A Trip to Chinatown

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A Trip to Chinatown
TriptoChinatown1.jpg
Cover of Vocal Score
Music Percy Gaunt
Lyrics Charles H. Hoyt
Book Charles H. Hoyt
Productions 1891 Broadway

A Trip to Chinatown is a musical comedy in three acts by Charles H. Hoyt with music by Percy Gaunt and lyrics by Hoyt, that became a silent film featuring Anna May Wong half a century later. In addition to the Gaunt and Hoyt score, many songs were interpolated into the score at one time or another during the run, as was fashionable for musicals of the era. The story concerns a widow who accidentally maneuvers several young suburban couples into a big city restaurant and brings romance to them and herself, as in Hello, Dolly!

After almost a year of touring, the musical opened at Broadway’s Madison Square Theater on November 9, 1891 and ran for 657 performances, or just short of two years. This was the longest-running Broadway musical in history up to that time (although London had seen a few longer runs), and it held that record until Irene in 1919. The show was such a hit that several road companies played it throughout the country simultaneously with the Broadway production, and at one point a second company was even opened in New York while the original company was still performing on Broadway. The cast included Trixie Friganza and Harry Conor, who introduced "The Bowery".

A version of the show was produced in 1912 under the title A Winsome Widow, and a film adaptation was made in 1926.

Background[edit]

Hoyt was born in Concord, New Hampshire (USA) in 1859. In the 1870s, Hoyt became musical and dramatic critic of the Boston Post. Beginning in 1883, he began a career as a playwright, producing a series of twenty farcical comedies (roughly one per year until his death) and a comic opera. Hoyt had his own theater, the Madison Square Theater, where A Trip to Chinatown was performed.

sheet music cover

A Trip to Chinatown was Hoyt's 10th play. Hoyt's plays emphasized individualized characters drawn from the everyday experiences of ordinary people. Most of his plays were non-musical farces. Two of the songs from the show are still known, "The Bowery" and "Reuben and Cynthia." There were many interpolations of songs into A Trip to Chinatown due to the many touring companies, the most famous being Charles K. Harris's "After the Ball," which was not part of the 1891 Broadway production but became a big hit and was later interpolated into Show Boat to exemplify the 1890s style.[1]

Versions of the script can be found in the 1941 Princeton University Press collection, Five Plays by Charles Hoyt edited by Douglas L. Hunt. In addition the George Washington University has microfiche copies of three versions of Hoyt’s script, which changed as the cast changed, and differed from tour to tour.

Synopsis[edit]

A group of young people in San Francisco tell their wealthy guardian, Uncle Ben, that they are going sightseeing in Chinatown. They really plan a night out on the town. They have engaged a chaperone, Mrs. Guyer, but her letter of acceptance is received by Uncle Ben, who misinterprets it as an invitation to a rendezvous. At "The Riche", the restaurant mentioned in the letter, where the young people have booked a table, he gets drunk. He does not see the young couples or Mrs. Guyer and it turns out that he has forgotten his wallet, which leads to humorous complications. Ben is unable to scold the young people for deceiving him, as they point out that they know about his own night out.

Roles and original Broadway cast[edit]

A poster with lyrics to "The Bowery", 1890
  • Welland Strong (a man with one foot in the grave) - Harry Conor
  • Ben Gay (a wealthy bachelor) - George A. Beane, Jr.
  • Tony Gay (his ward) - Avery Strakosch
  • Rashleigh Gay (his nephew) - Lloyd Wilson
  • Norman Blood (chum of Rashleigh) - Arthur Pacie
  • Willie Grow (a gilded youth - a trouser role) - Blanche Arkwright (later Queenie Vassar)
  • Noah Heap (waiter) - Harry Gilfoil
  • Slavin Payne (Ben's servant) - Harry Gilfoil
  • Turner Swift (runs the ice crusher) - W. S. Lewis
  • Isabel Dame (friend of the Gays) - Geraldine McCann
  • Hoffman Price (manager of Cliff House) - Frank E. Morsk
  • Mrs. Guyer (a widow) - Anna Boyd
  • Flirt (Mrs. Guyer's maid) - Patrice
  • Dancers

Musical numbers[edit]

  • The Bowery
  • Reuben and Cynthia
  • The Widow
  • Push Dem Clouds Away (an African cantata)
  • The Chaperone
  • Out for a Racket
  • After the Ball
  • The Sunshine of Paradise Alley
  • Love Me Little, Love Me Long
  • Do, Do, My Huckleberry, Do[2]
  • Keep A-Knockin’
  • Riding on the Golden Bike
  • Her Eyes Don’t Shine like Diamonds
  • Only One Girl in the World for Me
  • Then Say Good Bye!
  • She’s My Best Girl
  • Back among the Old Folks Once Again[3]
  • McGee’s Back Yard

1926 film; A Winsome Widow[edit]

A silent film adaptation of the musical was released in 1926, called A Trip to Chinatown, starring Margaret Livingston and featuring Anna May Wong and Charles Farrell. The screenplay was by Beatrice Van, based on Hoyt's book, and the film was directed by Robert P. Kerr.

In 1912, a revised version of the musical was produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., with a score by Raymond Hubbell, called A Winsome Widow.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "After the Ball" at the Tin Pan Alley Project, 2008
  2. ^ Do, Do, My Hucklerberry Do Music (1893) (by Dillon Brothers)
  3. ^ Sheet music for this song indicates that it was composed by J. W. Wheeler with words by Dave Reed Jr.
  4. ^ Boardman, Gerald Martin. American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle, pp. 322–23 (2011 ed.)

References[edit]

External links[edit]