of the Savoy were to be renewed, under Mrs. D’Oyly Carte, with a series of revivals of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas has naturally been received with heartiest rejoicing by all who care for music that is refined without being above the head of any hearer, for dialogue that is both humorous and witty, and for all the other things for which the theatre was so long famous. Every one will have taken something like a personal interest in the attempt to bring back the past splendours; and surely never was a manager more certain of the good will of his patrons than Mrs. Carte may be of hers.

It is good news, too, that some system is in view whereby the programme will be occasionally changed; for the one drawback to the original performances was that each opera was kept in the bills for so long that at the close of its run no one greatly desired to see it again for some time. An adoption of the tactics of the Court Theatre under its present management is almost certain of a lasting success.

The Yeomen of the Guard was the work chosen for the inaugural performance on Saturday night. The reasons for the choice of this rather than one of those little masterpieces which enjoyed an even greater success is perhaps not immediately apparent, but they no doubt exist; and, to judge by the boundless, if rather indiscriminate, enthusiasm of the audience, the choice was amply justified. It is, unfortunately, a good deal easier to break a fine old tradition than to bridge over the gap caused by even a few years’ interval, such as has been allowed to separate the old Savoy management from the new. It was obviously desirable, above all things, to secure the services of as many as possible of the old “Savoyards”; and although many of them are employing – not to say wasting – the art they acquired at the Savoy on dull musical comedies and variety entertainments, yet surely some might have been induced to take up their old parts again; and the greetings which the gallery and pit bestowed on such of the old company as Miss Jessie Bond, Mr. Henry Lytton, and others when they entered the theatre were enough to prove the success of the attempt if it had been made. It is, of course, possible that at the end of their various engagements one artist and another may yet be induced to return to the Savoy and to help in what should be a most important revival.

Miss Jessie Rose (Phœbe Meryll) is the only member of the company whose name is familiar to the former patrons of the Savoy, and she retains so much of the tradition, in regard to speech, gesture, and refined acting, that she may now be accepted as a genuine successor of Miss Jessie Bond. Mr. C. H. Workman has been for some years identified with the Grossmith parts, but mainly in connexion with the touring companies; we have often noticed his admirable performances when these companies have been seen in London, and at the Savoy itself he now shows himself at least as good as either of his predecessors in the part of Jack Point. His patter is delivered with a clearness that neither of the older performers could surpass; he dances as lightly as either, and has as spontaneous a sense of fun. His was the chief triumph of Saturday night.

Miss Lilian Coomber sings well as Elsie Maynard, but her delivery of the spoken dialogue is not by any means up to the old Savoy mark; it is not saying much for her to point out that she is better than either of the ladies who sang the part on the first nights of the original production in 1888 and of the revival in 1897. Miss Louie René is a very poor substitute for Miss Rosina Brandram in the part of Dame Carruthers, and in the tiny part of her niece Kate, Miss Marie Wilson uses a pretty voice that seems as yet hardly matured. In the little unaccompanied quartet which is all that the part contains in the way of solo music, a most unusual thing occurred, the voices rising so much in pitch that the accompaniments, when they re-entered, sounded almost a semitone flat. In both verses of the quartet, and a third given as an encore, the same thing happened.

Mr. Pacie Ripple makes a manly figure of Captain Fairfax (sic), but his voice is sadly lacking in charm, and of most of the subordinate parts all that can be said is that the actors showed good intentions. A notable exception is Mr. John Clulow (Wilfred Shadbolt), who is altogether admirable, whether in the scenes with. Phœbe or in the famous “Cock and Bull” duet with Mr. Workman, which was so capitally sung that a triple encore was insisted upon.

The lovely “Were I thy bride” and “I have a song to sing, oh!” had to be repeated, as well as many other of the old favourites. The performance of the chorus and orchestra under Mr. François Cellier was quite excellent; the exquisite orchestration was perfectly realized, and the quality of the chorus has seldom been better. The “personal direction of the author” was revealed in the smoothness with which everything went; and Mr. Gilbert was greeted at the close of the work with great enthusiasm, in which the performers took, part as heartily as the audience. Mrs. D’Oyly Carte also appeared and was warmly applauded, as well as the principal performers.


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