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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

A pantomime with many topical references to well-known personalities, recent events, and Victorian politics (notably allegations of land fraud involving several members of parliament), towards which the author directs much light-hearted satire. Of these topical reference, theatre historian Richard Fotheringham writes:

'Since before 1820 the "House that Jack Built" story had been used for political commentary. Akhurst follows this tradition in making his hero Jack Melbourne and Little Victoria represent the hopes and fears for the future of that colony and his villain Orognome some of its current vices, particularly unscrupulous and fraudulent manipulation of mining stocks and share trading 'Under the Verandah' (Australian Plays for the Colonial Stage, pp.220-21).

The story concerns Jack Melbourne, who has been raised and educated by the Fairy Queen Diamantina in an attempt to foil the evil plans of Orognome (the Gold Sovereign). Some years previously, Orognome kidnapped Little Victoria in order to prevent her from bringing to fruition a prophecy made at her birth, which foretells that she would 'rule half the earth'. Diamantina's plan is that Jack will improve the land upon which 'his lot has been cast', thereby countering Orognome's intentions. However, being both mortal and a young man just on eighteen, Jack begins exhibiting desires to move beyond the fairy cave he has lived in almost all his life. He digs a hole that eventually leads him to Orognome's home, where he meets and falls in love with Little Victoria. The Gold Sovereign drugs Jack and leaves 'him in a critical position on the line over which the gold trucks pass'. He is saved from being crushed (in a burlesque of Dion Boucicault's After Dark) by Joey, 'a marsupial attendant upon Little Victoria and who possesses largely cultivated instincts.' With the aid of Diamantina, Jack and Little Victoria make their way to the surface, where Jack is required to build a house and make history in order to defeat Orognome. Although he succeeds in erecting his house (which turns out to be the House of Parliament) and presenting a panorama of Melbourne's history from 1835 to the present day, Jack does not prosper from his handiwork. He is later found outside the house, where Orognome, disguised as a stockbroker (an 'under the Verandah Man'), swindles him through bogus land and mining speculation. Jack is once again saved by Diamantina, however, before being conveyed, along with Little Victoria and Joey, to the 'Golden Conservatory and Temple of Gems', where the transformation scene takes place.

The scenes presented were:

Scene 1. The Haunted Dell of Diamonds with Fairy Castle in the Air.

Scene 2. The Superficial Deposits and Stratified Rocks Leading to the Great Suburb of Horrifferousquartzton.

Scene 3. Palatial Caverns of Orognome.

Scene 4. The Dell of Diamonds (Revisited) and The House that Jack Built.

Scene 5. An Aboriginal Wood in Australia Felix with Salt Lagoon / Panorama: The 'Enterprise' Schooner Landing the First Melbourne Settlers; Collins Street, 1838 ; A Sheep Station, 1848; Departure of Burke and Wills; and Melbourne, 1869.

Scene 6. Exterior of the Houses of Parliament.

The musical element, selected and arranged by Frederick Coppin, contains both operatic and popular styles. The Age theatre critic notes, however, that while many of the songs contained melodies that had become popular in England, most were still unknown to Melbourne audiences (27 December 1869, p.3). Songs incorporated into this production included 'Where is my Nancy', 'Dada' (solo and chorus), 'Popsy Wopsy' (duet), 'Wind Up Galop' (duet and chorus), 'God save the Queen', 'The Style to Which It's Done' (topical song), 'Rollicking Rams' (chorus), 'Chickaleary Bloke', 'Ring the Bell, Watchman', 'See at Your Feet' (trio), 'Fair Land of Poland' (solo), 'Through the World' (trio), 'Meet me in the Lane', 'Cruel Jane Jemima', 'J'aime les Militairs', 'Cork Leg', 'Mary Holder', 'Burlington Arcade' (duet), and 'Hot Coddlins'.

[Plot synopsis cited in the Age 28 December 1869, p.3; Australasian 1 January 1870, p.18; and Sydney Mail 30 December 1871, p.1395]

Adaptations

y The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Jack Sydney, Little Australia and the Gnome of the Golden Mine, and the Australian Fernery in the Golden Conservatory, the Home of Diamantina W. M. Akhurst , Walter Rice (composer), Anonymous , Sydney : William Dind , 1871 Z814457 1871 single work musical theatre pantomime fantasy

A localised and updated adaptation of W. M. Akhurst's 1869 pantomime The House that Jack Built, or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne and Little Victoria (Theatre Royal, Melbourne), with incidental music (including the overture) by Walter Rice.

The pantomime contains numerous hits at local identities, issues, and events. Of this aspect of the production, Richard Fotheringham writes:

'Since before 1820 the 'House that Jack Built' story had been used for political commentary. Akhurst follows this tradition in making his hero Jack Melbourne and Little Victoria represent the hopes and fears for the future of that colony and his villain Orognome some of its current vices, particularly unscrupulous and fraudulent manipulation of mining stocks and share trading 'Under the Verandah'. The Sydney localiser found no reason to alter this element, apart from substituting a few more recent financial scandals or ones closer to home' (Australian Plays for the Colonial Stage, pp.220-21).

