Lina Edwin's Theatre
Manager / Director:
C. P. [manager] Kendall
F. [conductor] Zulig
26 June 2023
“The possession of Lina Edwin’s theatre has reverted to Messrs. Kelly and Leon, Miss Edwin having been evicted during the past week in consequence of a breach of some of the conditions of the lease. This step was a legal necessity, but we understand that kindly feelings exist between the parties concerned and rumor saith that it is quite probable that Miss Edwin will be the lessee and manageress of this theatre for the coming season.”
“The unsophisticated soul turns with an ever-recurring fondness to negro minstrelsy. Even the spoiled worldling, satiated with the artistic elegance of whiter singers, will often yield to its attractions. The early freshness of childhood’s associations blends with a kindly regard for the gentle, simple race whose artless melodies are—or should be—the staple of the evening, and adds a familiar magic to the familiar strains of ‘Old Uncle Ned’ or ‘Rosa Lee.’ Even the outrageous absurdities and thread-bare puns of the ‘end men’ may have their place, and the sternest philosopher need not blush to be caught laughing at drolleries which his taste and his judgment alike repudiate.
The singing too, in its simple way, is not unfrequently pleasing and good, both in selection and execution. The members of these organizations are often very clever as solo vocalists, while they generally sing excellently together in chorus. The uncommonly ‘low tone’ in the complexion of the performers need not have any appreciable effect on their vocalism, and it often happens that the captious critic who went to scoff remains to listen.
It is pleasant, therefore, to recognise the musical merit of such performances as those of Messrs. Kelly & Leon, now in progress at Lina Edwin’s pretty little theatre. Touching the burlesque portions of the entertainment, however, praise is not so easy. It would be as pragmatical as useless to insist that all humanity shall take its pleasure in the same way, or to quarrel with our humbler and less cultivated neighbors for not appreciating Nilsson or Parepa, Hoffman or Vieuxtemps, at several dollars a ticket. But there is, according to the old Latin satirist, a certain ‘measure in things,’ on one side of which, at all events, ‘the right cannot subsist.’ The burlesque farces and interludes of all our negro minstrels, without exception, are apt to carry a sort of puerile though exaggerated drollery and gymnastic style of delineation to the limits of decency. Mr. Leon, in his feminine characters, is certainly funny and clever, but—if we may be excused for hinting it—more than perceptibly vulgar. We recognize the neat adaptation of the drunken scene in the final farce—‘Twice Married’—to the intellectual level of the jubilant newsboys in the gallery. Still, when we consider the potent influence of those subtle teachers, the eye and ear, it is impossible not to regret that a perhaps justifiable regard to profit should compel our theatres to offer these—dramatically—unsophisticated youth a style of diversion aimed at the lower level of their capacity.
The general question, how far an entertainment which tends to lower the standard of public taste is as directly injurious as one which more distinctly and demonstrably attacks the public morals, is one which admits and requires thoughtful discussion. We reserve its treatment for another occasion.”
“Messrs. Kelly & Leon have made decided hits in two or three of their specialties. ‘Carry the News to Mary’ is a most perfect picture of a negro camp meeting. The music of Uncle Ned is a masterpiece, and the setting of Dave Wilson in the character is irresistibly droll. Billy Rice has made a hit in his account of the ball he attended in company with President Grant, and the reason to give for the absences of William of Germany.”