Review: New York Herald
, 24 January 1865, 4.
The production is “all Ethiopian, with colored newsboys, bootblacks and other curiosities. The extravaganza hinges on some amusing allusions to the Play Bill, and a house on fire, the latter showing some unique points which cannot fail to raise a laugh—a live pig being one of the principal performers. The oddity was very much applauded and will have a good run. The fashionable intelligence of the Play Bill is happily hit off, especially the reference to the ‘Germans’ of our elite. . . . A joke that Uncle Abe furnished the fun for the Play Bill excited a mirthful round, and the question, while a bootblack was polishing a boot, ‘Why is my boot like Horace Greeley?’ and the response, ‘Because it sustains the nigger,’ also excited an approving expression from the audience.”
Review: New York Clipper
, 04 February 1865, 342, 1st col., bottom.
“Decidedly one of the best programmes ever offered to the public by any Minstrel band was that presented to the patrons of Wood’s Minstrel Hall last week by that organization. The first part of the programme was a very select one, and was given in an excellent manner, particularly the singing by Henry and Lockwood of ‘Jenny June,’ ‘Home with thy Sweet Voice Again,’ and ‘Meet Me to Night.’ The finale, Haslam’s ‘Nightingale Polka,’ with piccolo obligato, was a superb performance. Frank Brower commenced the olio business with his ‘Happy Uncle Tom’—an act which he has made his own, and which he has performed all over England as well as this country since 1842, over twenty-two years ago. Notwithstanding this fact, the public seem never to tire of it, for they laugh heartily over the conversation between Frank and the banjo player, and applaud his dance, night after night, season after season. In consequence of the non-appearance of Lew Brimmer, who was in the bill to play the banjo for this act, Mr. Frank B. Converse, a popular teacher of the old Cremona, volunteered his services at short notice, and, when he appeared before the footlights, was enthusiastically received by the audience. He played the part, as well as the banjo, in a creditable manner, and was rewarded with a good round of applause. Mr. Henry sang ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ in a style that charmed his hearers. We have often heard this ballad sung, but never before with so much sweetness as it was by Mr. Henry. This gentleman is one of the best ballad singers at present in the profession. The new burlesque of ‘The Streets of New York,’ produced for the first time, was exceedingly well-placed upon the boards, and cleverly performed by the members of the company. Frank Brower, as a dealer of chestnuts, was very funny. Purdy’s and Boyce’s make-up for the boot-black and news-boy was capital. A great deal of fun is created in a very short time, the act not lasting fifteen minutes. Some pretty good hits are got off at the expense of the ‘Play Bill,’ and which are highly relished by the audience. The act closes with a fire at the Five Points. Mr. Mollenhauer, a valuable member of this troupe, performs on the violin in a very artistic manner. Purdy sang ‘Dear Mother I’ve Come Home to Ear,’ which is one of the most laughable songs we have listened to for some time. Frank Converse then performed one of his most popular solos on the banjo, and such music as he managed to bring out of the instrument we scarcely believed possible. He played Yankee Doodle with variations very sweetly, and also gave imitations of Bell Chimes. Mr. Converse is one of the best performers on the banjo in this country. The Ethiopian Opera of ‘Oh! Hush!’ concluded the evening’s performance. Witnessing this piece put us in mind of old times, when minstrelsy was in its younger days, when we could go to a nigger performance and witness representations of darkey life just as it was ‘way down Souf,’ listen to those plaintive ditties that we had heard by the real color on the old plantation or on a Mississippi cotton boat. Those were the days when old Daddy Rice was in his glory, dancing Jim Crow to the delight of thousands; but what a change has come over the cream of minstrelsy within a few years! ‘Oh! Hush!’ was exceedingly well done at Wood’s, Frank Brower playing Gumbo-Guff just as we had seen him do it years ago in Philadelphia. He was the life of the piece. Cool-White’s make-up for Sam Johnsing, the Exquisite, was capital, and his acting and singing of the part, first-rate. Boyce made a good Dinah, and dressed the character well. It was well put upon the stage, well performed, and received throughout with applause by the audience. The attendance was excellent, the house being crowded in every part. There’s nothing like putting up a good attractive programme and giving the public novelty; it will surely pay in the long run.”