There does appear, however, to be a less explicit celebration of local achievements in this production.

The story concerns Jack Sydney, who has been raised and educated by the Fairy Queen Diamantina in an attempt to foil the evil plans of Orognome (the Gold Sovereign). Some years previously, Orognome kidnapped Little Australia,to prevent her from bringing to fruition a prophecy made at her birth, which foretells that she would 'rule half the earth'. Diamantina's plan is that Jack will improve the land upon which 'his lot has been cast', thereby countering Orognome's intentions. However, being both mortal and a young man just on eighteen, Jack begins exhibiting desires to move beyond the fairy cave he has lived in almost all his life. He digs a hole that eventually leads him to Orognome's home, where he meets and falls in love with Little Australia. The Gold Sovereign drugs Jack and leaves 'him in a critical position on the line over which the gold trucks pass'. He is saved from being crushed (in a burlesque of Dion Boucicault's After Dark) by Joey, 'a marsupial attendant upon Little Australia and who possesses 'largely cultivated instincts.' With the aid of Diamantina, Jack and Little Australia make their way to the surface, where Jack is required to build a house and make history in order to defeat Orognome. Although he succeeds in erecting his house (it turns out to be the House of Parliament) and presenting a panorama of Sydney's history from 1835 to the present day, Jack does not prosper from his handiwork. He is later found outside the house, where Orognome, disguised as a stockbroker (an 'under the Verandah Man'), swindles him through bogus land and mining speculation. Jack is once again saved by Diamantina, however, before being conveyed, along with Little Australia and Joey, to the 'Golden Conservatory and Temple of Gems', where the transformation scene takes place.

(Plot synopsis cited in Age 28 December 1869, p.3; Australasian 1 January 1870, p.18; and Sydney Mail 30 December 1871, p.1395).

The scenes presented were:

Act 1.

Scene 1. The Haunted Dell of Diamonds with Fairy Castle in the Air.

Scene 2. The Superficial Deposits and Stratified Rocks Leading to the Great Suburb of Horrifferousquartzton.

Scene 3. Palatial Caverns of Orognome.

Scene 4. The Dell of Diamonds (Revisited).

Scene 5. The House that Jack Built.

Scene 6. Exterior of the New Post Office.

Grand Transformation Scene and Harlequinade:

Act 2.

Scene 1. Post Office, Sydney.

Scene 2. Turner's Market Cloth Hall, 484 George Street, and Lemaire's Toy Shop.

Scene 3. A Well Known Spot in Hyde Park, Sydney.

Scene 4. G. H. Smith, Hatter, George Street.

Scene 5. The Loviathon Plum Pudding.

Scene 6. Silver Trelliced Dell in the Australian Fernery.

Songs incorporated into this production included the opening from the opera Pipele (by Serafino De Ferrari), 'Dada' (solo and chorus), 'Popsy Wopsy' (duet), 'Wind Up Galop' (duet and chorus), 'The Style to Which It's Done' (topical song), 'Rollicking Rams' (chorus), 'Chickaleary Bloke', 'Ring the Bell, Watchman', 'See at Your Feet' (trio), 'Fair Land of Poland' (solo), 'Through the World' (trio), 'Meet me in the Lane', 'Cruel Jane Jemima', 'J'aime les Militairs', 'Cork Leg', 'Mary Holder', 'Burlington Arcade' (duet), and 'Hot Coddlins'.

The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Jack Brisbane and Pretty Little Queensland 1878 single work musical theatre pantomime fantasy

Possibly adapted from W. M. Akhurst's pantomime The House that Jack Built, or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne and Little Victoria (Melb, 1869), itself later adapted as The House that Jack Built, or, Harlequin Jack Sydney (1871). Australian theatre historian Richard Fotheringham suggests one clue when he refers to the fact that Edward McLean, the director of 'Dances, Marches and Evolutions' for this production, had also undertaken the choreography duties for the Sydney production (Australian Plays for the Colonial Stage, p.230).

Containing a variety of songs including operatic, popular, and original numbers, the production was 'localised and expressly re-arranged' for the Queensland Theatre (Brisbane Courier 27 December 1878, p.1). The local scenes included the Post Office, Brisbane Houses of Parliament, the Brewery, and well-known shops in the city. The Brisbane Courier's editor, in commenting on his reporter's critique of the Boxing Day premiere, indicates that the jokes and harlequinade in particular were of the usual Christmas quality. He called into question the focus of some of the pantomime's topicalities, however, writing that 'We think the most exalted position in the colony should secure a certain immunity from stage jokes, and were [sic] glad to find from the silence of the audience that they were not in accord with the doubtful taste that prompted these sallies' (27 December 1878, p.2).

