Original 1886 Australian Cast
May 22nd, 1886
Initial run: 12 performances

Sir Marmaduke

Mr. Howard Vernon


Mr. W.H. Woodfield

J. W. Wells

Mr. Frank Thornton

Dr. Daley

Mr. Denbigh Newton


Miss Nellie Stewart

Lady Sangazure

Miss Alice Barnett


Miss Ada Walker

Dame Partlet

Miss Ida Osborne


The reproduction of The Sorcerer, after a long interval of seven years, followed by the brilliant musical farce which first brought its authors into prominent notice, attracted a dense audience to the Theatre Royal on Saturday night, and the perfection with which both pieces were mounted and played fully justified their attendance. The elaborate "business" went without a hitch, the dresses were new, and the acting and music, taken as a whole, would have given satisfaction to the authors themselves.

The Sorcerer will take a middle place in Gilbert and Sullivan compositions. Abounding in tuneful numbers, one or two of which rank with anything that has come from Sir Arthur Sullivan's pen, the orchestration is thin compared with that of his later operas and its melodies have never taken the same popular hold as those of Pinafore, a work of about equal calibre from a musical point of view. With the exception of the brilliant finale to the first act, written in B major, preceded by the charming duet for soprano and tenor, Oh Love, true Love, there is little attempt at elaboration in the score, and the musical merit of the work rests chiefly on the concerted pieces, among which the quaint duet for baritone and contralto, Welcome joy, Adieu to Sadness, written in the old fashioned imitative style, in which the composer is so great an adept, and the pretty quintet, in the somewhat unusual key of G flat major, I rejoice that its Decided, take first place.

The libretto is sparkling and pungent, and the idea of presenting a British bagman in the guise of a controller of demons and vendor of family curses is as happy a conception as any which has taken form on this modern stage. The hits in the dialogue were keenly realised by the audience on Saturday, the eulogium of the British working man evoking uproarious applause.

The part of Aline was allotted to Miss Nellie Stewart, who was in good voice, and looked most bewitching both as a bride and subsequently in her tea gown. Her rendering of the part of an ingenue left something to be desired.

Miss Alice Barnett made a most stately and dignified Lady Sangazure; the part, however, does not display her gifts so markedly as those allotted to her in Patience or The Mikado, and it must be confessed that her scene with Sir Marmaduke, one of the best in the opera, went rather tamely.

Miss Ida Osborne carried off the palm for acting by her intelligent presentation of Mrs. Partlet, the pew opener, and Miss Ida Walker made a capital Constance.

Mr. Denbigh Newton, new in opera to Victoria, created a very favorable impression, and gave the most refined version of the Vicar that we have seen. His voice, although not particularly powerful, is sufficient for the part, and his make up leads the spectator to ask himself whether His Lordship of Manchester has not returned to his colonial sea.

Mr. Woodfield both acted and sang well as the meddling Alexis, and Mr. Howard Vernon gave an acceptable personation of the courtly Sir Marmaduke. The hero of the piece is not by tradition supposed to require a singing voice, and Mr. Thornton's deficiencies in this respect did not injure the part of Mr. John Wellington Wells, head of the firm of family sorcerers in St. Mary Axe. He was irresistibly comic in his business and glib in his utterances. The absurd piece of diablerie written to burlesque the famous and equally absurd incantation scene in Der Frieschutz, went to perfection, and the patter song was equally successful. From the accompaniment to this piece, by the way, we missed the familiar notes of the bassoon, indispensable to render it with completeness.

The orchestra was well in hand and the chorus sang with great vigor and precision, showing the good results of the training of Mr. Cellier.

Trial by Jury, although not Gilbert and Sullivan's first joint production, being preceded by two operettas, The Contrabandista and Cox and Box, was the first distinct hit made by the composers, whose subsequent works have gone far towards displacing other musical stage productions all over the world, and of which it may, in some sort, be styled the parent.

It introduced to Melbourne audience Miss Kate Lovell, who, although apparently somewhat nervous, made a charming plaintiff, and promises to be distinct acquisition to the Australian stage. She has a graceful presence, and sings with taste and accuracy.

No later judge has ever equalled the original version played by the composer's brother, when the piece was brought out in London, but Mr. Thornton, it is needless to say, was acceptable to the part.

The chief honors for comic acting, however, are due to Mr. H. Benham, as usher of the court, who was exquisitely funny in the part, and sang the music well.

The business, upon which the success of the piece so largely depends, was brisk, and strictly according to tradition, and the choral parts were given with vigor and spirit, the parody of Bellini, near the close, in particular.

Although a break of fifteen minutes occurs between the pieces, during which the gallery boys refused to be comforted by the waltz strains of Mr. Cellier's baton, the performance was not unduly long, terminating at eleven o'clock.

Melbourne Age. Monday, May 24th, 1886.

The Theatre Royal was crowded in every part on Saturday night, when two of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, works already known here through previous performances were reproduced. "The Sorcerer" came first on the programme. This fantastic play was first presented here at the Bijou Theatre some few years ago, when Mr. and Mrs. Lingard appeared in principal parts. Since then, we are informed, the joint authors in London have retouched their work in parts, and in the great metropolis the performance of it has enjoyed a long and successful run.

