Friday, May 23, 2008

New York Theatres

New York, 1895

Three Melodramas Which are Delighting the Public.

Melodrama has New York in its spell now. "The Fatal Card," which is a play of modern life full of all the pulsing issues and flesh and blood of the big world around us, has now been running at Palmer's theatre for three weeks to thronging fashionable audiences and is one of the three enormous successes now holding the attention of metropolitan theatre goers, the other two being "The Masqueraders" at the Empire theatre, and William Gillette's new farce "Too Much Johnson," at the Standard theatre. Singularly enough, too, these three great successes all belong to Charles Frohman, who has given New York all the big dramatic and comedy hits of this and last season.

"The Fatal Card" belongs to the sturdiest and most wholesome class of melodramas. It is stirring and full of thrills like all plays that sharply contrast vice and virtue and whose mission it is to strongly picture the punishment which follows sin and the reward that awaits the virtuous and upright, but its fascinating story is told in a novel and delightful manner, and no better acted play was ever put before the New York public. The great critic, Nym Crinkle, says that Mr. Frohman has again given to the stage "the tumultuous romanticism of intense action and once more planted melodrama squarely and successfully in the teeth of dilettanteism and prominent humor." And of the play he writes that it is "an intensely interesting story of a struggle. It tells it by action more so than by dialogue and it moves logically and directly to a crisis, carrying the sympathies with it. The actors as if enfranchised spring to their work with a vital impulse. It brings back masculinity to the stage and the manager insists on having it to the full possibility of a splendid company." This splendid company is the finest ever seen in melodrama. Manager A. N. Palmer who produced "The Two Orphans" and "The Lights of London" says it surpasses any of the great casts of olden days and the public has been most enthusiastic in endorsing all the loudest praise that has been written and spoken about the performances.

Four of the greatest character actors of the day, W. H. Thompson, W. J. Ferguson, J. H. Stoddard and J. O. Barrows are in the cast, while May Robson, Agnes Miller of the Empire theatre stock company have agreeable roles, and E J. Ratcliff, late hero of Shenandoah has romantic prominence as the lover whose life is saved at a horrible and critical moment by the father of his sweetheart. All the exciting action revolves around and then centres itself in this love story, Ratcliffe saves the girl's father's life from lynchers in the Rocky mountains and the father gives him one half of the ace of clubs for future identification. A band of robbers afterwards kill Ratcliffe's father and the son having tracked and discovered them is himself caught in their rendezvous and sentenced to a terrible death. He has but a minute or two to live when his executor finds the half of the ace of clubs. Ratcliffe is released and the chief robber, his sweetheart's father perishes in his stead. All this story is told in seven realistic and thrilling scenes. Amy Busby who was Richard Mansfield's leading lady plays the sweetheart.

The "Masqueraders" is another magnificent production. It cost Manager Frohman $40,000 to put it on the Empire theatre stage. There are fifty beautiful imported dresses in it that cost $20,000. Mr. Frohman's stock company gives a polished and brilliant performance of the play and Mr. Henry Miller and Miss Viola Allen, the leading man and woman of the organization, were never seen to better advantage histrionically. There is a great gamble scene in which Miller stakes $1,000,000 on the turn of a card against the wife and child of his successful rival and wins. Great crowds flock to the Empire to see this wonderful play.

"Too Much Johnson" is William Gillette's new farce in which Mr. Gillette appears as an exquisite liar from Yonkers and the most artful mother- in-law bamboosler that the funny men have yet produced. This hero is almost caught in an interesting flirtation and carts his household off to Cuba, where he borrows a stranger's plantation and fools everybody in the friskiest and most cold blooded way imaginable. "Too Much Johnson" is even a greater success than "Charley's Aunt" was last season. Fashionable audiences fill the Standard theatre at every performance and hundreds who come late are turned away.

—The Long Island Farmer, Jamaica, NY, Feb. 8, 1895, p. 2.

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