Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Booth in Another Play at the Tremont

When “The Bonnie Brier Bush” played in at the Tremont Theatre in Boston, “These familiar characters were greeted as old friends by the audience.”

This from the New York Times on the opening of J. H. Stoddard’s play based on the novel by Ian Maclaren. It was August 26, 1901, 109 years ago tomorrow.

I would say it seems like yesterday, but it doesn’t.

The play is described as being somewhat similar to J. M. Barrie’s “The Little Minister”, in that it takes place in the Scottish countryside, a love story between a young lord and a village girl, where scandal sends them away from the village (at least until Act IV), and a secondary romance between another lady and the minister.

Charles Hutchinson and Irma La Pierre played the leads, with the supporting cast including Sidney Booth, Gertrude Bennett, Stoddard in the role of the angry father who drives his daughter away from home, and Reuben Fax in the comic role of village tippler.

A quartet singing the old Scots song “Annie Laurie” brought what must have been folksy poignancy to what the New York Times reported called an “idyllic piece.” This was still an era of specialty acts punctuating the plots of plays. It was still the era of the four-act play.

This play went on to Broadway the next month, with a run of only a couple of months. Sidney Booth, incidentally, who played the minister, made a number of appearances on Broadway, and was a member of that famous acting family, the Booths. He was the son of actor Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., and the nephew of both actor Edwin Booth and actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth. (See this previous post for more on the Booth brothers’ personal and professional turmoil at the time John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln.)

Have a look at this previous post for more on the Tremont Theatre.

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