Ice Witch

Event Information

Olympic Theatre

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Thomas Baker

Event Type:
Play With Music

Record Information


Last Updated:
26 July 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

23 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM
24 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM
25 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM
26 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM
27 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM
28 Jul 1866, 7:45 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed


Advertisement: New-York Times, 23 July 1866, 7.
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 23 July 1866.
Advertisement: New York Post, 23 July 1866.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 23 July 1866, 5.

Music not mentioned. “The peculiar talent for burlesque that Mr. Smith possesses is well known and thoroughly appreciated….The Webb sisters have not appeared here before in several years, but they enjoy an extensive popularity in the provinces.”

Review: New-York Times, 24 July 1866, 4.

Mr. LEONARD GROVER hoisted his managerial flag at the Olympic Theatre last night, and produced, for the first time, a sensational spectacularism called the ‘Ice Witch,’ with fine effect. Mr. GROVER’S good luck attended him, and as a mere matter of course his first night drew the largest audience of the season, a regular crowd, a bona fide jam.  The gallery was filled with boys who hi-hied, the balcony with sentimental male and female swains (if such we may say,) who shrank with apprehension and dilated with delight, the parquet with cynics, whose evil prognostications came early to grief, and the orchestral stalls with the élite of everywhere, who gazed with unfeigned admiration and not a little awe upon the endeavor of the new manager upon the Metropolitan boards. The ‘Ice Witch’ is a vehicle for spectacular effect by the wholesale and love-sick nonsense by the retail, Mr. MARK SMITH, Mr. G. C. CLARKE, Miss ADA WEBB, Miss EMMA WEBB and Miss KATE NEWTON sustaining the principal rôles. None of them have much to do beyond putting in an appearance. The costumes of Miss WEBB and of Miss NEWTON were rich and elegant, as indeed were all the dresses of the principal characters. The appearance of Miss ADA WEBB was the signal for a prolonged applause, which bade fair to continue until the adjournment of Congress, but it happily subsided in time to permit of a pleasing demonstration in honor of Miss EMMA. ADA’S songs were encored, MARK SMITH’S definition of woman was demanded a second time, the tableaux were all reset, and we believe the entire legend would have been repeated had the manager paid the least attention to the frantic suggestions of the audience. A rapier combat between two terrific Kings of foreign nativity was worth triple the price of admission, judged by its length and ferocity.  Mr. Grover deserves commendation for the admirable manner in which the piece is mounted, for the liberality evinced in its general spectacle, and especially for the novel feature of a respectable chorus.”

Review: New York Post, 24 July 1866, 4.

Gives plot summary. “If the scene shifters will learn their business, and if the noise in the galleries is hereafter suppressed, the ‘Ice Witch’ will be enjoyed by a succession of good houses as a piece of pleasant and extravagant nonsense during the heated term.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 July 1866, 5.

“It was nearly 12 o’clock on Monday evening when the first presentation of the ‘Ice Witch’ closed at the Olympic Theatre, yet the larger number of the large audience congregated to whereas it remained in their seats until the fall of he curtain. On the part of the spectators this was no common feat of that patient endeavor which is poetically said to be God-like. For the ‘Ice Witch,’ not withstanding its resplendent scenery, is rather a trying work. Dating very far back in the history of Norway, it involves a trite love-story, interweaving, with impartial incorrectness, shreds of Scandinavian mythology and historical associations of a remote and a ludicrous period. Its action proceeds partly amid the icebergs of the Polar Sea, and partly in and around Norwegian castles. Its characters are, on the one hand, goddesses, goblins, and sylphs, and, on the other hand, gentry and servitors of exceedingly far-off Norway. [a detailed summary of the plot]  That this story exhibits a lively play of fancy need not be urged. Its unknown author, however, has constructed it so crudely, and written it in such bad English, that it will not bear close examination. This is the common fault with persons who construct spectacle pieces—that they trust to fine scenery, and shrink from the demands of literary and dramatic art. When all is said, there is nothing in ‘The Ice Witch’ except fine theatrical effects. Much of it, indeed, is positively silly. The players stagger under the weight of its bad mythology and its effete historic associations. Much that they do, indeed, is very funny to the satirical observer, to whom it must appear in the light of delicious burlesque; but the melancholy fact is that what they do is intended to be quite serious.  The ‘Call of the Hills,’ and the gentlemen who wear helmets and armor and carry about banners four times as long as themselves, are presented as really illustrative of that ancient Sclavic [sic] life which burns and glows in the venerable Eddas, and in such Norse poems as those of Motherwell. If you fancy Mrs. Bateman’s play of ‘Geraldine’ converted into a spectacle, and mingled with the pantomime of ‘Jack and Gill,’ and think of the impression that would thus be produced, you may conceive the ludicrous incongruity and the abortive character of the ‘Ice Witch.’ It is an utterly nondescript and puerile composition, and is not entitled to the slightest critical respect.

But yet, as now presented, it has merits that will insure it a brief run. Its scenery, as we have said, is in some respects really beautiful. There were, indeed, all manner of those inexcusable hitches and delays in the working of the scenery on Monday evening, which it is usual to inflict upon the public on first nights, but these, we presume, will be avoided in future representations of the spectacle. Many of the costumes also give one that sense of richness which is so well conveyed in Milton’s phrase of ‘barbaric wealth.’ Then, too, the ballet is good, the music acceptable, and the acting in certain particulars worthy of cordial praise. Mr. Mark Smith, in the humorous character of Magnus Snoro, plays with all his accustomed artistic repose and delicacy of method, lighting up the piece with flashes of genuine humor. His song of ‘What a Woman’s Like’—received on the first night with tumultuous applause—is really spirited and brilliant, and despite unusual difficulties of execution, it was sung with delightful precision. Mr. Smith possesses in an uncommon degree quick sympathy with humor, and a fine and cultured capacity to make it felt. [review of other performers, with no mention of music] The merits thus indicated will, we say, render ‘The Ice Witch’ temporarily acceptable. Had it been prepared by a competent dramatist it might have attained a great success. As it is it can only be regarded as one more of the many crimes against dramatic literature that are committed in the name of amusement.”

Review: New York Post, 27 July 1866, 2.

“[H]as very much improved.  The scene-shifting goes on more smoothly, and other improvements have been made.  It is one of the most effective spectacular pieces that has been placed on the stage this year.”

Review: New-York Times, 31 July 1866, 4.

“Mr. GROVER continues his cooling suggestions at the Olympic by the spectacular fairy legend of the ‘Ice Witch.’ MARK SMITH’S inimitable song on ‘Woman,’ the graceful dancing of the Misses FOWLER and Miss WOOD, the icy beauty of Miss KATE NEWTON as the Polar Goddess, and the charming versatility of the WEBB sisters, complete a goodly programme, to  which, however, Mr. GROVER has liberally added a rich treat in the German opera chorus, who well sustain their part.”

Review: New York Clipper, 04 August 1866, 134.

“[A]bounds in the spectacular…In spectacular pieces it is seldom or ever that we find such a fine company of artists as have been engaged by Manager Grover, and those who have lost their love for scenic displays without proper acting, can here have an opportunity to see both combined.”  Gives plot summary.  There is “some capital singing by members of Grover’s German Opera Troupe.” Ada Webb “looks very prettily and sings charmingly, being encored in all she did, and having to repeat, ‘I’m Lonely To-Night, Love, Without Thee,’ which she sings with much feeling and pathos.  Mark Smith, as Magnus Snore, was excellent, and in his song of ‘What’s a Woman Like,’ took immensely, as also in his duets with Miss Ada.”