Opera Scotland

Gaiety Girl A Gaiety Girl

Music

Sidney Jones (born London, 17 June 1861; died Kew, 29 January 1946)

Text

Harry Greenbank (lyrics) and Owen Hall (book)

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Prince of Wales Theatre), 14 October 1893.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.

 

Background

A Gaiety Girl though billed initially as a 'burlesque opera' was among the first of the hugely popular new breed of theatrical entertainment - the 'musical comedy'. In spite of modest reviews at its opening, it became enormously successful, and in making a fortune for George Edwardes, permitted the launch of many subsequent shows over the next two decades, including several by the same authors.

The piece received some welcome early publicity before the London opening due to censorship problems. The Divorce Court judge was at first called  Sir Francis May, this making play of the fact that an existing senior legal figure was called Jeune. Changing the surname to Gray got round the difficulty while obviating any need for a change to any rhyme scheme that might be affected. A further problem arose with the association of an army chaplain with some distinctly dubious character traits - so Montague Brierley ceased to be a Rev, as at the work's opening, and became a Dr.

Owen Hall was the nom de plume of a journalist, James Davis, who had been the editor of a society journal before switching to the theatrical trade.

 

Main Characters

Captain Charles Goldfield, Lady Virginia's niece

Major Barclay

Sir Lewis Gray, a Divorce Court Jufge

Lady Gray, his wife

Alma Somerset, a Gaiety girl

Lady Virginia Forrest, a chaperone

Mina, her French maid

Dr Montague Brierley, an army surgeon

Rose Brierley, his daughter

 

Plot Summary

In the gardens of a cavalry barracks, a tea party is in progress, one officer entertaining a group of society ladies and another a band of theatrical celebrities. Capt Goldfield loves Alma, one of the Gaiety girls, but is meantime flirting with Mina, his aunt's French maid, and with the surgeon's daughter, Rose.  As the characters provide various entertainments by singing, dancing and telling anecdotes, the judge, at the barracks to visit his nephew, describes a memorable divorce case which featured some years before.  That case hinged on a piece of jewellery. Dr Brierley recognises the case, and that Lady Virginia was involved, because he was the hitherto undisclosed co-respondent. He is thus able to protect her reputation from exposure. Mina is aware of Charley's romantic history, and, jealous of the officer's true affections, intends to destroy Alma's reputation, by planting a piece of jewellery filched from her mistress in Alma's pocket. It turns out to be the same diamond comb that featured in the earlier law case. The theft, and new location, of the jewel is duly revealed, and Alma's reputation destroyed. Charley remains convinced of her innocence.

The problems are eventually resolved after most of the characters decamp to the Riviera. Lady Virginia, concealed in a bathing machine, receives the successive attentions of the surgeon and the judge. While they leave briefly, she is substituted in the machine by the judge's wife. Unaware of the true identity of their target, the two men then each arrange a rendezvous with Lady Gray at the carnival. Further confusions are eventually resolved, Mina's perfidy and Alma's innocence are established, and various pairings-off ensue.

The Cast

Alma Somerset
 the Gaiety Girl
Captain Charles Goldfield
 a Guards officer
Dr Montague Brierley
 an army surgeon
Lady Gray
 
Lady Virginia Forrest
 Charley's aunt
Major Barclay
 a Guards officer
Mina
 Lady Virginia's French maid
Rose Brierley
 daughter of Dr Brierley
Sir Lewis Gray
 a Divorce Court Judge

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