Adaptation of The White Cat James Robinson Planche 1842 single work musical theatre
Issue Details: First known date: 1874... 1874
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Adapted from J. R. Planché's 1842 extravaganza The White Cat by a 'gentleman famous for his sarcastic severity' (Empire 26 December 1874, p.3), the Royal Victoria Theatre pantomime included two harlequinades: one performed by juveniles and the other by adults. The Empire's theatre critic reports that while the main storyline is somewhat obscure, 'there is enough in the piece to introduce any amount of taking songs, pretty women and dresses, good music and gorgeous scenery' (Empire 28 December 1874, p.3).

The story begins in Dragonfly Gardens, where the impetuous Prince Lardi Dardi battles the Black Dwarf in an attempt to save Princess Rosetta. Lardi Dardi is defeated and about to be executed when Fairy Dragonetta intervenes. She manages to talk the Black Dwarf into placing a curse on him instead of killing him, and the prince is subsequently cast into 100 years of sleep in the Dreamy Dell. The dwarf also places a spell on Princess Rosetta, turning her into a white cat, a form in which she is to remain for all eternity unless, by some chance, her head and tail are cut off by the prince. Only then can she resume her previous form.

The storyline then moves forward a hundred years in time to the palace of King Dawdle, a monarch very much afraid of losing his crown to one of his two ambitious and conniving sons. Their plotting is put on hold, however, when Prince Lardi Dardi appears at the court, having just woken up, and claims the monarchy. King Dawdle consents to give up his crown, but only to the prince who first manages to produce in court a dog small enough to use a nut kernel as a kennel. The three princes then depart on their quest. Prince Lardi Dardi's travels see him captured by a party of hunting cats. He is taken to Katz Kradle Kastle, where he meets and falls in love with the White Cat, not realising that she is his former love. The White Cat and her feline friends help him solve the problem of the dog by procuring a tiny animal and a large coconut shell. The prince returns to the palace to claim victory over his rivals, and King Dawdle subsequently agrees to hand over his crown. However, Lardi Dardi refuses the offer, decreeing that he will wait until the king abdicates of his own accord. In the meantime, he undertakes a search for Princess Rosetta. The Black Dwarf re-appears and, seeing that the prince has matured, befriends his former adversary. He tells the prince where he can find Princess Rosetta and Lardi Dardi makes his way back to Katz Kradle Kastle, where he breaks the spell and restores her to the form of the 'loveliest princess ever seen.'

Much of the music was taken from Lecocq's new opera La Fille de Madame Angot (1873), which the Empire reports had yet to be staged in Australia. Two songs also known to have been incorporated into the production were 'It's Far Too Early Yet to Rise' (sung by Mr Florence) and 'Nicodemus' (Lydia Howarde).

The grand transformation scene, titled 'The Happy Land of Waking Dreams', involved eight scenic changes:

Scene 1 Gloomy Cave

Scene 2 The Home of the Dragon Fly

Scene 3 The Dragon Fly's Retreat

Scene 4 The Sivalvian Home of Fairies

Scene 5 The Silver Conservatory

Scene 6 Fairy Delights

Scene 7 The Dreamy Dell

Scene 8 Temple of Venus and Revolving Columns.

Production Details

  • 1874: Royal Victoria, Sydney, 26 December 1874 - 5 February 1875

    • Director/Stage Manager B. N. Jones; Music Arranger W. Rice; Scenic Art J. R. Setright and W. Burbury; Costumes Mrs Stapleton.
    • Cast incl. Andree Navaro (Fairy Dragonetta), Lydia Howarde (Prince Lardi Dardi), J. J. Welsh (King Dawdle the Doddler), Jessie Dixon (Queen of Dreamy Dell), Solange Navaro (Prince Sprightly), Miss Melville (Queen Severs), Tilly Andrews (Princess Rosetta, the White Cat) Lizzie Dixon, (Prince Dapper), Miss Raynor (Prince Pirouetta), H. Florence (Lord Chamberlain), Harry Simmons (Bobbini), James A. South (Miss Tabby), Miss Murray (Princess Papillonetta), Lizzie Arnold, Lucy Osborne, Miss T. Perman, Miss R. Watson, Master Watson (Grumpi), E. Ryan (Humpy Dumpy), Master Tommy Perman (Polly), Master Tommy Milner (Noodle), E. Alexander, Mr Hourigan; Juvenile Harlequinade - La Petite Lucy Osbourne (Harlequin), La Petite Lizzie Arnold (Columbine), La Petite Tommy Perman (Pantaloon), La Petite R. Watson (Clown); Adult Harlequinade - E. Alexander (Harlequin 1), Mr Hourigan (Harlequin 2), Lizzie Dixon (Columbine), Harry Simmons (Pantaloon), James A. South (Clown).
    • 39 performances.

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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: 1870-1890.

Last amended 12 Oct 2016 14:49:32