Monday, December 22, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Although Victor Herbert’s operetta Babes in Toyland is no longer presented using its original plot, at least two of its songs --Toyland and March of the Toys – have become standards and are regularly performed, especially around the Christmas season. Babes in Toyland originally opened in Chicago in June 1903. After touring several East Coast cities, it finally opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater on October 13, 1903. In addition to Victor Herbert’s charming music, the production featured spectacular sets and costumes, and some eye-popping stage effects that included an electric storm at sea and the eruption of a volcano! It ran on Broadway for 192 performances, which, back then, was considered a long engagement. Then, two tours went on the road. The first-class tour, which kept the scenic effects and much of the original cast, played the major cities for extended periods of time. The second-class tour, which played the smaller cities, had a reduced cast and orchestra and was streamlined for easier loading in and out of theaters. In January 1905, the first-class tour returned to New York for a 3-week engagement at the Majestic.
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:52:00 AM
Between 1929 and 1939, there were several Broadway revivals of Babes in Toyland including one that took place at the Al Jolson Theater. (The cast of the 1939 revival included the Singer Midgets). Most of these revivals used the stock-amateur rental package, added new characters and interpolated popular musical numbers into the score.
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:50:00 AM
Over the years, there have been a number of Babes in Toyland television specials and two theatrical films. The best of this lot, in the opinion of many of us Victor Herbert aficionados, is the 1934 feature film starring Laurel and Hardy. Although the original story had to be altered to work them into the plot, much of Victor Herbert’s music, faithfully rendered, was retained. Beginning with the Laurel and Hardy version, all adaptations of this show have altered the original plot, taking it further and further from its original version. Speaking of the Laurel and Hardy film, a beautifully restored version, re-titled March of the Wooden Soldiers is currently available on DVD. Not only does it have the original black & white version, but also a colorized version. (While I’m not a big advocate of old black & white films being colorized, this is one case where the color really does add to the film’s enjoyment. Stan Laurel always felt that it should have been made in color and he was right.)
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:48:00 AM
Ringling’s big spec for 1946 was themed Toyland, which naturally suggests that it should have been accompanied by music from Babes in Toyland. When the show opened in Madison Square Garden, however, it was accompanied by some rather highbrow original music composed by Deems Taylor (who is probably best remembered today as the commentator who introduces the musical numbers in Walt Disney’s Fantasia.) While the Circus was still in New York, John Ringling North and James Haley wrested its control away from Aunt Edith and Cousin Robert. According to contemporary reviews, one of the first changes they made was to replace the Deems Taylor spec music with music by Victor Herbert, including, we must assume, music from Babes in Toyland.
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:46:00 AM
The 109th Edition Red Unit used the “Toyland” theme for its Circus Toyland spec. Bill Pruyn rose to the occasion and assembled a music score that not only featured selections from Babes in Toyland but also from several of Victor Herbert’s other operettas. It remains my all-time favorite spec score. This photo, taken in San Diego in 1979 as the pay-off elephants are going by, gives some idea of Circus Toyland’s level of production. (This was back when Irvin Feld had Mattel’s money to work with.)
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:43:00 AM
The Circus Toyland spec closed with Gunther and his un-caged tiger. (In San Diego, on the last note of the music, they would always be standing next to the band and my chair in the sax section. I’d look up and sometimes make eye contact with the tiger before Gunther hustled it down and returned it to its cage.)
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:40:00 AM
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:39:00 AM
Another shot of the midway with the Kong the Killer Gorilla in the background, the Giraffe exhibit tent (this created a little heat since the giraffe was heavily advertised but not included in the menagerie) plus a pit show with a midget pony run by Tom King.
The show was framed for making money.
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:27:00 AM
.....and with that thought in mind I leave on my morning chores only to await the afternoon football program with a new and relaxed attitude after my Powerhouse Buccaneers, having been defeated by the second worst team in the NFL, have managed to erase all doubt.
Posted by Buckles at 12/21/2014 05:07:00 AM
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Corral Menagerie, caused by either a tight lot or a late arrival.
I've told the story before about the time in 1957 when I saw one of the old RBBB menagerie tents being used at the Sarasota County Fair.
