Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels

Event Information

Kelly and Leon's Minstrels Hall (720 Broadway)

Manager / Director:
Edwin Kelly

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 October 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

31 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
01 Sep 1868, 8:00 PM
02 Sep 1868, 8:00 PM
03 Sep 1868, 8:00 PM
04 Sep 1868, 8:00 PM
05 Sep 1868, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Grand inaugural night of the third season: "New hall, new scenery, new costumes, new burlesque. New sensations, witticisms, and appointments. Augmented chorus, orchestra, and company."

Performers and/or Works Performed

Participants:  W. [minstrel] Summers (role: Princess Her-Me-Ah);  George W. Howard Griffin (role: Pop O'Linn);  George Guy [baritone] (role: Count O'Scar);  Sam S. [Ethiopian comedian] Purdy (role: Queen Clem);  William H. Brockway (role: Prince Say-Fire);  Francis Leon (role: Bulleyette);  Edwin Kelly (role: Barber Blu)
aka Ye merry birds that sweetly sing; Ye pretty birds
Composer(s): Gumbert
Participants:  Edwin Kelly
Composer(s): Cowell
aka MacCarty's party
Participants:  J. C. Campbell


Advertisement: New York Herald, 23 August 1868.

Opening night has been moved to Wednesday evening, 26 August 1868. [It would later be postponed again to 08/31/68.] New hall, new scenery, new costumes, augmented company, augmented chorus, augmented orchestra, augmented auxiliaries. His burlesques “require nothing ancient, vulgar, or simple—no rags, or stuffed clubs—his jests make the cheeks dimple, are laughter-provoking, and refreshingly new.”   

Announcement: New York Herald, 23 August 1868, 4.

Opening postponed until Wedneds (08/26/68), in order to rehearse “Barber Blu” more. [It would be postponed again to 08/31/68.]

Announcement: New-York Times, 24 August 1868, 4.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 24 August 1868, 7.

For August 26.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 August 1868, 8.

For August 26.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 26 August 1868, 7.

Inauguration postponed until August 31 because of renvoations to the hall.

Announcement: New-York Times, 27 August 1868, 4.
Announcement: New York Clipper, 29 August 1868, 166.

For August 26; lists cast.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 30 August 1868.

For August 31.

Announcement: New York Sun, 31 August 1868, 2.
Announcement: New-York Times, 31 August 1868, 4.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 31 August 1868, 2.
Review: New York Herald, 01 September 1868.

“The season opened at Kelly and Leon’s last evening under very auspicious circumstances. During the recess the neat little theatre, which has oft been the scene of many a pleasant hour, has been beautifully embellished, and now presents a handsome and comfortable appearance. Notwithstanding the counteracting influences of the weather as well as of the numerous attractions through the city, a large and fashionable audience assembled to greet the return of these favorite minstrels, who nearly surpassed themselves in drollery, wit, and the other acquisitions which are favorably associated with their name. The programme opened with the usual preliminary choruses, songs, and jokes, which, however wanting in novelty, were admirably rendered. ‘Barber Blu’ was the sensation of the night and, truth to say, the high anticipations formed of it were fully realized. As a burlesque it is replete with humor and piquancy, and is decidedly a clever production; and while all the favorite airs of the original are carefully preserved, the libretto is beyond question funny in the extreme. As Bullyette Leon was inimitable, and his representation of that damsel last night will add another to the many triumphs he has already achieved. Throughout the evening he was repeatedly and deservedly applauded. The Barber Blu found a humorous and able exponent in Mr. Edwin Kelly, while the others were equal to their various and inexplicable roles. Altogether ‘Barber Blu’ was exceedingly well put upon the stage. The costumes were superb, the acting admirable, and the orchestra worth of praise. There is no doubt that ‘Barber Blu,’ following in the wake of ‘Grand Dutch S,’ ‘Bell L. N.,’ and other capital burlesques produced at this establishment, will enjoy a prosperous year.”

Review: New-York Times, 01 September 1868, 4.

