Proprietor / Lessee:
Manager / Director:
Price: $1 parquet and dress circle; $.50 family circle
Play With Music
1 February 2016
“Mr. Wheatley finds the Black Crook so admirably fitted to the level of present day tastes that, although he feels he ought to make some change in his programme, he is certain that he cannot do a more popular thing than merely to renew the scenery and dresses of the old play. There is not even a necessity for a new piece of the same sort. The same old stupidities of language, the same extravagance of incident, the same impossibility of plot, the same indecencies of surroundings are to be maintained. What a comment on the theatrical tastes of the day!”
“The management of this theatre introduced the ‘Black Crook’ in another shape last evening as a candidate for the honors of a new season. The new shape that this dramatic ballet assumed did not affect anything but that part of it which is exclusively of the ballet. The beauties of language, plot and incident which it boasts are not tampered with. It is rare in these days, when unappreciative managers sacrifice poetry to mere tinsel and scenic effects, to find that Mr. WHEATLEY recoils from attempting to alter or improve that wonderful drama, which serves like a clothes line to support the fluttering gauzes of the ballet known as the ‘Black Crook.’ Another and less enerative manager might have cast the eye of progress over the literary portion of the entertainment, while redressing the ladies of the ballet and redecorating the scenes. As he substituted new figures for old in the terpsichorean way, he might have substituted new figures of rhetoric for the utterance of his choice comedians. Of course, Mr. BARRAS—the author of the present poesy which has made the ‘Black Crook’ famous, could have drawn upon the muses for another and as bright a fund of amusement and instruction. He would have retained the characters, of course, but have altered their tunes. Like pegs in a musical box, the dramatis personae by a simple shirt would have uttered new sounds. He might, indeed, have reversed their relative positions without altering the arrangement of scenes. He might have made the wicked ‘Crook’ a benevolent old Samarian, the fairy Stalacta a vile enchantress, the persecuted Rudolfe a kidnapper of beauty, the ferocious Count an amiable landlord, and the venerable Puffendorf and nurse—(though this would be difficult indeed)—mirrors of purity. Then he could have put language appropriate to the change of character in the mouth of each, and, behold! We should have had a sparkling novelty without changing the set of a single scene. How joyous it would have been to hear Herzog call upon Zamiel (a Spirit of Good) for aid to carry out benevolent projects; to hear the Count, instead of browbeating the poor ballet girls, (his tenantry,) announce that he had ‘forgiven them a quarter’s rent—and now dance and make merry, my children.’ In fact, how much more peacefully might the sports proceed in such a state of things than they do now in the ‘Black Crook,’ with the Spirit of Evil clouding everybody’s happiness. The literary merits of the play might thus be renewed in a shape of surpassing beauty. The Shakespearian humor, the Congrevian wit might have been retained, and the lean fool, with his exquisite drollery, ‘Look I as if I were overfed?” might be a rounded henchman, with his side-splitting, ‘Appear we as if starved we had been?’
But Mr. WHEATLEY’S reverence for the higher flights of literary genius has not permitted him to lay the rude hand of improvement on the dramatic portion of his nightly exhibition. He has been so long in communion with the soul of one great bard, that he hesitates to paint the plumage of any succeeding swan.
Otherwise, however, the renewed portions of the ‘Black Crook’ invite some mention. It may be as brief as the skirts of the new ballet of the Lilies. The only prominent novelty is a ballroom scene, which is substituted for the open air masquerade which occurred in the third act of the unrenewed Crook. This is a hall of silver columns and massive Peruvian figures, canopied by an intricate fringe-work of gold after Moorish fancies. It is entirely nondescript, and totally indescribable. Indeed we might as well try to send a prismatic bubble by a post as to inclose a notion of this scene in the columns of a newspaper. The picture was much applauded, and in response to a continuance of the expressions of pleasure, Mr. MARSTON, the artist, and Mr. FROUDE, the machinist, who were equally responsible for the scene, appeared and bowed their acknowledgments.
There were some debuts in the ballet, but no new face or grace calculated to inspire the pen to enthusiasm. Nothing indeed occurred in that [portion of the ‘renewed’ play to supercede previous favorites. The new dresses were the handsomest portions of the renewal, but since there could naturally be but little added to them, the changes were not very remarkable, save as proposing studies to the philosophically disposed—for the leg is not a bad index of the mind or the disposition. What sloth, for instance, does not an obese limb betray; what a shrew is the possessor of a limb like a walking-stick; but what a gentle woman is she of the arched instep, the round ankle, and the graceful pedestal swelling to perfection and modulating to lightness. What dogged obstinacy does the stumpy leg with the knotty calf exhibit; what an irresolute soul does the lanky limb which bands at the knee betray. How well the strong ankle indicates the firm principle; how the flat ankle reveals the vacant mind! The favorites of the ballet were, as before, Mlle. BONFANTI, Mlle. RIGL, and Mlle. SANGALL. Mlle. BONFANTI’S best steps were made in the new dance of the opening act, ‘The Bouquet’—and in that she bounded over the scene with the spirit of freedom, now here, like a spirit of light, now away like the thought in dreams.
