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Review of the Production from The Times
Thursday, July 28, 1892
 
CRITERION THEATRE

A musical version of the famous farce Le Chapeau de Paille d’Italie, better known in Mr. Gilbert’s adaptation as The Wedding March, was produced last night under a new name, Haste to the Wedding. The adaptor has added a certain number of songs and choruses, and these have been set to music by Mr. George Grossmith, whose undoubted talents as a musician have hitherto been exhibited in less ambitions departments of the art. The idea of making an operetta out of the somewhat old-fashioned farce is by no means a new one, since some 15 years ago there seems to have been an intention to arrange the piece as one of the series now known as the Savoy operas, and there is no very strong internal evidence that the libretto has been altered to suit the taste of the present day.

It is unfortunately impossible to regard the production as a success artistically speaking, for the addition of music, or at least of formally constructed songs, cannot but hinder the action and allow the audience to perceive the utter impossibility of almost every situation. Played as a rattling farce, the piece has deserved and obtained more or less continuous favour; the peppery officers, the frantic bridegroom, and the undecided market-gardener served to amuse an audience that was not too exacting, while Uncle Bopaddy’s infatuation for a milliner’s doll became, in the hands of the late W. J. Hill, almost as credible as it was diverting. The only possible successor to this actor, Mr. Blakeley, now plays the part with his usual unction, but it has of course been found necessary to distribute the musical numbers among the other characters.

Two of the best songs, which have some of the true Gilbertian spirit, are allotted to the sentimental Duke (well played by Mr. D. S. James) and Major-General Bunthunder (Mr. Sidney Valentine), each of whom appears only in a single scene. The bridegroom is played with a good deal of spirit by Mr. Frank Wyatt, who shares with Miss Sybil Carlisle the honours of the most amusing as well as the prettiest number of the work, a duet and dance in the first act; the dance is a remarkably clever piece of pantomime. Mr. Lionel Brough, when he is familiar with his part, will doubtless make some fun out of Maguire, the bride’s father; a son of the composer’s appears with success in a small part, and Misses Ellis Jeffreys, M. Studholme, and others do well what is required of them.

In his laudable zeal to avoid hackneyed musical themes, Mr. Grossmith has forgotten, or so it would seem, to provide anything of his own in their stead, so that the melodic value of his work is of the slightest. In comparison with his “original” work, the old tune from which the operetta is named strikes the hearer as richly melodious. The songs are lightly and not ineffectively accompanied, and the old bassoon joke out of The Sorcerer does duty once again. The composer conducted in person, and, with, Mr. Gilbert, was called before the curtain at, the close.


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