“Kelly & Leon opened their hall at No. 720 Broadway, and, despite the weather, and the police arrangements, and the [illeg.] staircase, attracted a good audience. The company is the strongest we have ever seen in a minstrel hall, and numbers twenty-seven players. The principal attraction was Leon's ‘Barber Blu,’ of which we shall speak hereafter.” 

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 02 September 1868, 2.

“The members of the company were recognized by the audience, and received rounds of applause when the rolling landscape revealed them with instruments in their hands ready to begin the entertainment. . . . The most entertaining portion of the evening’s entertainment was reserved for its close, and the burlesque of Barber Blu received the applause the management were desirous to hear. The piece is well mounted. The costumes are magnificent, and must have been attended with considerable outlay. The minstrels played well their assigned parts. Yet it would be nothing without Leon, who is the motive spirit. This burlesque affords an opportunity for his peculiar style of acting. He dresses admirably, splendidly, sings and acts with abandon. A restless, resistless energy seems to carry his slight figure through the performance, and he imparts his vigor to others in the cast. Barber Blu will undoubtedly have a long run.”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 05 September 1868, 174.

“All things ready, Kelly and Leon open their minstrel season in this city at their hall of Ethiopia, this evening, with the production of Leon’s last burlesque of ‘Barber Blu,’ which has been produced in Brooklyn, the past week by them, to the largest business ever before done by a minstrel band, the Park Theatre being found too small to accommodate the crowds that sought admission, so great was the success of the burlesque. They open their season with new scenery, new costumes, etc…, and in one of the neatest and best arranged halls to be found in this country devoted to minstrelsy. They have secured a very large company, there being sixty people engaged in the burlesque.”

Advertisement: New York Clipper, 05 September 1868, 175.
Advertisement: New York Clipper, 05 September 1868, 175.
Review: New-York Times, 07 September 1868, 4.

“At Kelly & Leon’s the principal attraction is ‘Barbe-Blu,’ a veritable version of Offenbach's work executed in cork. Leon has performed the task with much tact, wit and ability. He has not attempted to burlesque a burlesque, but follows closely the original story, and gives the music almost entire. We may add here, that he gives it extremely well. The company is large, numbering twenty-six males, and supplemented by many boys to represent the female voices in the choruses. Leon himself sings and acts admirably, and is supported with spirit by Kelly. The orchestra and chorus are thoroughly good, and the costumes and scenery have evidently been prepared with care and at great cost.”

Review: New York Clipper, 12 September 1868, 182.

“Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels commenced their season on Aug. 31st, presenting the largest minstrel organization ever before seen in this country. Only think of witnessing twenty-nine people in the first part, something heretofore unheard of, yet that is the number they presented. The stage is so small that they sit two deep. First, there is a row of seventeen, consisting of two end men, thirteen voices in the chorus, interlocutor and balladist. The second line, in the rear, is composed of eleven musicians, besides the pianist in the orchestra. S. S. Purdy has the tambourine end and J. C. Campbell is the bones, G. W. H. Griffin is interlocutor and Edwin Kelly balladist. The overture and opening chorus were well given by the full band. Mr. Kelly was encored for the ballad of ‘Ye Pretty Birds.’ Purdy sang ‘McCarty’s Party,’ and Campbell ‘Hi Cum Go,’ which were loudly applauded. Purdy is an old favorite at this house, and Campbell will soon make his mark, for he is a pretty good performer. He sings well, is a good bone performer, and knows how to tell a gag with effect. Dick Ralph, who appeared in the olio in a song and dance, came in for a share of the applause. Purdy had a big reception, and sang “Bacon and Greens” and danced a breakdown in female habitments. The burlesque of ‘Barber Blu’ followed, and has proved one of the greatest successes. It is magnificently mounted in every respect, the dresses of Kelly and Leon being not only grand, but costlier and handsomer than the originals in the opera at Niblo’s. Leon’s performance of Bullyetta is a capital imitation of Irma, and not by any means a burlesque. The same may be said of Kelly’s Barber Blu. The rest of the characters are in good hands, and the dresses are very handsome. The music and chorus are powerful, while the favorite airs of the opera have been carefully retained. The attendance was quite large throughout the week.”