Sunday, September 12, 2010

12 September 1912: "Tuneful and Catchy" at the Morton

On this day in 1912, the following notice ran on page 8 of the Athens Banner:


The Brooks-Smith players will play "The Charming Widow," tonight. In fact an entire change of program will take place--new songs, the kind that are tuneful and catchy. Every member of the caste [sic] is a star and they have quite a lot of expensive costumes for every play. The troupe is considered about the best in repertoire that has ever played at Morton Theatre.

The Morton was hosting the Marion Brooks Stock Company, featuring comedian Speedy Smith. The initial ads promised "Good Singers and Dancers" at "Popular Prices," though no prices were published in the Athens Banner. To keep audiences returning, they changed their show for their third night.

The newspaper did offer a review of the first show, calling it "another big hit," and observing that
A large audience witnessed the play, which was amusing in the extreme. The singing and dancing received unusual applause. The after piece seemed the hit of the evening when Speedy Smith, the leading comedian was at his best.

This particular show was likely a "tab" (or "tabloid") show--an abridged version of a longer, more complete musical comedy stage show based on old variety shows. They had elaborate costumes and multiple scenery changes to keep the audience engaged. A typical tab company included between 12-15 members, including dancing girls, several actors and singers, one or two comedians, a piano player, and sometimes a novelty act. Shows lasted one or two hours, and were often performed twice per day.

The Banner did not publish a review of "The Charming Widow" or the new songs. Notices for the Morton did not regularly appear in the Banner, which tended to cover the newest shows at local whites-only theaters extensively. Much larger stories, with photographs and profiles of leading ladies, ran for the Oscar Hammerstein Comic Opera Company's production of "Naughty Marietta" which was coming to the Colonial Theatre the following week.

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