The 1846-1847 Season

By Gayle Harris

Old favorites, burlesques, and adaptations of properties from French originals continued to reap rewards for the Adelphi. As succinctly put by the Illustrated London News (24 Apr 47, p. 265), "The author is happy who writes for the Adelphi; explosions of laughter, from its merry audience, reward not only all the speeches intended to be jokes, but all that are not."

Of the adaptations from French sources, The Phantom Dancers was perhaps the most successful, with 102 performances to its credit. Taken from the ballet, Giselle, the musical directors borrowed directly from Adolphe C. Adam's score, but, eclectically, also included some Ethiopian airs as well as a parody of "Buffalo Gals, Can't-ye-come Out Tonight." The Sunday Times pronounced The Phantom Dancers "another great success ... at this fortunate little theatre" (8 Nov 1846, p. 2).

The illnesses of Wright and Bedford in January of 1847 apparently caused the Adelphi management no little concern and no small effort to replace them. Bedford's illness was apparently the more serious, being reported by the Theatrical Times as "a ruptured blood vessel" (30 Jan 1847, p. 32). The Theatrical Journal commented on a rumour that Bedford had died, "We are glad to say since his decease he has resumed his theatrical avocation this week at the Adelphi" (13 Feb 1847, p. 56). Bedford's first performance on 11 February, in The Green Bushes, was attended by His Royal Highness Count Montemolin.

Falling victim to its own success, the Adelphi had outgrown its house. In December of 1846, it was reported that Manager Webster had purchased the western side of Bull-inn Court for six thousand pounds. The press announced the Adelphi was to be razed and a new house built on a much larger scale, using several adjoining properties. Moreover, demolition was to begin after Easter of 1847, and the Adelphi company was to remove to the Olympic, should George Bolton not resume his lease there. (Bolton, in fact, filed for bankruptcy in July of 1847.)

By March of 1847, immediate renovations may still have seemed a likelihood, since the managers were relying on the aging standard, Green Bushes. The Theatrical Journal commented that even though Green Bushes was reaching its 200th night, "the management still persist in cramming it down the throats of the people." The same source then went on to offer a perhaps telling description of the theatre's fortunes: "Business has been very slack, nor can it be wondered when the entertainments are so poor and scanty, while all around are brilliant with attractions and novelties. Buckstone's new drama is sadly wanted; till then the management must be content to play to empty benches" (6 Mar 1847, p. 75).

Buckstone's Flowers of the Forest, which opened on March 11, did apparently reverse the public trend back to the Adelphi's benches and played 79 performances during the remainder of the season. Title Deeds, which opened in June, was attractive as well. By the end of July, it was still drawing well, causing the management to postpone the scheduled opening of How To Settle Accounts with Your Laundress.

In July, arrangements transferring the Lyceum Theatre to Charles Mathews and Madame Vestris were being concluded, and a new company was being formed by them. In this new company were to be Mrs. Fitzwilliam, Miss Kathleen Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Charles Selby from the Adelphi. The Sunday Times reported it to be understood that the new Lyceum management would confine itself to petite comedy, vaudeville, light farces, and burlesques (11 July, p. 2).

© Copyright 1988 by Alfred L. Nelson and Gilbert B. Cross

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