Edward Harrigan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ed Harrigan

Edward Harrigan (October 26, 1844 – June 6, 1911) was an American actor, singer, dancer, playwright, lyricist and theater producer who, together with Tony Hart, formed one of the most celebrated theatrical partnerships of the 19th century. His career began in minstrelsy and variety but progressed to the production of multi-act plays full of singing, dancing and physical comedy, making Harrigan one of the founding fathers of modern American musical theatre.

Life and career[edit]

Harrigan was born in New York but made his first stage appearance in 1867 at the Olympic, a San Francisco "melodeon," as that city's variety theaters were then known. A brief partnership with comic Sam Rickey was followed by a fourteen-year stage career with Tony Hart (1855–1891, real name Anthony J. Cannon), whom he met in Chicago in 1870. Although Harrigan wrote the lyrics and stage patter, Hart’s charm and singing talent played a large role in the duo's success. From Chicago, Harrigan and Hart went in 1871 in Boston, where they appeared at John Stetson's Howard Athenaeum, before moving on to New York, where they got their start with Tony Pastor before beginning a long run at Josh Hart’s Theatre Comique. Harrigan's sketches on the Comique's crowded bill featured comic Irish, German and black characters drawn from everyday life on the streets of New York. Their breakthrough hit was the 1873 song and sketch "The Mulligan Guard," a lampoon of an Irish neighborhood "militia" with music by David Braham, who would become Harrigan's musical director and father in law. In 1876, Harrigan took over the Comique himself, along with Hart and manager Martin Hanley.

HarriganMullig.jpg

By 1878, with The Mulligan Guard Picnic, Harrigan & Hart settled down on Broadway and performed in seventeen of their shows over the next seven years.[1] Though still broad and farcical, these shows featured music that was integrated with a more literary story line, together with the dialogue and dance, and the shows began to resemble modern musical comedy. Harrigan wrote the stories and lyrics, and Braham wrote the music.

Although the plays gradually became longer as more songs, dances, and stage business was added, the tickets remained the same price. Harrigan’s theatre was about the everyday people, and so it was fitting that the everyday working folk were the ones who filled up the seats. These shows were very popular, especially with New York's immigrant-based lower and middle classes, who were delighted to see themselves comically (but sympathetically) depicted on stage. The action of the plays took place in downtown Manhattan and concerned real-life problems, such as interracial tensions, political corruption, and gang violence, all mixed with broad, street-smart comedy, puns and ethnic dialects. Harrigan played the politically ambitious Irish saloon owner "Dan Mulligan", and Hart played the African-American washerwoman "Rebecca Allup".

One of Harrigan’s most popular plays with the Mulligan Guard Series, the Mulligan Guard’s Ball (1880), shows off the smooth juxtaposition of the comedy, musicality, and a healthy dose of humanity that made Harrigan’s plays so distinctive. Full of laughable chaos and “Harrigan hilarity”, the Irish militia and Black militia within the act butt heads in a satirical whirlwind of dance, stage violence, and buffoonery.[2] The New York Herald compared the Mulligan series to the ‘Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens [3] and one devotee wrote: “America has produced nothing more national, more distinctly its own, than these plays of the Irish in New York”.[4] People spoke of Ned Harrigan as the American Molière.[5]

Although the original home of the Mulligans, the Comique at 514 Broadway, eventually had to be shut down for financial reasons, Harrigan announced in 1881 that they would build a fresh and elegant "Comique" at 728 Broadway . The building they renovated was originally the home of the Church of the Messiah but had hosted many other theatres throughout the years. Although it had held a variety of different names, no title was so illustrious as that of “Harrigan and Hart’s Theatre Comique”.[6] However, this theatre was not to last; it was burned to the ground in 1884.

After the theatre collapsed, so did the partnership. Harrigan had married Annie Braham, David's daughter, on November 18, 1876. Their family continued in his footsteps, as son William Harrigan, daughter Nedda Harrigan, and granddaughter Ann Connolly all became Broadway performers. However, Harrigan's habit of hiring relatives soured his partnership with Hart. In May 1885, five months after the fire, Harrigan and Hart appeared on Broadway together for the last time. Hart lived the rest of his life quietly until his death in 1891, while Harrigan opened up his Harrigan’s Theatre in 1890 on Herald’s Square. Twenty-three of his plays achieved runs of more than one hundred performances each on Broadway. Harrigan continued writing plays and performing until his last public appearance on March 16, 1910. He died in 1911.[7]

Harrigan 'n Hart, a Broadway show featuring songs written by Harrigan and Braham, played at the Longacre Theatre in 1985. It featured Tony award-winning Harry Groener as Harrigan and Mark Hamill as Tony Hart. It was nominated for 1985 Tony Award, Best Book of a Musical, Michael Stewart.

Works[edit]

  • 1877: Old Lavender
  • 1878: The Mulligan Guard Picnic
  • 1879: The Mulligan Guards' Ball
  • 1880: The Mulligan Guards' Surprise which included the hit song "Whist! The Bogie Man" words by Harrigan and music by David Braham.
  • 1881: The Major
  • 1882: Squatter Sovereignty
  • 1883: The Mulligans' Silver Wedding
  • 1883: Cordelia's Aspirations
  • 1886: The Leather Patch
  • 1888: Waddy Googan
  • 1890: Reilly and the Four Hundred

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who's Who in Musicals: Hale-Harris at www.musicals101.com
  2. ^ Moody, Richard. Ned Harrigan: From Corlear’s Hook to Herald Square. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, 1980. Print.
  3. ^ Moody, Richard. Ned Harrigan: From Corlear’s Hook to Herald Square. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, 1980. Print.
  4. ^ Moody, Richard. Ned Harrigan: From Corlear’s Hook to Herald Square. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, 1980. Print.
  5. ^ Cullen, Frank. Vaudeville, Old and New An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007. Print.
  6. ^ Kahn Jr., E. J. The Merry Partners: The Act and Stage of Harrigan and Hart. New York: Random House, Inc., 1955. Print.
  7. ^ Moody, Richard. Ned Harrigan: From Corlear’s Hook to Herald Square. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, 1980. Print.

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Cullen, Frank. Vaudeville, Old and New An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007. Print.
  • Dormon, James H. “Ethnic Cultures of the Mind: The Harrigan-Hart Mosaic.” American Studies Fall 1992: 21-40. JSTOR. Web. 8 March. 2013.
  • Finson, Jon W., ed. (1997). Collected Songs, 1873–1896. Music of the United States of America (MUSA) vol. 7. Madison, Wisconsin: A-R Editions.
  • Kahn, E.J. (1955) The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart (Random House). Biography of Harrigan and Hart.
  • Moody, Richard. (1980) Ned Harrigan - From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square. (Chicago: Nelson Hall)