- John Hollingshead
John Hollingshead (
9 September 1827– 9 October 1904) was an English theatrical impresario, journalist and writer during the latter half of the 19th century. He is best remembered as the first manager of the Gaiety Theatre, London. An innovative producer, Hollingshead brought Gilbert and Sullivantogether in 1871 to produce their first joint work, a musical extravaganzacalled "Thespis".
Life and career
Hollingshead was born in the
Hoxtonarea of London, England. He first worked as a bookkeeper for a soft goods company in London in the early 1850s while publishing political essays on finance and social reform.Hollingshead (1895), P. 73] He soon entered into a partnership as a clothing merchant. During this time, Hollingshead and his friend Moy Thomas began publishing a penny paper called "The Mail" that proved unsuccessful. [Hollingshead (1895), P. 83] In 1854, he decided to close his clothing business and begin working as a writer full time. By 1855, Hollingshead was married with two children. [Hollingshead (1895), P. 93] He died in London at the age of 77.
Journalist and author
" during the London famine. He also wrote essays, short stories and dramatic criticism.cite news
title=NEW PLAY AT THE ODEON; SAID NOT TO BE A GOOD ONE, BUT TO BE INTERESTING. A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF "M.DE REBOVAL," M.BRIEUX'S LATEST ATTEMPT TO ENTERTAIN PARISIANS -- JUDIC IN "MME.L'AMIRALE" AT THE CHATELET.
New York Times
accessdate=2008-08-06] Beginning in 1864, and for several years thereafter, he contributed to "Punch magazine", mostly writing on political topics related to social reform. [Spielmann, p. 368]
Hollingshead wrote a number of books in the 1850s and 1860s, including "On the canal: a narrative of a voyage from London to Birmingham" (1858); "Under Bow Bells" (1860), [cite book
title=Under Bow bells
publisher=Groombridge and sons
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=eSkgAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+%22under+bow+bells%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=_Z2ZbFtdi4&sig=zAyJB2VoYq8ZE1lC7xCnvYt169I] "Rubbing the Gilt Off" (a collection of his early political essays (1860) "Odd Journeys" (1860), [cite book
title=Odd journeys in and out of London
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=BKICAAAAQAAJ&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+%22odd+journeys%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=5S30XjAGf2&sig=snXFbK3eXOFbNiNgKGjyzpWSqCY] "Ragged London" (1861, including Hollingshead's reports for the "Morning Post"), [cite book
title=Ragged London in 1861
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=hsz9S4a4YL4C&pg=PR3&lpg=PR3&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+%22odd+journeys%22&source=web&ots=ft-1c6YG7F&sig=KdWsTlRSMpHCf2GohX7kEuOglQg] and "Underground London" (1862).
In the 1880s, Hollingshead wrote books mostly about the theatre, including "Plain English" (1880), [cite book
publisher=Chatto and Windus
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=DoI0AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA117&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+%22plain+english%22#PPA120,M1] and "Footlights" (1883). [cite book
publisher=Chapman and Hall, limited
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=02oOAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+footlights&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=bQMymPBgcA&sig=yrYxlnN4TpyKC_qXD57NcYvt1ts] Beginning in the 1890s, he wrote a number of memoirs and more books about the theatres that he had managed. In 1892, he also published "The Story of Leicester Square", tracing the history, geography and architecture of the London neighborhood from earliest times through the date of publication. His memoir entitled "My Lifetime", published in 1895, explores his life and career through that date.
Producer and theatre manager
The Alhambra Theatre and theatrical innovations
In the 1860s, Hollingshead turned to theatre management. He helped establish the Alhambra Theatre and was the stage manager there from 1865 to 1868, in addition to producing musical pieces and ballets there. He made it famous for its sumptuous staging, alluring
corps de balletand the notorious front-of-house Promenade bar, where the young ladies of the ballet hinted at more than terpsichoreanpleasure. [Stewart, Maurice. 'The spark that lit the bonfire', in "Gilbert and Sullivan News" (London) Spring 2003.]
During his tenure at the Alhambra, Hollingshead introduced London audiences to the
Can-Can. [Hollingshead (1895), p. 224] Hollingshead is also credited with inventing the practice of holding general matinées. Hollingshead was also one of the first theatre managers to eliminate fees for programmes and coat check.
