Vanity Fair, April 1918

A Succession of Musical Comedies

The Innocent Diversions of a Tired Business Woman



WELL, Wodehouse and Bolton and Kern have done it again. Every time these three are gathered together, the Princess Theatre is sold out for months in advance. This thing of writing successes is just getting to be a parfect bore with them. They get up in the morning, look out of the window, and remark, wearily, stifling a yawn, “Oh, Lord—nothing to do outdoors on a day like this. I suppose we might as well put over another ‘Oh, Boy!’ ”

From all present indications, “Oh, Lady! Lady!!’’—they do love to work off their superfluous punctuation on their titles—is going to run for the duration of the war, anyway. You can get a seat at the Princess, somewhere along around the middle of August, for just about the price of one on the Stock Exchange. Only moving picture artists and food profiteers will be able to attend for the first six months; after that, owners of munitions plants may, by trading in their Thrift Stamps, be able to get a couple of standing rooms. Of course, if you want to be mean about it, you can talk about the capacity of the theatre, which is nearly that of a good-sized grain elevator. But I still insist that Tyson would be exacting staggering rentals for seats for “Oh, Lady! Lady!!” if it were playing in Madison Square Garden.

If you ask me, I will look you fearlessly in the eye and tell you, in low, throbbing tones, that it has it all over any other musical comedy in town. I was completely sold on it. Not even the presence in the first-night audience of Mr. William Randolph Hearst, wearing an American flag on his conventional black lapel, could spoil my evening.


BUT then Wodehouse and Bolton and Kern are my favorite indoor sport, anyway. I like the way they go about a musical comedy. I love the soothing quiet—the absence of revolver shots, and jazz orchestration, and “scenic” effects, and patriotic songs with the members of the chorus draped in the flags of the Allies, and jokes about matrimony and Camembert cheese.

I like the way the action slides casually into the songs without any of the usual “Just think, Harry is coming home again! I wonder if he’ll remember that little song we used to sing together? It went something like this.” I like the deft rhyming of the song that is always sung in the last act, by two comedians and one comedienne. And oh, how I do like Jerome Kern’s music—those nice, soft, polite little tunes that always make me wish I’d been a better girl. And all these things are even more so in “Oh, Lady! Lady!!” than they were in “Oh, Boy!” (at least one reference to “Oh, Boy!” must be made in any mention of any other Wodehouse, Bolton, and Kern musical comedy. Now I’ve done mine—twice).

The cast of “Oh, Lady! Lady!!” certainly does the right thing by it. Carl Randall, who dances like a clothed member of the Ballet Russe, is the Boy Wonder of the occasion. He does practically everything except double in brass, and he has that worried look which is the greatest asset of a comedian. He is the only musical comedy hero in captivity who can dance his way down the stage, while the lined-up chorus girls hold their arms in an arch above him, and still look like a human being.

And, besides all that, he gets through the entire evening without once appearing in a Norfolk coat.

Vivienne Segal, who escaped uninjured from the wreck of the Century show, sings and dances charmingly. But won’t some one who knows her awfully well please tell her, all for her own good, that her dresses really should be just a little bit longer?

When the critics pull off their annual Spring festival, the famous non-prize contest for the twelve best individual performances of the season, I should like to nominate Reginald Mason, as the English detective, for a rating among the first six. People like Carroll McComas, Margaret Dale, Edward Abeles, and Harry Fisher are scattered casually through the rest of the cast, while the chorus is composed of good, kind, motherly-looking women.



Note: The remainder of the article dealt with four other productions.