The Red Mill
|The Red Mill|
Sheet music cover
1945 Broadway revival
The Red Mill is an operetta written by Victor Herbert, with a libretto by Henry Blossom. The farcical story concerns two American vaudevillians who wreak havoc at an inn in Holland, interfering with two marriages; but all ends well in the end. The musical premiered on Broadway on September 24, 1906 at the Knickerbocker Theatre and ran for 274 performances, starring comedians Fred Stone and David C. Montgomery. It was revived on October 16, 1945, opening at the Ziegfeld Theatre, and running for 531 performances. The show also had a London run and toured extensively.
For the original production in 1906, producer Charles Dillingham made theatrical history by placing in front of the Knickerbocker Theater a revolving red windmill powered and lit by electricity. This was Broadway's first moving illuminated sign. The Red Mill includes the famous songs Every Day is Lady's Day with Me, The Streets of New York, You Never Can Tell About a Woman, and Because You're You.
A 1927 silent movie version starred Marion Davies and was directed by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle under the pseudonym of William Goodrich. The situation of Gretchen and the Captain is retained from the operetta, but it is made a subplot. Davies' character was invented for the film.
In a village in Holland, two American vaudevillians, Con and Kid, who have been travelling in Europe but itch to get back to New York, are stranded penniless in the little inn. As painters and their models sing about the troubles of being a poor artist, the models try to convince the painters to quit their work and have some fun ("By the Side of the Mill"). Overhearing the models complaining, Tina points out that at least the girls have boyfriends. Prompted by this statement Flora discloses that she longs for her painter to say that he loves her, and will one day, marry her ("Loved But Me"). Con and Kid try to sneak out of the inn without paying their bill, but they are discovered and sent to jail. The Innkeeper takes pity on them, however, and arranges for them to work at the inn to pay off their debt.
The Burgomaster's daughter, Gretchen, loves Captain Doris van Damm. Her father, however, wishes her to marry the Governor of Zeeland. Con and Kid agree to help Gretchen and the Captain to elope. Willem tells the Burgomaster about this plot, and he locks Gretchen in the windmill. The Americans try to rescue her, but the Burgomaster has made all arrangements for the marriage between his daughter to the governor. Plotting with Tina, the two Americans finally help Gretchen to escape and then they appear at the wedding festivities (which are missing the bride) disguised as Sherlock Holmes and Watson to "help" Burgomaster find his daughter. Bertha replaces Gretchen as the bride, marries the Governor (her childhood sweetheart), and her identity is then revealed. It turns out, luckily, that Captain Van Damm is heir to a large fortune. The fathers' resistance falls away, and the lovers are united. The Americans return home to New York ("New York").
Principal roles and original cast
- Con Kidder, Kid Conner, two Americans "doing" Europe – Fred Stone and David Montgomery
- Burgomaster Jan van Borken, of Katwyck-aan-Zee – Edward Begley
- Bertha, his sister – Allene Crater
- Gretchen, his daughter – Augusta Greenleaf
- Willem, innkeeper at the "Red Mill" – David L. Don
- Tina, his daughter – Ethel Johnson
- Captain Doris van Damm – Joseph M. Ratliff
- Flora, a painters model – Connie Eastman
- Franz, the sheriff of Katwyck-aan-Zee – Charles Dox
- The Governor of Zeeland – Neal McCay
- Joshua Pennyfeather, an English solicitor – Claude Cooper
- Countess de la Fère, an automobilist – Juliette Dika
Decca Records recorded six selections (on three 10-inch 78-RPM records) in 1945. The recording featured Eileen Farrell, Wilbur Evans, and Felix Knight with a chorus and orchestra conducted by Jay Blackton. This album was reissued on one side of a 12-inch Lp (Babes in Toyland was on the reverse) in 1957. This edition stayed in print until 1969. After a long absence from the catalogue, Decca Broadway reissued the complete album on CD (again paired with Babes) in 2002.
Also in 1945, RCA Victor issued an album based on the hit Broadway revival but using studio singers (and Al Goodman's orchestra) instead of the Broadway cast. These eight highlights were issued on Lp by RCA Victor (1951) and on their budget label RCA Camden (1958) but have been unavailable in any format since 1960.
A Capitol album starring Gordon MacRae was issued as part of a series of recordings based on MacRae's popular Railroad Hour program, which featured potted operettas and musicals. It was conducted by Carmen Dragon. The first release in 1954 was a 10-inch LP [Capitol Records L-530, and FBF-530 (2xEP Box-Set]. It was reissued in 1955 on one side of a 12-inch LP with Naughty Marietta on the reverse [Capitol T-551]. This version was released on CD in 2008 as The Music of Victor Herbert (Anteater Records AECD-1004), along with selections from Naughty Marietta and Sweethearts.
A stereo recording was made by Reader's Digest for their 1963 album Treasury of Great Operettas. Each of the 18 operettas in the set is condensed to fill one LP side. The Red Mill selections from Reader's Digest have also been re-released on CD.
In the 1920s, Chandler Goldwaithe "recorded" selections from The Red Mill on a paper roll for use in an E. M. Skinner player organ. A CD of this roll playing on a 1929 Skinner organ was released by JAV Recordings in 2001.
In 2001 the Ohio Light Opera (OLO) commissioned a new critical edition of the opera from Quade Winter, based on the composer's original manuscripts in the Library of Congress. A complete recording of this edition by OLO was issued by Albany Records the same year.
- Synopsis and other information about The Red Mill from Musicaltheatreguide
- Information about The Red Mill from Musicalheaven.com
- Synopsis and other information from the RVCO.org site
- Profile of The Red Mill from the Guide to Musical Theatre