He left the Alhambra to manage the newly redesigned Gaiety Theatre. At the Gaiety, in 1878, Hollingshead was the first theatre manager to light his auditorium with electric lights. In addition to managing the Gaiety, as described below, Hollingshead managed shows at the
Opera Comiquefrom time to time and produced a revival of Gilbert's " Princess Toto" there in 1881, paired with Rutland Barrington's short play, "Quid Pro Quo". [cite book
title=The Story of the Savoy Opera
author=S. J. Adair Fitz-Gerald
The Gaiety Theatre
In 1868, Hollingshead took over the Gaiety Theatre, which had been a large music hall. The auditorium was rebuilt and, under Hollingshead, it becam a venue primarily for musical burlesque, variety, continental
operetta, including several operettas by Jacques Offenbach, and light comedy, under Hollingshead's management, from 1868 to 1886. The theatre opened on December 21 1868, with the successful "Robert the Devil", by W. S. Gilbert, a burlesque of the opera "Robert le Diable". [ [http://www.adam-matthew-publications.co.uk/digital_guides/gilbert_and_sullivan_part_1/Brief-Chronology.aspx Digital Guide to Gilbert & Sullivan] accessed 01 Mar 2007] Gilbert also wrote "An Old Score" for the theatre in 1870. Another early production was Alfred Thompson's "Columbus, or The Original Pitch in a Merry Key" (1869). [ [http://www.gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchivePressText2003/20030208.html Information about the "Columbus" burlesque] ] Nellie Farrenstarred in both "Columbus" and "Robert the Devil". She continued as "Principal Boy" at the Gaiety for the next 25 years, first under Hollingshead and then under George Edwardes. Other Gaiety stalwarts were Edward Terry, Kate Vaughan and Fred Leslie. The theatre's music director, Meyer Lutz, composed or arranged the music for many of its most successful burlesques.
plays produced by Hollingshead's company in the early 1870s were "Night and Morning" and "Led Astray". Boucicault's "Don Caesar de Bazan" was travestied in Byron's "Little Don Caesar de Bazan". [ [http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/theaters/pva234.html Includes a profile of the Gaiety and other Victorian theatres] ]
In the late 1870s, the theatre became the first to install electric lighting on its frontstage. Hollingshead's productions there included "The Bohemian G-yurl and the Unapproachable Pole" (1877), Byron's farce "Little Doctor Faust" (1878) [ [http://www.gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchiveTextF/NellieFarren.html Information from Footlight Notes website] ] Byron's "Handsome Hernani, or The Fatal Penny-Whistle" (1879); [ [http://footlightnotes.tripod.com/20050226home.html Information and images regarding "Handsome Hernani, or The Fatal Penny-Whistle"] ] and "Robbing Roy" (1879).
Meyer Lutz's "Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves" was performed in 1880 (Hollingshead had produced a highly successful charity production called " The Forty Thieves" at the Gaiety in 1878), and a burlesque of " Aladdin", by Robert Reece, in 1881. These were followed by "Little Robin Hood" (1882), a burlesque by Reece, "Blue Beard" (1882), "Ariel" (1883, by F. C. Burnand, based on " The Tempest"), "Don Yuan", Byron's "Little Don Caesar de Bazan" (a send-up of Boucicault's play), "Mazeppa" (1884), " Little Jack Sheppard" (1885), "Monte Cristo Jr."(1886), and dozens of others. [Plarr, Victor G. "Men and Women of the Time" (1898) G. Routledge, London] In addition to these burlesques, the theatre produced comedies such as Congreve's "Love for Love", Vanbrugh's "Relapse", "The Grasshopper" (1877, an adaptation by Hollingshead of Henri Meilhacand Ludovic Halévy's "La Cigale"), [ [http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/biog/Holl_J.htm Information about "The Grasshopper"] ] and a number of farces.
Nevertheless, burlesque and risque operettas were the normal fare at the Gaiety. Hollingshead called himself a "licensed dealer in legs, short skirts, French adaptations,
Shakespeare, taste and musical glasses." [http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Gaiety.htm Arthur Lloyd Music Hall site (on Gaiety) "Cuttings"] accessed 01 Mar 2007] In 1886, George Edwards took over the lease to the Gaiety.
*Hollingshead, John. "Alhambra: Theatre of Varieties, Leicester Square" (1893) Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.: London
*Hollingshead, John. "My Lifetime", 2 vols. (1895) S. Low, Marston: London (available online [http://books.google.com/books?id=j2NuebFfsScC&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+my+lifetime here] )
*Hollingshead, John. "Gaiety Chronicles" (1898) A. Constable & co.: London (available online [http://books.google.com/books?id=CzgOAAAAIAAJ&dq=john+hollingshead+gaiety+chronicles here]
*Hollingshead, John. "Good Old Gaiety: An Historiette & Remembrance" (1903) London:Gaity Theatre Co
*Spielmann, Marion Harry "The History of Punch" (1895) Cassell: London (available online [http://books.google.com/books?id=o5o4AAAAIAAJ&dq=John+hollingshead here] )
* [http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/biog/Holl_J.htm Information about Hollingshead and Whistler]
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