Notes

  • The libretto for this 1869 version of The House that Jack Built ends with the transformation scene, hence the title 'A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime'.

  • An adaptation of this production by an unidentified author was staged in Sydney in 1871 under the title The House that Jack Built; Or, Harlequin Jack Sydney, Little Australia and the Gnome of the Gold Mine, and the Australian Fernery in the Golden Conservatory, the Home of Diamantina. Another pantomime, titled The House that Jack Built, or, Harlequin Jack Brisbane and Pretty Little Queensland, was staged in the Queensland capital in 1878. It is also believed to have been adapted from Akhurst's original.

Production Details

  • 1869: Theatre Royal, Melbourne ; 27 December 1869 - 3 February 1870.

    • Manager/Producer Harwood, Stewart, Hennings and Coppin; Music Arranger Frederick Coppin; Scenic Art John Hennings, Mr Freyberger, Richard Little, and Mr Douglas; Costumes Mde Jager; Chorus Rosalie and Heloise Duvalli (Grand Ballet), J. H. Flexmore (Juvenile Flying Squadron); Troupe Royal Burlesque Company.
    • Cast incl. Henry R. Harwood (Jack), Maggie Stewart (Little Victoria), Richard Stewart (Orognome), Docy Stewart (Diamantina), J. H. Flexmore (Joey), Harry Sefton (Bill Ragboys), C. Wyatt (Gaffer Melbourne, Jack's father), Tom Lewis (Dame Melbourne, Jack's mother), Minnie Lester (Dolly Melbourne, Jack's sister), Rosali and Heloise Duvalli, Nellie Stewart.
    • Advertising for the 1871 Sydney production notes that this debut season drew an audience of some 160,000 people ('Prince of Wales Opera House Preliminary Notice', Sydney Morning Herald 16 December 1871, p.4).
    • 32 performances.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

      Melbourne, Victoria,: 1869 .
      Printed by H. Cordell
      Extent: 32p.
  • Appears in:
    y Australian Plays for the Colonial Stage : 1834-1899 Richard Fotheringham (editor), St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2006 Z1238215 2006 anthology drama (taught in 3 units) St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2006 pg. 217-314
    Note:
    • Introduction appears on pp.218-232.
    • Both the Melbourne and Sydney texts are presented as enfolded text. (See 'Note on the Text', pp.234-235 for conventions of presentation.)
    • Includes facsimile reproductions of the cover-wrapper for the 1869 Melbourne libretto and the cast list for the 1871 Sydney libretto.
    • Music and lyrics for songs included in the productions are published on pp.668-705.

Works about this Work

y Australia on the Popular Stage 1829-1929 Margaret Williams , Melbourne : Oxford University Press , 1983 Z922827 1983 selected work
Entertainments : The Theatres Jacques , 1870 single work review
— Appears in: The Australasian , 1 January vol. 8 no. 196 1870; (p. 18)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre ; Harlequin Jack Sheppard ; Or, The Disreputable Detective, the Clever Kleptomaniac, and the Plot of the Piebald Goblin W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Royal Pantomime 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Argus , 28 December 1869; (p. 6)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
Boxing Day 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 27 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Royal Pantomime 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 28 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
[Untitled] 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Daily Telegraph , 28 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Pantomimes Jaqolycus , 1869 single work review
— Appears in: Humbug , 29 December 1869; (p. 6)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
Entertainments : The Theatres Jacques , 1870 single work review
— Appears in: The Australasian , 1 January vol. 8 no. 196 1870; (p. 18)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre ; Harlequin Jack Sheppard ; Or, The Disreputable Detective, the Clever Kleptomaniac, and the Plot of the Piebald Goblin W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Royal Pantomime 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Argus , 28 December 1869; (p. 6)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
Boxing Day 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 27 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Royal Pantomime 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 28 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
[Untitled] 1869 single work review
— Appears in: The Daily Telegraph , 28 December 1869; (p. 3)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
The Pantomimes Jaqolycus , 1869 single work review
— Appears in: Humbug , 29 December 1869; (p. 6)

— Review of The House that Jack Built ; Or, Harlequin Progress and the Loves, Laughs, Laments and Labors of Jack Melbourne, and Little Victoria : A Fairy Extravaganza Opening to Pantomime W. M. Akhurst 1869 single work musical theatre
y Australia on the Popular Stage 1829-1929 Margaret Williams , Melbourne : Oxford University Press , 1983 Z922827 1983 selected work

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

Note:

This entry has been sourced from research undertaken by Dr Clay Djubal into Australian-written popular music theatre (ca. 1850-1930). See also the Australian Variety Theatre Archive

Details have also been derived in part from the Annotated Calendar of Plays Premiered in Australia: 1850-1869.

Last amended 31 Mar 2014 07:46:26
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