The piece was not over last evening until mid-night, but the delays caused by the various changes of dress, (as explained by Mr. Stage Manager VINCENT when it became necessary to lower the curtain in the middle of the third act,) will not occur again it is promised.”
“Those who are familiar with the life of Doctor Johnson know why the good old gentlemen rejoiced to continue his visits to the green room of his friend David Garrick’s theater. He was frank enough to state the precise reason. If men, now-adays [sic], were as squeamish as the old scholar was, too, the ballet at Niblo’s Garden would attract but small audiences. Tastes differ, however, and so Niblo’s Garden is crowded nightly. Last evening it was packed in every part. The ‘Black Crook’ was presented, with a new setting on this occasion, and a very alluring spectacle it was. New dancers appears, nearly all the costumes were new, and one new scene of singular brilliancy was introduced, that, namely, of the ballroom. It is composed of three vistas, the central one being an arch. The roof is wrought in imitation of fretted gold. Of the right are four statue-pillars, and the same on the left. The arch is supported by six four-fold pillars, made of crystal spokes, and encircled with jeweled bands of gold. Statues supporting sconces surround each pillar. A central chandelier dispenses light from above. The scone is full of splendor. Of the dances that are danced hereon we can only speak at risk of exhausting our stock of adjectives. Mr. Richard Marston and Mr. Froude, the scenic artist and the machinist, were called out and suitably applauded for this fine work of scenic art. Some delay was made in the course of the fourth act, which the stage-manager, Mr. Vincent, explained by a mirthful truism to the effect that the ladies of the ballet ‘were not dressed.’ But the patience of the audience was finally rewarded by a gorgeous spectacle. The masquerade scene contained many novelties, of a fanciful and comic character. A balloon and man was one. The final ‘transformation scene’ has been revamped and made even more effective than before. Of the play—‘the Black Crook,’ that is—little remains; but that little is amply sufficient. Mr. Barnett and Miss Mary Wells are still in the cast, and they still remind us that the act of acting has not wholly departed from Niblo’s Garden. We cannot here speak of the new dancers, for lack of time and space—and, perhaps, that is as well. The old favorites, Bonfanti, Sangali, and Rega, still wear their laurels, notwithstanding the Corps de Ballet has been strongly reinforced. Mr. Dodworth, last evening, contributed largely to the enjoyment of the audience by his appropriate and pleasing music. The performance terminated at a late hour, but the spectators remained, patient and apparently delighted, till the fall of the curtain.”
“THE ‘BLACK CROOK’—announced as having been renewed at an expense of $25,000—was given at Niblo’s on May 27th, for the two hundredth and sixtieth performance. A number of new principal danseuses were announced to make their appearance on this occasion; several new ballets were also to be given, as well as the introduction of a grand masquerade in act third. The house was densely crowded, and every one appeared as anxious to see the ‘Crook’ as if it was the first night of its production. In the first act was given the new ballet of ‘The Bouquet,’ with San Galli and Bonfanti in the lead. The ballet was beautifully and tastefully dressed, and the movements of San Galli and Bonfanti were loudly applauded. The wooden shoe dance followed; this was also heartily applauded. In the grotto scene, in act second, was given the new ballet of the ‘Water Lily,’ with San Galli as the principal danseuse. The ladies of the ballet were dressed in new tarleton [sic] skirts and so forth; and with palm leaves in their hands, the gushing creatures looked very handsome. Act third opened on the masquerade. Here were introduced a bevy of dancing girls in mask and black domino, huge blown up india [sic] rubber men, stage horses ridden by little boys, harlequinades. A lady with a water fall as large as the top of a flour barrel, a lady with a dress that had been wired so that it trailed about six feet, a lion’s skin with two boys inside, and several other fantastical figures. One little fellow about five years old caused considerable laughter in this scene. Before the scene was half finished there was a long wait, and then down went the curtain. The stage manager appeared before the curtain and stated that owing to the great labor in this scene and the many changes necessary, the ladies were not dressed for the Amazonian march, and asked the indulgence of the audience. After a little music from the orchestra, the curtain was rung up, and the Amazonian march—that had always been in the play—took place, and the act was over. There was considerable dissatisfaction manifested in reference to the masquerade scene; it did not begin to come up to our ideas of what might have been made of it. The scenery was really magnificent, and too much praise cannot be bestowed upon Mr. Marston, the artist, as well as John Froude, the machinist. Both of these gentlemen were called for by the audience—and appeared—the moment the scene was discovered. Notwithstanding the bills stated that several new daneuses` would be introduced, we failed to notice a single new face on the stage; if any appeared, they must have been in the ballet. San Galli’s contract with Palmer and Jarrett expired on June 1 st, and she has accepted engagements throughout the country. The two Zuccoli Sisters and Betty Regl also withdraw. Bonfanti has been re-engaged. Business continued very good all the week.”