It is not necessary to point out where these amplifying touches come in; we venture to think that the greater part of the audience on Saturday night witnessed the representation as that of a new play. Small occasion serves Mr. Gilbert for the display of his keen humour and absurd logical deductions. In the present instance a hyper-philanthropic young aristocrat and guardsman, Alexis - the son of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre - calls in the aid of a sorcerer in a large way of business in St. Mary-axe, London, E.C., who has a magic potion which, when insidiously administered to the villagers, the vicar, the notary, the pew-opener and her daughter, the Lady Sangazure, and Sir Marmaduke himself, produces the most unexpected results.

(There follows a description of the opera's plot.)

The action takes place on the lawn in front of a stately mansion admirably designed by Mr. George Gordon. The music, by Sullivan, is full of grace and happy adaptation to the widely-varying emotions which excercise the persons of the play.

The serious side of musical recitative adopted in the utterance of absurd lines is in itself highly diverting. Some of the musical numbers found such favour with the audience that they were encored. Amongst these must be mentioned the tenor air "Love feeds on many kinds of food" sung by Mr. W.H. Woodfield, whose performance of the part of Alexis was well received by the audience.

Mr. Frank Thornton represented the role of "The Sorcerer" with good appreciation of the humour of the part. In appearance, in carriage, and in voluble description of the wares of his firm - the article most in request - he was the bustling tradesman to the life, as much at home with his sorceries as any ordinary trader in his groceries. After a most laughable scene with Alexis and Aline he sings one of those "patter songs" in the composition of which Gilbert and Sullivan have become famous. "My Name is John Wellington Wells" was received with hearty laughter and pronounced approval, and the audience insisted upon its being repeated. The scene of the incantation, wherein the Sorcerer invokes all the powers of darkness in the preparation of his love-potion, is surprisingly good from all points of view. A duet which Mr. Thornton sings with Miss Barnett (Lady Sangazure) in the second act, with its alternate adjurations "Hate me!" and "Love me!" is a very good musical composition, with well worked out antiphonal effect, both for voices and instrumental accompaniment. Mr. Thornton, throughout the whole play, sustained the leading part with consistent humour and unflagging spirit.

Mr. Denbigh Newton made his first appearance in opera in the part of Mr. Daly, the vicar, and is to be complimented upon having presented that role in a quite acceptable light. His voice, if not powerful, is of pleasing quality. His first song, "Time was," was very well rendered, due regard being had for the humour of the lines. In "make up" and deportment, Mr. Newton was accepted as a very presentable person.

The experienced Miss Alice Barnett, as the Lady Sangazure, was equally good as in all the other parts she has undertaken, but Mr. H. Vernon was lost as Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre.

Miss Nellie Stewart, as Aline, has a not very difficult part to play, and was agreeably successful.

Mrs. Partlet and her daughter Constance were represented by Miss Ida Osborne and Miss Ada Walker, and in each case the audience found occasion for genuine approval.

After a quality performance by the orchestra of Auber's overture to "Haydée", the curtain rose upon the familiar scene of "Trial By Jury", in the performance of which the following ladies and gentlemen took part, namely:- The Judge, Mr. Frank Thornton; the Plaintiff, Miss Kate Lovell; the Defendant, Mr. Frank Boyle; Counsel for the Plaintiff, Mr. Frank Ridsdale; Usher, Mr. H. Benham; Foreman of the Jury, Mr. J. Atkinson; Associate, Mr. W. Ford; First Bridesmaid, Miss Lillie Forde.

Miss Kate Lovell is a singer with a light soprano voice, and is perfectly at home on the stage. The action of the piece was carried on with commendable fun and vivacity, and led finally to a transformation scene, in which was shown the apotheosis of the judge and his bride - the whilom plaintiff.

The same entertainment is announced for further repetition. It is announced that the box-plan will be open and tickets obtainable to-day at the theatre, owing to the music warehouses being closed.

Argus. Monday, May 24th, 1886.


The gates at the Albert St crossing on the Brunswick and Colburg line of railway were yesterday smashed by a passing goods train. It appears that the gatekeeper, whose duty it was to be in attendance, was employed at the time trimming lamps. The increasing goods and passenger traffic to this station renders it desirable that more officials should be located there. The station, we are informed, is often left without porters, owing to their being employed shunting the wagons of goods trains and at other work. Only a few days ago the gates at the Victoria street crossing a little higher up were broken owing to the anxiety of a stone carter to rush through after he had been delayed a considerable time whilst the porter was engaged with a goods train. The driver, however, had a narrow escape of his life his dray being turned completely over and his horse thrown on its back. Fortunately for himself he was precipitated into the channeling. The long hours of duty and multifarious work gatekeepers and porters are called upon to fulfil at the Brunswick stations prevent the due regard being paid to the safety and convenience of the public.

Port Phillip Herald. May 25th, 1886.

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