Bryants’ Minstrel Hall
James H. Ross
Price: $. 75 parquet; $.50 dress circle; $1 reserved; $5 and $7 boxes
29 November 2017
Eugene and Unsworth to have sailed from Europe on 11 April; engaged to open with Bryants’ Minstrels in the new hall in May.
“The Bryants formally opened their new place of entertainment last evening under most auspicious circumstances. It was a lucky thought of the brothers to secure the first floor of the new wigwam, now almost completed in all its parts, for their arena of fun and jollity. They have anticipated the Sachems of Tammany, who will not open their doors to the public till the 4th of July next; but long before then the place will have become the resort of thousands, nightly holding conventions and adjourning from night to night, selecting tickets round which all Gotham will rally. The new minstrel hall is most tastefully decorated, is roomy, easy of access and egress, capable of holding comfortably even such audiences as the Bryants can bring together at all times, and on the whole is really the most elegant, in every respect, of the many beautiful minstrel halls in our city. The new Opera House was crowded to suffocation last evening, and very many were present who could only by straining their ears catch a word or a note of what was going on; but even outside the barriers there was as much laughing as in the body of the hall, for the merriment of those inside was contagious, and the ‘outs’ laughed as heartily as the ‘ins.’ An opening address was spoken by Mr. Dan Bryant, very witty, full of telling hits, and mirth provoking to an extent that would have left one to suppose there could be hardly anything to follow worth laughing at.”
“Bryant’s new minstrel hall in the Tammany building was opened for the first time last evening. An excellent performance was given to an overflowing audience. The only objectionable feature of the new hall is the fact that there are not sufficient means of egress in case of fire. At the conclusion of the performance Mr. Bryant entertained his friends with a collation.”
“The BRYANTS’ new Minstrel Hall, if it may be so called, was opened to the public last evening, and was of course crowded to its greatest capacity. It would be more correct, perhaps, to say that the particular block in which the building is situated was crowded to its greatest capacity, for the people who were fortunate enough to get inside were a mere percentage of those who tried to do so. The entire Tammany building would have been insufficient to accommodate the friends of the BRYANTS. Long before the time of commencement the hall was densely packed. It is not possible, under such circumstances, to speak of the performances. For the moment, it is sufficient to say a say a word or two of the place. It is a pretty, one-tier theatre, capable of seating eight or nine hundred people, with ample lobby room for as many more. The entrance is spacious, and from the street level nearly level with it. The decorations are tasteful, and the seating accommodations liberal. There is a good stage, an orchestra and several private boxes—the latter elegantly draped. We shall speak of the entertainment hereafter. For the moment, it suffices to refer to the advertisement. Any one familiar with minstrelsy will recognize there the names of the best artists in the profession.”
“Mr. Dan Bryant’s first week in his new Minstrel Hall has been one of unprecedented prosperity in this branch of enterprise. Rain, it is needless to say, has fallen nearly all the time—in accordance with a custom that bids fair to become chronic. But, notwithstanding the tempests of this breathing and balmy Spring, the ‘noble, swelling spirits’ that take delight in Negro Minstrelsy have gathered in solid phalanx, night after night, and have made the new hall ring with their plaudits for the humor of the Bryants, and Unsworth, Hogan, Seymour, and all the rest of the choice little band of brudders. It is an airy, commodious, bright little hall, in the new Tammany building, adjacent to the Academy of Music. It consists of pit, and gallery, and contains seats for about 1,000 persons. A long, but broad, passage-way approaches it from the street. It is lit, in day-time, by three high windows, on the north side, and in night-time by chandeliers and numerous gas-jets. The ornamentation of the walls and ceiling is brilliant but delicate in hues. The upholstery is neat. Red, orange, and blue are the prevailing colors. The orchestra is inclosed [sic] by a handsome black-walnut rail. There are four proscenium boxes, elegantly appointed. On the stage itself neatness and good taste prevail, and render every adjunct of the entertainment appropriate in itself and pleasing to the eye. Peculiar care has been taken to get delicately painted sets of scenery, wherein to frame the standard sentimental performances, while the usual lively, grotesque fancy prevails in the miscellaneous sets for farce and for burlesque opera. If we add that the hall is well ventilated, easy of access and egress, and located in a very convenient part of the city, we shall conclude the list of its physical merits as a place of public amusement. Of the character of the entertainment therein it is not needful here to speak in detail. Mr. Dan Bryant, the directing spirit of the enterprise, has long been known to this public as a man unusually gifted with the faculty not less than the sense of humor, a vein of real and delicate pathos, and a positive skill in discriminating between the various shades of character. Those powers he exercises in the domain of negro minstrelsy, with an earnestness and an unction that are extremely affecting—so that the sympathetic auditor of his acting is frequently reminded that the springs of weeping and of laughter lie side by side. He has chosen, also, a good company of co-laborers in the Ethiopian art, one of whom, Mr. Unsworth, is irresistibly comical as an Irish negro. The particular merits of these several artists will doubtless engage our attention from time to time, as the season passes. For the moment it is enough to say that the performers work together in a most harmonious manner, and present an entertainment which, of its class, is the best now offered to the New-York public—full of character, that is, and lustrous with comicality. It is understood to be Mr. Bryant’s design to appeal not less to the refined portion of the community than to the more careless multitude of lovers of fun; and we cannot doubt that he will demonstrate, in crowded houses and an overflowing treasury throughout the season, that there is no needful antagonism between mirth and modesty, and that the ancient prestige of the name of Bryant is still undimmed in the realm of Ethiopian Minstrelsy.”