I asked Dave Mullaney about the ragged looking green stuff attached to the canvas at the top of each quarter pole and he explained that one year the menagerie had a jungle motif and these would have been the palm leaves surmounting quarter poles painted in a likewise manner.
Here we see the cages used that season.
Posted by Buckles at 12/20/2014 06:54:00 AM
I well remember when Concello first had the spec floats enter and exit from a back door situated at the round end of the big top, all the Circus Fans (myself included) were aghast!
On the other hand D.R. Miller followed suit saying two rows of unbroken grandstand seats made sense, "If you're going to sacrifice anything make it the back end blues!"
I might add that the performers entered for their acts from a narrow passage way situated behind the center ring between two seat wagons as seen in the movie GSOE.
Posted by Buckles at 12/20/2014 06:33:00 AM
I don't remember ever seeing a Barber Shop on a circus.
My father's eyesight was so bad he never used a mirror, simply felt his face with one hand and scraped away with the other.
My friend Duane spotted this while visiting me on Kelly-Miller and was astonished, I always took it for granted.
Posted by Buckles at 12/20/2014 06:22:00 AM
Obert was described by my father as a man you didn't have to explain anything to, he seemed to grasp the situation immediately and rarely raised his voice.
Likewise Kelly who ran the office and the only time you really saw him was 5:00 in the morning when we were awakened by a cowbell and being served a cup of coffee and donut from the cook house truck, he would be standing front of the lot and point at each vehicle in order of departure.
The pole wagon was always first, followed by the concession truck in which I rode and so forth with the house trailers last.
Posted by Buckles at 12/20/2014 06:05:00 AM
On the other hand, D.R. was the ram rod, outwardly always brusk and demanding.
When we were on the show he drove one of the elephant trucks from town to town accompanied by my father, renewing a friendship dating back to the Seils-Sterling Show when D.R. did a dancing tight wire act.
He Bank Rolled an elephant act for us and later allowing me to walk away with "Anna May" after my fathers death for which I will always remain grateful.
One of my most memorable days was in 1978 when he came down to Venice for our debut with the Ringling Show.
Posted by Buckles at 12/20/2014 05:42:00 AM
Friday, December 19, 2014
As mentioned often before, in 1995 while I was on the Blue Show and attending a Circus Fan gathering in the Carolinas, I purchased a number of scrap books containing pictures mostly unidentified. Here are a few and I've got another set for tomorrow.
More interestingly I wish I knew who they came from, possibly a Blog member.
Posted by Buckles at 12/19/2014 05:18:00 AM
When we were on the Kelly Miller Show in the early 1950's they had such a large array of animals they decided to invite the public to the lot each morning to view their feeding which was augmented by the early opening of all the concessions, pony rides and pit shows.
A great success with the addition of School Groups etc. and on more than one occasion made the day's nut before the first ticket was sold.
It was difficult on some lots with the people milling around before all the trucks and equipment was spotted but well worth the effort.
As they arrived they were greeted by Joe Lewis proprietor of "Kong the Killer Gorilla" actually a big chimp, this picture taken several years later after being demoted to Anthropoid Ape, due no doubt to some heat.
Joe would inform everybody of the coming events of the day then segue into his saga of the death of Mrs. Carter who had raised "Kong" from infancy and slain due to his jealousy of the man she intended to marry then afterward cleared in a Court of Law.
Joe even had a blown up picture of a large crowd outside a Funeral Parlor (actually Al Jolson's funeral) legitimizing the event.
Smokey and I would often go out and watch this master at work, great entertainment.
On one occasion while being viewed, Kong threw a tantrum, slamming a few things around and upsetting the patrons and Joe yelled over the mike, "Don't be alarmed one of you ladies must resemble the the late Mrs. Carter of whom he so loved!"
Then seeing me and Smokey, reached in his pocket, took out a handkerchief and handed it inside saying, "Toss it to him so he can dry his eyes!"
After a while he asked "Did he wipe his eyes? and a voice came back saying "No he wiped his ass" and not missing a beat, quickly fired back, "That's what they all say ladies and gentlemen, the greatest attraction ever to come to your fair city!"
Over the years during a lull in our BS sessions, Smokey would come up with, "and that's what they all say ladies and gentlemen.....
Posted by Buckles at 12/19/2014 04:27:00 AM