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Review of the 1897 Revival from The Times, Thursday, May 6, 1897.


As it was no doubt advisable to revive one of the former operas of the Gilbert-and-Sullivan series, and as the Mikado has only lately been put to its admirable use as a stop-gap, there can be no doubt that the choice of The Yeomen of the Guard, revived at the Savoy Theatre last night, was a very wise one, for some of the very qualities which were least appreciated at the time of its production nearly nine years ago are now found to be of practical utility.

Mr. Gilbert, for once, omitted to shoot folly as it flew with his bolts of “topical” satire, and for that reason the present revival produces no feeling of being out of date, and the undeniably gloomy character of the central action, upon which the powers of the older generation of Savoy comedians seemed almost wasted, now suits the company well enough. Of course, in the nine years that have elapsed since the original production of this opera many changes have been wrought in the personnel of the theatre, and, as a matter of fact, practically only two of those who took part in the first performance in October, 1888, appeared in the latest last night. These two are Miss Rosina Brandram and Mr. Richard Temple, the original players of the parts of Dame Carruthers and the honest, cheery, old Beefeater, Sergeant Meryll. Old theatre-goers have naturally not forgotten them, and they richly deserved all the reward (in the shape of warmly expressed applause) they received.

To that admirable comedian, Mr. Walter Passmore, has fallen the rather mysterious part of Jack Point, a part which, to judge by Mr. Passmore’s very subdued demeanour, he elects to regard rather from the serious than from the humorous side. It is not now, and never has been, really very clear which view is that intended by the author, and the portrayer of the part therefore has more or less of an option. In any case there is no question of the success Mr. Passmore scores, whether in his serious or humorous moments, for he has a part which suits him admirably in every particular.

Mme. Ilka Palmay, who has succeeded to the part of Elsie Maynard, Point’s colleague as a stroller, plays with splendid vivacity and sings that which she has to sing with much of the right spirit; but really excellent as Miss Florence Perry’s Phœbe is, it does not efface recollections of her clever predecessor, although her play in the quasi-love scene with Shadbolt was one of the cleverest things in the performance. As Shadbolt, the jailer, Mr. Henry Lytton was capital when he refrained from over-acting; no doubt in course of time this defect will be overcome. Mr. Jones Hewson, Mr. Charles Kenningham, and Mr. Scott Russell worked hard, well, and with success as the Lieutenant of the Tower, Fairfax, and Meryll, son of the sergeant, respectively; and the remainder of the cast, chorus and orchestra, were so thoroughly at home that the piece went from start to finish without the smallest hitch.

Enthusiasm was, of course, rampant, and encores were very numerous; the duet in the second act between Shadbolt and Point had to be repeated some three or four times. Sir Arthur Sullivan himself conducted this first performance, and at the close of each act he and all concerned were called for and applauded with almost extravagant warmth.

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