"A full description of which appeared in the CLIPPER two weeks ago—was opened to the public on the 18th inst. Such a mass of human beings as besieged the doors of this establishment long before the time of the opening arrived, has never before been witnessed in this city at any similar place of amusement. Every seat in the house was sold long before the doors opened, and when the portals were thrown open, such a rush we have seldom seen. Police officers were stationed at each side of the entrance, and no one was admitted unless he was previously provided with a ticket. The doors were opened at 7:30, and long before eight o’clock there was not any standing room in any part of the house. Over one thousand people were turned from the doors unable to obtain admission. The curtain rose at fifteen minutes past eight, and as each favorite performer walked on the stage he was well received, but the most enthusiastic reception accorded was to Dan Bryant. Long, loud and tumultuous was the applause, and it was nearly three minutes before he could obtain a hearing, when, in obedience to a unanimous call for a speech, he walked to the footlights and delivered the following opening address, written by John Brougham:
‘Old friends, and new ones too, for I am loth [sic]
To think that in this crowd I don’t see both,
Those who remember us in the old day
And cheered our effort to ‘relieve Broadway,’
Not by the subterranean process, now the rage,
But on our own snug little Broadway stage,
And others, who, since that, in our success,
Have felt some interest, we prize no less:
To each and all, the old and the new friend,
An hundred thousand welcomes we extend,
Now that I have returned to my first love,
And the arena upon which I strove
So many years to further your diversion.
The reason why I made my late excursion
Beneath the banner of old Erin’s land,
Upon another field to try my hand,
Leaving the black, and ‘wearing of the green,’
It was because I wished, the truth to tell,
To show ‘that some things could be done as well
As others’, nor while I live can I forget
On every side the kindness that I met.
Our old stand was a good one in its day,
But the town’s moving up each 1st of May.
Excelsior’s the motto of New York.
So, rising from the ashes of burnt cork,
We’ve Northward come at fashion’s potent call,
And greet you here in our new Minstrel Hall.
In our associated band you’ll see
Some favorites, and some who hope to be,
And all selected with the greatest care
From—I might almost say from everywhere.
Here we shall strive with dancing, joke and song,
And harmless mirth, to help the hours along.
Here we shall struggle in the public race
For your approval, till we’re—black in the face.
Devotion, oft for lack of skill atones,
And we are yours, even to our very ‘bones,’
And tambourine.’ From that we won’t retreat,
But in the sentiment ‘make both ends meet.’
I’m happy to meet you, my old and new friends of New York,
And with you kind permission I’ll settle down in Cork.’
This clear address was received with great applause. Mr. Bryant then resumed his seat on the end, and the evening’s performance commenced with an instrumental overture, followed by the opening chorus, ‘Meet Me, Jose, at the Gate,’ by Charles Henry, the ‘Bould Highwayman,’ by Unsworth; ‘Lost Alice Clair,’ by W. P. Grier; ‘Pollywollyokahama,’ by Dan Bryant; ‘When the Roses Bloom,’ by Monroe Dempster; and for the finale the song of the ‘Circus Show,’ by Seymour and Company. The olio opened with Eugene in a burlesque ballad, followed by Unsworth in a stump speech, ‘Old Time Rocks’ by Seymour and Dan Bryant, clog dance by Hogan and Hughes, Eph Horn with his imitation of the ‘Panama Railroad,’ Unswolrth in a banjo song, Dan Bryant in the ‘Essence,’ a burlesque dramatic sketch by Seymour, Eugene and Unsworth, Hogan and Hughes in a double act, and the new walk around of ‘The Wigwam,’ by Dan Emmett, terminated the performance. Dan Bryant, Unsworth and Eugene were the great cards of the evening, and each was most favorably received and made a decided impression. Dan Bryant is too well known to need commendation. Suffice it to say he played as well as we ever saw him, both on the end and in the olio, and he danced the ‘Essence’ better than ever before. In the first part his song was encored, and he gave ‘Gipsy Davey.’ No greater favorite ever appeared in this city than Dan Bryant. Unsworth appeared on the bone end and made a decided hit as a funny man. His very appearance is enough to provoke laughter, and his actions are such as to make the most stoical smile. He manipulates the bones very cleverly, and his gags, only a few of which were new, were told with much gusto. His first song was encored, when he gave ‘My Love’s Gone.’ His stump speech in the olio was very fully, and was received heartily. His banjo solo, however, did not appear to please so well. Charles Henry and Monroe Dempster are excellent balladists. The former possesses a baritone voice, while that of the latter is very sweet and pleasing. Both were encored. The instrumental music, as well as the quartet, is equal to any ever before heard in this city. Eugene, after an absence of seven years, re-appeared in his burlesque prima donna business, and his reception was of the most flattering order. He possesses a voice very musical, and over which he has perfect control, and in his business he has no superior. The performance was equal to any minstrel entertainment seen in this city for some time. The receipts amounted to over $955, and business throughout the week was excellent.”